How’s your Sex life?

By Kimberlee Sweeney, Divorce and Relationship Coach.

That got your attention didn’t it!
In my background as a beauty therapist and more recently in my Divorce and Relationship Coaching role, I have seen how stress can affect hormones, the skin and other aspects of clients’ lives and relationships. I have researched the impact of hormones in both the female and male reproductive systems and the adrenal system and I encourage my clients to become familiar with the impact of hormones, not only with their stress levels but also on their sexual drive and desire.

Women generally go through menopause in their fifties resulting in a decreased production of oestrogen and progesterone in their ovaries. Menopausal symptoms can cause changes in a woman’s body which affect their sexual drive. Some men find it difficult to understand and accommodate these changes and complain and criticise their partners. Most menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness, night-time sweats and mood changes can be treated or alleviated so it’s important to consult a GP or health specialist.

Men also experience hormonal changes in their fifties as their testosterone production drops and they go through the andropause, or “male menopause”. A common issue for men experiencing the andropause is ED (Erectile Dysfunction) or PE (Premature Ejaculation). However, ED and PE are not always due to lower testosterone levels. Other causes include an enlarged prostate or prostate disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. Smoking and overuse of alcohol can also cause ED as they damage blood vessels resulting in poor circulation. Any man who experiences ongoing ED or PE should consult their GP and have a full medical check-up.

While physical causes of sexual dysfunction need to be addressed, there are many ways couples can improve their personal lives, and overcome their embarrassment and anxiety around sexual intimacy.

Another cause of weak erections and early ejaculation in men is wrong sexual focus,” says Jacqui Olliver, Psychosexual Relationship Specialist at End the Problem.Sex education generally isn’t relevant to engaging sexually with another person. So, when challenges arise, people don’t know how to adjust their focus to regain control.

According to Jacqui, focusing on the wrong actions at the wrong time will continue to confuse their brain. “For a woman, this can present as inner vaginal dryness, low libido and problems reaching orgasm. Sexual challenges experienced by men and women lead to anxiety and stress which can really put partners off being intimate with each other.”

Jacqui teaches men, women and couples how to balance their sexual focus to restore a satisfying sex life. Knowledge is power in all aspects of life, she says, and so why wouldn’t you gain some greater understanding of what you can both do to have a healthier and happier sex life.

“In most cases, restoring a happy and satisfying sex life is do-able, regardless of your age,” Jacqui says. “Possessing the correct knowledge and technique of what to focus on and when, will go a long way to helping resolve these issues so you can focus on connecting more deeply on other levels.”

Jacqui has provided some useful tips about improving sexual intimacy. Refer to: Lack of Libido in Men and Women and 10 Things You Need to Know About Sex

Louise von Maltitz, sex therapist from in Auckland, has reported she has seen an increase of clients experiencing desire issues during the past five months; this could possibly be due to the stress of lockdown and the impact it’s had? Louise offers sex therapy to individuals presenting with a wide range of emotional and sexual intimacy difficulties.

She explained desire disorders as “the most intriguing and fascinating problem” that sex therapists are facing. She suggested that “desire” disorders are the most difficult to treat, as they are associated with deep-seated psychological problems. She emphasizes that the mystery of desire is extremely complex and that a variety of factors, including anxiety, can affect changes in desire throughout the lifespan. Passion, lust, or sexual desire is frequently robust in the early stages of a relationship and often declines over time and with the maturity of the relationship. She believes that sex and couple research is pivotal to unravelling the variables and the changes to desire throughout the lifecycle. Multiple factors including: physiological, chemical, hormonal, intra-psychic, interpersonal, sociological and developmental factors, all play a vital role in the variance of erotic feelings, passion and lust, throughout a person’s lifetime. Louise believes that passion is partially hormonal when we explore romantic attraction, attachment and lust. Passion is driven by oestrogen and testosterone and will interact differently in males and in females. For example, visual stimulation, telling, touching, talking, can stir ‘lustful feelings’ in a female, and be totally absent in a male.

Sexual desire problems are an area of increasing clinical complexity. It is vital to have a far-reaching, comprehensive assessment framework and treatment plan when treating a couple with a desire problem. She emphasized that it is crucial for the sex therapist to have a very good understanding of desire issues when treating a couple presenting with a desire problem. She added that the tides of desire and sexuality are complex, contradictory and diverse. The therapy approach in treating the sexual desire problem with a couple affected by Alzheimer’s or a couple affected by physical disability, will differ. As will the treatment approach vary for a couple being affected by cancer, or a couple affected by degenerative and aging problems. It is an individual and unique process – no one size fits all, and is similar to a jigsaw puzzle where pieces are ‘inserted’ to complete the picture.

Sexual desire evolves through the life cycle. Older people often report that they are more or less reside to the left of the middle of the spectrum. Their felt episodes of desire for their long-standing partner occur less frequently and are less intense. While clinicians teach that humans are sexual beings from birth to death, we also convey that sex has different qualities among youth and older age. From a population perspective, the trend toward quieting of sexual desire as we move through the lifecycle is biologic in origin. In any individual’s life, however, the cause may be far more interpersonal or psychological, as can be seen when a middle-aged person falls in love again and experiences a recrudescence of sexual desire” (Levine, 2002).

Louise also says, “Sex is a simple word for an extremely complex variety of desires. It cuts to the core of our desires, our passions, our emotions, our feelings, our wants and our dreams. It is when it goes wrong that it can be harmful and damaging in our relationships and our lives. I offer sex therapy to individuals presenting with a wide range of emotional and sexual intimacy difficulties.”

It’s natural that both woman and men have a reduction in their hormones as they age and possibly desire too, but what people don’t often realise is that it doesn’t have to mean the end of a healthy loving sex life. There are many options out there and many experts that can help, as well as potions and lotions.

My main aim in this article has been to enlighten and guide, to help save some relationships and help you reignite the desire for each other once again. As a relationship coach, I believe a big part of having a loving connection is through physical touch, intimacy and sex, which are three quite different things.

To build connection we need to hug and touch. We all lead busy lives but taking 20 seconds each morning to hug each other before leaving for work and adding a 3-6 sec kiss too, sets you both up to go off for the day with a little of that loving feeling. Intimacy can simply be just talking, showing interest in one another and each other’s day, holding hands and cuddling, saying kind and loving words to each other. We need (especially a woman) physical touch and intimacy first and foremost and at some stage in your week you may both want to enjoy sexual intimacy.

As women age, health and oestrogen levels drop and so does their libido. This might mean a little more work on the part of her partner. Woman especially need that emotional connection and perhaps even a few sex toys and lubricants to get them in the mood or more foreplay than usual. Don’t be shy, tell each other what pleases you and what doesn’t. Keep the interest alive for you both to be a little curious and adventurous. Change it up a bit. Be caring and generous with each other and be open to new sexual experiences, with one another.

It’s also important to note that women naturally have much higher levels of oxytocin than men. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone which helps to increase social interactions and feeling of connection. “While women feel increased oxytocin from just kissing and cuddling, a man’s oxytocin skyrockets through penetrative sex with a partner he loves,” says Jacqui Olliver. The increase in oxytocin from sexual intercourse makes a man feel more emotionally connected to his partner, and more inclined to kiss and cuddle so it’s a win/win for both partners.

Both men and women who are in a committed loving relationship can and do in fact, increase their hormone levels, when they feel loved, appreciated and secure within their relationships. Food for thought! Right?

What can you do to make your partner feel more loved up and want you more? I love the If you don’t know your love language or your partners then each of you could take the quiz and discuss with each other your top two love languages and how your partner can meet them for you. We all generally act out our own love language with our partner, but that’s not their love language that’s what you want. Ask them what they want from you. Again, this helps build a stronger connection and moves towards better sex and intimacy. Your love language can change over time so if you haven’t taken the quiz in a while, do it again. You might be surprised

Over the years working as a Divorce and Relationship coach I have recognised some clients may just need help with their technique. Jacqui Olliver has been a great support for these individuals or couples.

With some clients there may be varying physical and psychological issues past or present, including porn addiction, hormonal changes, lowered libido’s etc, that need to be addressing by Sex Therapists such as Louise von Maltitz or Edit Horvath from Edit says; “Everyone has a right to a fulfilling and healthy sex life. Through sex therapy you can discover and understand the beginnings of the sexual difficulty and identify ways to increase your sexual satisfaction. Sexuality is a central aspect of our lives. When we are happy with our sex life, we are often happy in other areas of life. It is common for people to experience sexual difficulties in their life. In fact, many people experience some kind of difficulty in their sexual relationship at some point. These can include erection problems, a loss of desire, orgasmic difficulties, sexual pain, and sexual dissatisfaction, Edit says. Sometimes there are physiological problems, yet often these issues relate to anxieties, stress, concerns or a lack of knowledge about sex. When we think about leading a healthy life we think about diet and nutrition, exercise, and looking after our bodies. We do not often think about looking after our sex lives. Sexual problems can lead to other relationship issues. A healthy sex life is part of leading a healthy life. Sex therapy can help you achieve a healthy sex life and therefore a healthier life.”

Intimacy issues of any kind are quite common. Take heart though as there are experts who can help. This article introduces you to my top three favourite experts in the field of sexual intimacy. Some people may wish to work with them individually or as a couple. Some of you may wish to work with both Jacqui and Edit or Louise. The choice is ultimately yours and will be driven by your desire to resolve your issues and find context in your sexuality and intimate relationships.

Good luck on your journey to a healthy happy sex life.

Kimberlee Sweeney

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