As a therapist working with men and women who come to see me due to hating sex, and avoiding it with their spouse, I am often asked, "Is something wrong with me?" This is indeed a delicate question. The challenge with it is that we are literally wired to be sexual to maintain the species, just as we need food to survive. While there may not be something "wrong" with the person seeking help, there may be a biological problem that could be impacting their sex drive (i.e., hormones, illness). During the initial intake, I request that the client get a medical check up from their primary care doctor to rule this out.
Once this is ruled out (or identified), we explore the social, political, cultural, religious, emotional and mental components to someone's aversion to sex with their partner or spouse. In my training as a Sex Addiction Therapist, I have found that if someone has an aversion to a behavior, they will typically have compulsive acting out in other ways. The research and literature on multiple addictions/aversions supports this.
For instance, single men and women will at times report to me a pattern of being very sexual (which may not be anything out of the ordinary). Behavior may include (but not limited to): dating, masturbating, being sexual in relationships. It may also include (but not be limited) to more compulsive behaviors too such as: having one night stands, visiting on-line chat rooms to meet people, sexting multiple people etc., The latter list may be demonstrative of possible sexual addiction (which we assess for at intake). Often, we will identify that compulsive acting out behavior is an attempt to receive validation, affection, numb out, soothe loneliness, and to the brain's reward centers, a way to get high.
However, many times while they are being sexual (whether doing so compulsively or not), they may exhibit anorexic behaviors in other ways, i.e., restrict their food intake, restrict spending, obsessively clean or control their environment. Then, once they are in a "committed" relationship with one person, they report that their desire for sex completely diminishes and they notice they may begin to compulsively act out with food, spend money, working too much, smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine, etc.
Both behaviors of "binge/purge" are attempts to cope with internal dis-ease and discomfort, most often from outside issues.
In therapy, we explore childhood/teen/early adulthood issues, as well as socio-polital and religious factors (i.e., cultural and religious messages about sex) that impact their view of sex and sexuality, and typically uncover one or more factors that play a significant role in this "binge-purge" behavior. They include (but are not limited to):
1. Deep-seated Shame (shame drives everything!). Shame is the belief that "I am bad." 2. Unresolved Guilt. Guilt is the belief that "I did something bad." 3. Past behavior that has led one to feel shame and guilt; i.e. having an affair, stealing from a loved one, abusing trust in other ways, being sexual before marriage; being sexual at all; having a religious leader or family member shame them for doing something against their faith, etc. 4. Being a victim of trauma (which to me, can be anything perceived as emotionally damaging to an individual). For instance, being harrassed, bullied, abused, neglected, a victim of a terrorist attack, having a disability, being in an accident, surgery, loss of a loved one (etc.). 5. Learned deprivation due to childhood deprivation, including emotional neglect, physical neglect, chaotic families where a child's needs were not adequately met.
So, is there treatment for this? Can someone start to enjoy sex when in a committed relationship?
ABSOLUTELY. In therapy, we first identify the origin of the shame, guilt and deprivation (Sexual Anorexia by Patrick Carnes is a gem of a book; a must read!). We teach our clients ways to learn to nurture themselves, to be intimate with their partners, cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship, as well as understanding family of origin issues, resolving trauma, shame and guilt, and learning how to get their needs met. We teach healthy boundaries, discuss the components of healthy sexuality (i.e.,including intimacy), and challenge any limited socio-political, or religious beliefs that keep them stuck. We offer groups for men and women to learn more about what it means to be in a healthy relationship and use task-based model when necessary for lasting change.
It is possible to enjoy sex with your partner/spouse and have a healthy, intimate relationship. There is hope! Call us for an intake today! 240-257-6463. Healing is possible.