So…what’s “normal,” how often, have you ever, has your partner ever… The truth is, I H A V E N O I D E A. But, I happen to know a wonderful, brave woman, who decided to take her questions to someone who could actually help. Genius, I know. If that’s not true “adulting,” I don’t know what is. The said wonderful woman was willing to share her experience with a sex therapist because in her words, “If any of the insight I picked up from our therapy can be shared and help others, I’d be glad to talk about it!” Before I sign off, I will leave you with a thought from Dr. Phil (I know, I know…but I remember being super pregnant and hearing it and thinking, “Man, pregnancy/childbirth/life with babies can throw a serious wrench in your sex life!”): when sex is good between partners, it accounts for about 10% of your relationship – but when its not, it accounts for about 90% of your relationship. Put more simply, when your sex life sucks, everything suffers. Don’t let your sex life account for 90% of your relationship! If you need help, ask, and consider asking someone who talks about it for a living.
Q: At what point did you seriously begin to consider seeing a sex therapist, and how did you go about finding one? Is there an interview process?
A: After the birth of my first child, I began having some pain with sex. I was extremely slow to even warm up to the idea of sex, especially because each time we’d tried it hurt so badly. I was checked out by several midwives/doctors and each one told me I was fine, and to just “use extra lube and keep trying.” The pain never stopped, and in fact seemed to get worse – probably because I began tensing up in anticipation of the pain. At one point, a friend of mine who works in the sex ed world mentioned that therapy – and not just any kind of therapy but specifically sex therapy – might be a good idea. She gave me the name of someone she’d seen before and recommended. I considered it, but never actually called the therapist. After the birth of my second child 2 years after my first birth, my midwife – a new care provider – informed me that I had some labial fusion… that my external labia had fused together slightly after my first birth. Surprisingly it hadn’t torn during the birth, so she performed a quick procedure to separate things. It must have been a small enough fusion for myself or any of the other midwives or doctors I’d seen in the previous two years to not be able to figure out what was going on. Several months later after I’d healed from my birth, (physical) pain with sex was gone! However I still had quite a bit of anxiety and therefore hesitation and very little desire to have sex, not only because of the normal ups and downs that come with having babies and being completely exhausted, etc. but also surely due to the pain that had come with the previous two years. It was then that I knew I needed to seek help.
As for the interview — I didn’t really do an interview, but rather just went to the therapy clinic’s website and read through the bio’s of the therapists. I then called the one I thought that would be a good match for me and made an appointment. I figured if, after our first meeting I wasn’t feeling it, I’d try another therapist but I knew right away after our first meeting that the one we saw was a good fit.
Q: Did either you or your partner need any convincing or was it a mutual agreement off the bat?
A: No, my partner did not need any convincing, haha. He was totally game for it because ultimately, us getting help meant him (hopefully) getting his love life back. However I will say, he is open to therapy to begin with because he has seen a therapist for the majority of his adult life. He knows what it’s all about, and is not opposed to getting help or advice, which I know is not the case for all men. I know there is quite a stigma surrounding sex therapy, and admittedly I probably had to be convinced more than he did, mostly because seeing a therapist would mean I had to face my own demons which isn’t easy for me.
Q: When you finished (are you finished or is it ongoing?), did it feel worth what you paid?
A: We’ve had 4 or 5 sessions over the past few years. Unfortunately insurance does not cover this therapy, and its not cheap, otherwise we’d go much more regularly. However it is absolutely worth every cent, and the things we’ve taken from our sessions have held much more meaning in our relationship than just in the bedroom.
Q: How quickly did it begin to help your sex life? And did improving your sex life help other aspects of your relationship as well?
A: I’d say improvement is ongoing. Its a slow process, especially when there’s a mental aspect involved. There were definitely tools we walked away with after our first session that helped right away. We had many really good conversations that surprisingly we’d never had in our 15 years of being together. She gave us some empowering questions, a few online survey-type resources to do together, book recommendations, and some ideas to try and break my anxiety and start fresh in the bedroom.
Q: Any surprises? Did you learn anything that you didn’t expect?
A: Surprises? Hmmm, not really. I guess I was surprised at how much I enjoyed talking with her, and how the sessions were totally different than what I had expected. In my mind, I had envisioned her giving us sex tips and position ideas, and things being awkward. This is not at all what we talked about, and in fact, most of what we discussed was not directly related to the physical operations of sex.
Q: What was your biggest take away?
A: My biggest takeaway I think has been the concept of intimacy. One of the best tools we’ve learned is to redefine what intimacy means for us. I had gotten so used to completely just shutting off any intimacy – even just little touches on the shoulder or a steamy kiss before bed – because I knew one little move would drive my husband straight to horny land and I just didn’t want to even remotely go there. So I completely shut it down… which ultimately backfired because then my husband craved physical touch even more, since he was hardly even getting hugs anymore. He is a “physical touch” love language guy to begin with, and I am not, so we really had to step back and have some big discussions about how we show our love for each other. One thing we started doing was to set limits on where the physical intimacy would end that night. This allowed us to lay in bed, hold hands, cuddle, and sometimes even make out without the pressure of it having to lead to anything more.