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An image of a couple in bed experiencing struggles with their sex life and in need of couples therapy in San Diego.

Why is Sex Unsatisfying in My Relationship?

To understand why sex is likely unsatisfying in your relationship, let’s look at some revealing statistics. One caveat, though: the following blog does not claim to know the exact reason for your struggles with sex; this blog simply reveals the most common reason for this area of pain. Complaints about low sexual desire is the number 1 problem brought to sex therapists. Additionally, the research demonstrates that approximately 1 out of every 3 couples struggles with problems linked to low sexual desire.

What is Low Sexual Desire?

Novel research revealed that for about half the population, sexual stimulation and arousal work quite differently than traditional models suggest. For this large portion of people, “they rarely (or never) find themselves fantasizing about sex or feeling sexual urges, but when they’re open to becoming sexual with their spouses anyway, they often find the sexual stimulation pleasurable, and they become aroused. Once aroused, there is a desire to continue” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 12).

An image of a couples feet sticking out from under the covers in bed and struggling to find satisfaction in their sex life and in need of couples therapy in San Diego.

“If as you’re reading this you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s me’, you may be one of those people whose interest in sex doesn’t kick in until you’ve been physically stimulated, and your body, rather than your mind, tells you it’s time. Your desire to be sexual only happens once the right physical buttons have been pushed” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 12).

How Your Poor Self-Concept Worsens Things

Shame is one unfortunate feeling that often appears in couples with a low desire partner. The low desire partner can often suffer from feeling as though there is something terribly wrong with him/her. This partner might incorrectly believe that this lack of sexual interest must mean s/he does not like, love, and/or respect his/her partner anymore.

Such a person often struggles with the belief that s/he is “flawed, desireless, or sexually apathetic” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 12). These painful feelings and poor views around their sense of self often deepen the chasm of poor sexual interaction and satisfaction in the relationship. When we aren’t feeling normal and proud, we aren’t likely to feel very motivated, sexy, and encouraged to jump into bed.

The truth, though, is that for such a person, s/he happens to be one of a large portion of people who simply experience desire differently than the other half of us. Once low desire people learn and absorb this reality, “their self-concept shifts considerably. ‘After all’, they told themselves, ‘once I get going, I guess I really get going’. This allows them to see themselves as more sexual, desirable, and sensual people, which, not surprisingly, often leads to more frequent and satisfying sexual encounters” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 12).

How a Lack of Concern and Empathy Worsens Things

There is a profound difference in the experience of the high desire partner and the low desire partner, all of which vastly worsens the situation.

For the low desire partner, much more often than not, the lack of sex does not stand out as a relationship problem. To him/her, sex is not on his/her mind, other life responsibilities sit at the top of the list as priorities (like work, taking care of the kids, taking care of oneself, etc.), and it can often be inconceivable to prioritize sex given a perceived complete lack of energy and time at the end of such packed days.

An image of a couple sitting on the edge of a dock over tumultuous water representing the feeling you can have when you are experiencing unsatisfying sex with your partner and do not know how to resolve the issue. Couples therapy in San Diego can help you find solutions to your relationship issues.

Then, there’s the high desire partner. To him/her, sex is often at the top of his/her mind and is much closer to the top of the list of priorities. The absence of sex is a glaring loss in his/her life and relationship. When s/he attempts to address this with his/her low desire partner, the most common response is one that adds enormous fuel to already raging fire of pain: rejection, invalidation, and minimization.

Because these two people are living in such profoundly different realities with this topic, the low desire partner tends to have notable difficulty in appreciating and validating his/her partner’s very different perception on the topic. The sadly most common response, then, is one that is minimizing, lacking in empathy, and rejecting.

When the high desire partner brings up their pain and other emotions to their low desire partner and is met with this kind of poor response, the impact on the relationship is devastating.

This response is what Dr. John and Julie Gottman, two of the top couples’ therapists in the world, call a “turning against” response. When we try to make a bid for our partner’s connection, we can either be met with turning towards, turning away, or turning against. The couples that sustain a happy and lasting relationship successfully turn towards their partner’s bids for connections at least 8.5/10 attempts. Essentially, this means at least 8.5 out of every 10 times you and your partner try to connect with one another, you each respond in the way you are each needing. When, instead, you turn away or against the attempts for connection, this leads to pain and feelings of betrayal. Additionally, in their book, Fight Right, the Gottmans explain that “all fights that go wrong typically have one major thing in common: dismissing our partner’s negative emotions” (Gottman and Gottman, 2024, p. 95)

Furthermore, for the high desire partner, “perhaps you’ve pondered the irony in the fact that the preponderance of help for low sexual desire is aimed at people who may not even see it as a problem. That’s like writing books for people who are overweight or depressed but feel perfectly content with the way they are” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 14).

For the high desire partner, since your partner likely hasn’t been open and empathetic to the idea of strengthening your sex life, you undoubtedly feel frustrated, powerless, rejected, hurt, and alone.

Naturally, these misses in empathy and profoundly negative feelings only serve to worsen the frequency and intensity of fighting and strengthen the divide in sexual appetite and activity.

Silence Worsens Things

“It is too often the case that when couples experience sexual difficulties, they suffer in silence.

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They avoid talking about sex openly and honestly because it is too uncomfortable and embarrassing” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 16).

This is problematic for two reasons.

First, “most people are pretty lousy mind readers, especially when it comes to sexual desires and fulfillment. We don’t know what our partners need and want unless they teach us. Many serious problems with sexuality can be traced to poor or nonexistent communication skills around this sensitive subject” (Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 16).

Second, relationship experts Dr. John and Julie Gottman discovered that only 9% of those who do not openly and regularly discuss sex report a healthy and satisfying sex life (GottSex Video Series).

Start Working with a San Diego Couples’ Therapist Today

If you feel as though any of the above captures your relationship struggles, schedule your free consultation with a therapist at Stress Solutions in San Diego, California. You and your partner deserve to have a mutually satisfying intimate and sexual life. It’s all too common that we get into these sexual ruts in our relationships, but you two do not have to continue to suffer there. At Stress Solutions, we can teach you more about the path that brought you two to a difficult sexual place, what to do to get you two out of it, and help you practice the right approaches to transform your lives into ones that are mutually exciting, sexy, and fulfilling.

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