Listening to people's problems in the bedroom has taught me a few things about love and life
Working as a sex therapist is a fascinating career. It is intense work, talking about the intimate aspects of people’s lives every day. People ask me if I get depressed, hearing about people’s problems. I can understand why people would ask that question, but the truth is, it is much more depressing for me to be around people who need help and aren’t getting it, than to be with people who are reaching out and getting the assistance they need. I also find that I learn a tremendous amount about life, working so intimately with others.
These are just a few lessons I have learned from my clients over the years:
1. Sexual problems are not one person’s issue. Often people come to sex therapy believing that they, or their partner, have a sexual problem that needs to be fixed. It takes two to tango. Sexual concerns are an amalgam of two people’s sexual connection – their unique struggles, challenges and concerns. For example, a woman’s low libido may be the result of her own disconnection with her body, coupled with her partner’s lack of tenderness. A man’s lack of excitement can be the result of his overwhelming anxiety coupled with his wife’s coldness and lack of empathy. The take home message: If you or your partner have a sexual concern, it’s probably fueled by both of you.
2. We get more when we focus on giving rather than receiving. This isn’t just talk, this is reality. Giving forces us to open our hearts and bodies. In that open place, we are able to feel and thus receive more. Plus, when we give, our partner becomes more motivated to give to us. It’s a beautiful feedback loop that you can initiate at any time. Try thinking about why you love your partner before you make love to them. Then focus on offering them this love through the way you touch them, the way you look at them, and the way you speak to them. Gifting them with your love will result in your being gifted in return.
3. Sexual change is a guarantee at life transitions. We like to believe that our sexual response should be consistent throughout our lifetime. I guess we think that change is negative, and maintaining the status quo is the only desirable alternative. But this is not realistic, and truthfully, not even desirable. Our bodies change with life transitions – for women, that could be childbirth or menopause. Men, on the other hand, don’t have such clear life transitions, but their bodies certainly change with age. In addition, as we age, we mature emotionally. This maturity translates into different sexual needs. For example, at age 30 you may have enjoyed sex for the physical pleasure of it. Now, sex may be more about the emotional connection it provides. The end result is that how we like to be made love to changes over time. The more open and accepting we are to these natural changes, the more ability we have of enhancing our sex life as we age.
4. Successful intimate relationships require that everyone gives more than their share. Making intimate relationships successful is one of the major challenges of life. Long-term intimacy requires a tremendous effort, and most people who find their relationships satisfying admit that their relationship is a priority in their life. I encourage my patients to expect to give more than they receive. If both partners approach their romance from this place, they are much more apt to generate the juice required to keep their intimate relationship alive and well. In the end, this approach seems to offer everyone the highest, and sweetest, quality of loving.
About the author: Dr. Marianne Brandon is a clinical psychologist and diplomat in sex therapy through AASECT. Dr. Brandon is Director of Wellminds Wellbodies LLC in Annapolis, Maryland and author of Monogamy: The Untold Story and co-author of Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido.