Are you and your partner struggling with sexual desire?  Do you feel pressure to perform although you’re not in the mood?  Is sex unsatisfying?  Does it feel like a chore?  Do you feel like you have a great relationship in all areas but just don’t connect sexually?  Are you concerned with what your partner will think about you?  Have you fallen into a pattern of avoiding sex because you fear the outcome?  If so, this tip will be helpful to you.  This tip contains an exercise that would be given to a couple in counseling / sex therapy who are trying to learn to express both their sexual and emotional needs in a non-threatening way so that they can begin to break the cycle of avoiding sex. The major purposes of this sex therapy exercise is to help partners learn to express their needs and to be more comfortable with sexual desires and pleasure again.

Partners are encouraged to develop a cohesive team through which they will perform the exercises in order to break their current cycle of avoiding sex.  Working as a team will allow you to develop healthier ways of expressing sexual needs and desires without judgment and pressure to perform.  Although partners will act as a team, it is likely that one partner will be the one pursuing the use of this exercise.  This partner will have to set up the exercise.  In order to do so, you will need to pick a time and place to sit down with your partner so you can openly discuss your relationship and the current sexual avoidance.  Then, you will then explain the exercise and develop guidelines together.

During your emotional needs and sexual desire discussion, express to your partner any concerns you may have.  Tell him or her that the sex therapy exercise contains two stages. In stage one you will stop having intercourse for a short amount of time.  The amount of time is to be agreed upon by both partners. Intercourse is not allowed in this stage because the current dynamic and emotional association that sex is negative. Removing the option of sex takes the pressure off so that as a couple you can begin to engage in other sexual and emotional bonding activities.  Intercourse will be allowed once both partners have completed the first stage of the exercise three times each and feel comfortable with the new dynamic. The amount of time without it will depend upon the number of times the couple engages in the exercise per week.  It is advised to only do the exercise once per day and to skip a day between each encounter for emotional processing.  For each encounter try to plan for at least one hour of uninterrupted time, where you are fully focused on pleasure.  However, there is no set time limit, no set number of times the exercises need to be done, and no pressure to resume having sex once stage one is completed. Set a pace together as a couple and go with that.  Just don’t be too comfortable; remember you are trying to create a new dynamic, so you have to get outside your comfort zone in order to make lasting changes.

To begin stage one, sit down as a couple and have a discussion of SENSUAL and romantic behaviors that both partners feel comfortable with.  This may include cuddling, kissing, holding hands, walking together, giving or receiving a sensual massage, watching a romantic movie, reading erotic literature, etc.  Do not include SEXUAL behaviors such as foreplay activities in this initial list. Stage one of the exercise is just to increase sensuality and romanticism in the relationship.  Once you have developed a list that both partner are ok with, one partner takes on the role of asker and the other becomes the chooser. In the role of asker, chose two activities from the list and ask your partner to engage in one of the two options.  As the chooser, pick which of the two activities you want to engage in as a couple. The only rules are that the asker MUST pick activities from the approved list and the chooser MUST pick one of the two options presented.  Basically: NO MORE AVOIDING!

sAfter partner one acts as asker two times, the couple will switch roles so the other partner can act as asker two times.  Lastly, each partner takes a turn to spontaneously act as asker and chooser.  This way both partners get to ask and choose at least three times each.  At this point, the exercise is all about replacing internal/perceived or external/verbalized pressure with shared and mutual pleasure.  Your goals as a couple in stage one are to share and express needs, get comfortable with pleasure, and form a new perspective of your sex life.  In the day between exercises take time to process your emotional and physical reactions to the activity.  Discuss theses reactions with your partner before your next encounter.

In stage two, the same basic rules still apply.  One partner acts as asker and one as chooser.  There is still a list of activities both partners agree to pick from as the asker and the chooser still must pick one option for the encounters. Once again, partner one acts as asker two times and partner two will be the chooser twice.  Then switch it up again so that each partner gets a chance to be chooser and asker at least one more time. Keep to the pattern of one encounter per day and at least one day in between to process. But you may wish to extend the time for each encounter to more than an hour for this stage.  Keep in mind, the big change in stage two is that sexual intercourse and foreplay are back in the game!

This is the time for the couple to begin connecting romanticism and pleasure they learned in stage one with sexual activity. Just move SLOWLY! Don’t end stage one on Tuesday and start having intercourse on Friday.  Take another day and discuss your list of sexual activities again.  Talk about your feelings on making out, fondling, genital touching, breast play, solo and mutual masturbation, using toys, oral sex, bathing or showering together, intercourse and various positions. Naturally some activities like oral sex and intercourse can bring more pressure than kissing and groping.  So you can break stage two down into smaller phases where you move from kissing and massages, to cuddling with lingerie, to genital toughing, and then intercourse.  Remember the progression does not have to be linear. You can choose to have intercourse in one encounter and then go back to an hour-long make-out session the next time.  You don’t always have to choose the most intense action; but you do have to choose something! 

As you progress through stage two, you may notice that asking and choosing becomes second nature.  You should also begin to feel more in control of your role in the sexual dynamic and more at ease with sex.  The primary reasons for this exercise were to break a negative pattern of avoiding sex, increase comfort with sexuality, and learn to enjoy pleasure and desire.  If you have made it through both stages, you have probably met these goals; but some people may need a little extra help from a sex therapist if they continue to get stuck in a negative pattern.  As you continue progressing in your sex-life feel free to use this exercise as a “game” to spice things up once you’re comfortable again!

Still struggling?  Feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our relationship counselors / sex therapists.  Help is available. We are located in Center City Philadelphia 267-324-9564.