We believe that our sexuality has the potential for great brokenness and also for great love and fulfillment. We believe that our sexuality goes down to the core of who we are as men and women.
In Italy, all roads lead to Rome. It seems that in marital relationships, all roads eventually lead to the sexual relationship. In most marriages, difficulties in the emotional relationship will then show up in the sexual relationship as well. The sexual relationship in a marriage is often a good barometer for how the relationship is functioning in the other areas of intimacy.
We often get calls for therapy for specific sexual problems that people are having. For men there are often specific difficulties such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. For women, there may be problems with achieving orgasms or painful intercourse. But the most common picture is that a couple is at odds around the problem of low sexual desire for one (more commonly for the wife) and sexual frustrations for the other. Typically the low sexual desire is a symptom of the lack of emotional safety in the relationship. It often is also combined with a lack of development of the sexual relationship as a safe arena in which each person feels total acceptance for their feelings, sexual desires, and bodily responses.
At the Intimacy Center, we see the sexual relationship as woven into the larger life of the couple relationship. It isn’t possible to “treat” the sexual problem without addressing the ways in which the couple is having difficulty creating safety and security within the larger relationship. It is said that “sex begins in the kitchen.” When a couple learns to help each other feel important and loved, when a couple is expressing affection and respect, and when a couple has built a sanctuary for their relationship that is not threatened by work or kids or in-laws, then the couple has the context to grow a truly satisfying sexual relationship.
We assess what a couple needs to build a satisfying sexual relationship. In some cases, the couple has functioned sexually quite well in a previous time, but the sexual relationship has died as a result of emotional neglect, betrayals, or other life distractions. The couple needs to heal the hurts and re-establish the primacy of the relationship. These couples may need little direct attention to the sexual relationship itself. Other couples experienced a passionate sex life early, but have not developed the skills necessary to sustain a sexual relationship based on affection and emotional connection rather than on the excitement of early discovery. Still other couples have never experienced their sexual relationship as something that is deeply satisfying to both of them.
We tailor the sexual therapy to the needs of the couple. Many couples benefit from a series of sexual experiences that we discuss and “assign” as “homework.” These include “sensate focus” exercises developed out of the research of Masters and Johnson that provide the couple with experiences of discovering the delight of touch with their partner. We help couples learn to express to their partner what they enjoy and desire in the sexual relationship. Couples learn to create sexual experiences that avoid any demand for “performance”, but rather are rooted in the giving and receiving of pleasure, in the expression of affection, and in the securing of the bond of the relationship.