‘I’m a Sex Therapist, and These Are the Most-Common Questions Couples Ask Me’
“Most of us don’t receive sex-positive, explicit sex education,” sex and relationships expert Megan Fleming, PhD, previously told Well+Good. “Too often, couples get caught up in scripted sex or sex that doesn’t feel worth having. Sex therapy gets back to the basics of giving and receiving pleasure."
A sex therapist can also provide guidance and education on intimacy, as well as provide strategies for increasing desire and pleasure. Plus, they can help to identify any underlying issues that may be contributing to sexual dissatisfaction or lack of sexual fulfillment for both partners.
Joy Berkheimer, LMFT is used to fielding all sorts of questions from the couples who come to her, and she's sharing the top queries she receives below.
The top 3 questions couples ask this sex therapist
1. How often are people really having sex?
A major topic of curiosity among Berkheimer’s coupled clients is how much sex other people have in comparison to them. She says this usually comes from one person having an opinion about how much sex they’re having and that sometimes they look for her to agree with or validate them; she suspects that that this topic gets discussed before their visit. "They really want [that question] answered in front of the other partner," she says.
When this question comes up, Berkheimer says she shifts the focus back to the couple and away from others to avoid comparisons, which she calls "literally the thief of all joy,” and which can decrease self-esteem and confidence. "I bring it back to them and say, 'I would prefer to compare your sex life [now] to your sex life before and not to others peoples' sex lives because that's healthier," she says.
And while she has statistics she can share about how much and how often others report having sex, she emphasizes that those numbers depend on a variety of unique reasons that are different from what others have going on.
2. If don't desire my partner sexually, does it mean I don't love them?
Berkheimer says that love and sexual desire aren’t always in lockstep and that "one really may have nothing to do with the other." This sentiment doesn't necessarily mean you should break up with your partner—and it doesn't mean you don't love your partner—but it's worth digging into because it means "something has shifted," she says.
"It may mean that something has changed in terms of your needs or that your partner has changed, and so, therefore, the person that you were attracted to is not present."—Joy Berkheimer, sex therapist
There are all sorts of reasons for these shifts. “It may mean that something has changed in terms of your needs or that your partner has changed, and so, therefore, the person that you were attracted to is not present,” she says. Changes in life circumstances and stressors, appearance, demeanor, personality can all play a role in this. Adjustments may need to be made.
3. How do I build intimacy in my relationship?
True intimacy, which Berkheimer defines as "trusting someone with your vulnerability and letting them see you," is paramount to healthy and fulfilling partnerships. And physical intimacy, which includes sex, is one of the five types of intimacy that can strengthen a relationship, and Berkheimer says her couples are curious about how to build and maintain intimacy in their relationships.
When question about intimacy arise, Berkheimer homes in on two key points and, in turn, asks the couple these questions: First, if they spend time intentionally building intimacy with one another, and second whether something has happened in the relationship that makes it tough for one partner to be vulnerable and trusting of the other.
For couples who haven't dedicated time to intimacy, Berkheimer typically recommends tantric practices to her clients to get things going. Tantra is an ancient spiritual practice that seeks to combine the energies of the physical and spiritual realms for personal growth and transformation, and the point of these exercises is to create a space for the couple to explore and their desires and to remove the goal of sex to focus on the journey, not the destination.
"The outcome is not 'I have to have sex,' it's 'I want to be closer to my partner,'" Berkheimer explains. However, she says what's gained from creating the safe, welcoming space and experimentation will eventually lead to sex.
To address the latter question, Berkheimer asks the couple how the trust and vulnerability can be rebuilt, and helps them do so.
Friendly reminder that these answers from Berkheimer are general jumping off points, and seeing a sex therapist can provide couples with a safe and non-judgmental space to talk openly and honestly about any issues related to sex and intimacy on a deeper level.
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