Sex Therapy for Couples
In my work with couples, I often find that sex between the partners has stopped, or become radically unsatisfactory, and neither partner really knows why. It usually isn’t because there’s a problem elsewhere in the relationship, as if that were so, talking therapy could identify and resolve it.
From my experience, the problem is twofold. Firstly, the couple tend to have a clear idea of what sex should be like. I call it The Hollywood Model. In this model of sex, each is urgently passionate for the other, to the extent they tear each other’s clothes off with scant regard for fabric longevity, have some very perfunctory foreplay then get down to business, and in no time at all simultaneously and noisily orgasm. Whilst having sex, they are very engaged with each other.
That’s the first problem: there’s an ideal of what sex should be like, and you’re disappointed and frustrated if it isn’t like that for you.
The second is the focus on orgasm. Couples tend to speak about this in terms of what “works”. If it promotes orgasm, it’s good, if it doesn’t, not so much. But over time, the sex gradually narrows, until, quite soon, you get to the point where it’s just perfunctory.
And then it vanishes entirely.
How can we think of sex in a different way?
Donald Mosher, an American researcher, came up with the idea that we have three different sexual modes. What I’ve called The Hollywood Model is his second mode, Partner Engagement, but there’s two others: Trance and Play. Discovering these is one way to get out of the Couples Trap.
‘Trance’ is a slightly misleading – and hence potentially scary – term. It doesn’t mean that you’re hypnotised, or somehow helpless. Quite the opposite: you only need be concerned with your own experience. You don’t need to be concerned with your partner or with your environment. It’s the chance to be deliciously, fully, internal. Your partner might be doing something delicious to you, and you are having an exquisite time, but it’s all within yourself. It’s like you are having a wonderful meal. You don’t want to tell the waiter every five minutes what a great time you’re having, because that detracts from the experience. However, because The Hollywood Model is what we think sex is, we often feel guilty and selfish when we’re in this mode, and feel that we’re taking up too much time. And we feel we have to reassure our partner, even though that takes away from our experience.
When I work with a couple, they are so focused on how things should be that they often become, with each other, disembodied. In that case, it’s helpful for me to work with them separately, in this mode, to reembody them, before getting to work on communication and variety. I do prefer it if the other partner is in the room, but it’s up to the couple to decide.
The other state is Play. BDSM – particularly power games – are the classic exemplars, but it really includes all behaviour where the couple are playing a role.
For other couples, the central issue is communication: how to know what we want, and how to ask for it. It’s surprising how difficult this is for many people. I’ve worked extensively with Betty Martin, who invented the Wheel Of Consent, which deals with this perfectly. I completed her inaugural year long practitioner training in early 2019.
The other big problem is simply boredom: couples, with the best will in the world, get into a repetitive rut, and need help to find their way back to a more interested and varied intimate life together. Again, using a mixture of Mosher’s work and the various modes of sexuality I have learnt in tantra and elsewhere, I will co-create with you exercises and rituals to greatly broaden and deepen the scope of your joint sexuality.