Are sex problems between the ears not the sheets?

Good sex may be more about what’s happening between your ears than what’s going on under the sheets.

Are sex problems between the ears not the sheets?

Good sex may be more about what’s happening between your ears than what’s going on under the sheets. But that doesn’t mean all is lost if you’re experiencing problems in your sex life.

If you and your partner enjoy a wonderful sex life, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

We say this because there are many things that can work against you. So many things, in fact, that it’s a wonder anybody enjoys sex.

According to Kelly Gonsalves, sex and relationships editor for wellness website mindbodygreen, the things that can hinder your sexual satisfaction are considerable.

Here are a few for starters, and we hope you fit into the ‘I beat all that’ group and not the ‘That’s me’ group:

  • performance anxiety
  • relationship stress
  • life stress
  • lack of variety
  • lack of time
  • physical conditions that cause pain
  • sexual dysfunction where certain parts don't work the way they should
  • mental health
  • anti-depressants
  • orgasm focus
  • clitoris negligence
  • selfishness
  • selflessness
  • lack of communication
  • lack of lubrication
  • internalised shame about having sex.

Ms Gonsalves recently investigated another issue, and one that’s often not discussed – childhood trauma.

“This doesn't only include childhood sexual abuse, although that’s a large and pervasive type of childhood trauma,” Ms Gonsalves said.

“It also includes being neglected by your parents, seeing aggressive or emotionally abusive behaviour between your parents, getting bullied or mistreated by peers, dealing with identity-related discrimination, and more.

“These early negative experiences can psychologically shape us and the way we behave, think and move throughout the world.

“And new research suggests those traumas can affect the way we experience our sexuality in a very specific way.”

Researchers surveyed 410 people who were receiving sex therapy in relation to their sex lives, childhoods, levels of recent psychological distress and how mindful they are as people.

“The results showed,” Ms Gonsalves said, “that people who had experienced more instances of trauma throughout their childhood tended to have less satisfying sexual lives than those without childhood trauma.

“The findings showed people with more childhood trauma tended to experience more daily psychological distress, that is, moments of fear, worry, anxiety or other negative emotions than those without childhood trauma.

“That psychological distress was linked to lower mindfulness, for example the tendency to be attentive and aware of what's happening in the present moment as it unfolds. That lack of mindfulness was what was making sex less enjoyable.”

American research has found that the trauma-distress-mindfulness-pleasure connection accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the variance in sexual satisfaction.

Translated, this means that someone with negative emotions will enjoy a sexual experience less than somebody who’s at ease with their emotions.

Sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman helps people with sexual dysfunction. She says that for the majority of her clients, the problems aren’t physical.

“What I've learnt is that most people's concerns come down to an issue of mindset.

“Many people approach sex in a way that sets them up for feelings of failure and inadequacy. A theme for my clients is difficulty enjoying what is happening and instead fretting about what isn’t.”

Ms Zimmerman says many people regard sex as being about orgasm.

“I invite you to accept my definition of sex – that it's the physical expression of our innate drives for love, intimacy and pleasure. It's about pleasure and connection, in varying proportions – that’s all.”

So what can you do to improve your sex life?

WebMD has the following suggestions:

  • understand that it’s about more than intercourse
  • practise sensual touch – it can be a powerful stimulant
  • talk to each other about what you like and what may have changed
  • make time for each other
  • don’t be afraid to experiment
  • use stimulants such as aromatic oils and lubricants.

Has sexual satisfaction diminished as you’ve aged? Have you considered that it might relate to the mind rather than the body?

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