sex

8 signs it's time to see a sex therapist.

Maybe you’re not in the mood. Maybe you’re wanting too much sex. Maybe you, or your partner, wants to try something different. You might not be reaching orgasm. You might be masturbating more, and having sex with your partner less.

When sex within a couple isn’t working (or maybe it’s not happening at all) feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction are likely to arise. This is compounded by the fact that talking about it is tough. There’s the ‘shame’ or embarrassment that comes with having the discussion. One of you gets defensive, one of you gets accusatory, both of you are left feeling frustrated (in every sense) and asking yourselves what went wrong? 

Maybe you’ve always had problems. Maybe your relationship went from eye-watering, ‘never-had-sex-like-this-before’, feels at the start of the relationship, to this stark, disheartening contrast.

Either way. Sex therapy is a thing. And it’s designed to help. Here are the signs it might be time to consult a professional.

(If you’re worried about having that discussion with your partner, skip to number 8 and you’ll see sex therapy can be made to sound exciting. Even fun.)

Mamamia have a podcast dedicated to everything sex and relationships. Listen to the latest episode below. (Post continues after audio.)

Changes in libido.

When sex drive drops or falls in one partner, the other partner is left behind. Often at a complete loss of what to do with the rejection / persistence of the other partner.

A sudden and flooring loss in libido (which is different to ‘not being in the mood’) will see you not having any desire to have sex with your partner (or anyone) for an extended period of time. If you’re feeling like this, it could be down to underlying personal, medical or lifestyle issues. Maybe you’re in a constant state of stress. Maybe you’re not happy within the relationship. Your hormones, or your contraceptive pill, could also be to blame. Just know, a complete and sustained lack of interest in sex is not necessarily ‘normal’. And there are ways a sex therapist can help reverse this.

In comparison, a super-charged libido can be detrimental to everyday life and can take it’s toll on the relationship. If you find yourself constantly preoccupied by sex, to a point where it’s interfering with your day-to-day functioning, it’s time to seek the advice of a therapist. You, my friend, are likely experiencing a sex addiction, and you should probably get that looked at.

Orgasms have become a problem.

Everyone reaches orgasm differently. It takes longer for some than it does for others, and maybe you need certain stimulus to really get it off. There is likely nothing wrong with your individual preferences / processes when it comes to reaching orgasm. The problem only arises when these habits change. When you can no longer reach orgasm like you used to. That’s a sign that something is ‘off’ in your sexual relationship, and it’s time to seek help.

It is also important to drop the stigma around orgasms. They shouldn’t be seen as ‘ultimatums’, as dating experts from dating site ToyboyWarehouse.com Lucy and Gaynor told the Daily Mail.

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“An orgasm is intended to be an enjoyable part of sex, but for many people it may be something to dread,” the pair said. “You may see yourself reaching an orgasm or making your partner reach one as a requirement, something to attain otherwise you have failed. This attitude can be quite common and the pressure it causes can negatively affect your love life.”

From the movie, "Meet the Fockers", Roz is a sex therapist and Dina is 're-discovering' some pleasure points.

Addressing sexual trauma.

If you've experienced sexual trauma – for example, in the form of abuse or coercion – sex might trigger feelings of discomfort, confusion, distress, shame and panic. These 'flashbacks' may not arise till later in life, or until you're within a comfortable, loving relationship.

Considering the sheer impact of sexual abuse, and how it can affect every aspect of a person's life, these issues are best discussed with a professional. Someone who can help re-shape your understandings around sex; identify particular issues that relate to the trauma you've experienced; and support you in creating, or recreating, enhanced sexual intimacy.

Questioning your sexual identity.

When you're starting to ask questions about your sexual orientation, and you're within an otherwise positive, supportive relationship, it might be beneficial to consult with a sex therapist. For many, sexual orientation is not something that's set. It might change with time, or go through phases. Attraction to the same sex, or the opposite sex, might arise suddenly or it might slowly develop over time. Either way, understanding your own needs, and not quashing them under the denial of 'I'm-in-a-relationship-it's-wrong-to-feel-like-this' is important for both your own mental health, as well as feelings of your partner.

You've reached routine.

Sure, sex at the start of a relationship can be mind-blowing. Unfortunately, it's not likely to stay that way, as PhD Relationship Counsellor and Sex Therapist Petra Zebroff wrote in the Huffington Post.

"While couples can have great sex for awhile (usually one to 1.5 years), a sexual pattern can quickly develop," Zebroff wrote. "Eventually, without variation or open communication, that pattern loses excitement, becomes predictable and stops working as it did before. And the longer that stale pattern is ingrained, the more difficult it is to change."

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A sex therapist can help break this. A professional will be able to provide options for exploration that will lead to mutual pleasure. They will also be able to help prevent the establishment of just another 'routine'.

(1.5 years= #lifegoals.)

Roz is at it again, this time with Jack, Dina's husband.

Masturbation has taken over.

Masturbation can be healthy. For both males and females, in both gay and straight couples, masturbation can be a way to improve sex life and understand your own body. But when masturbation begins to take over regular sex, it might be time to seek help. If you've reached a stage where you're preferring masturbation to sex with your partner, a professional might be able to help reverse this.

Resolving different needs.

When one of you has sexual desires or urges that make the other partner feel uncomfortable, seeking professional help could be a good way to re-establish the balance and get you both on the same page. Therapy will help you find a way to compromise, and enable you to better communicate and play out your different needs during sex. Sex therapy can help you identify your limits, and create a safe, mutually-pleasurable way to explore different fantasies.

To have better sex.

Finally, seeking sex therapy doesn't have to be about 'solving' anything. It can be a way to get in touch with your own body, and that of your partner, for more intimate, imaginative sex. Therapy might help you explore different kinks together, and enhance the sexual nature of your relationship as a whole. If you're committing to one person for a long period of time – perhaps life – that's a lot of time for potential exploration and pleasure. Sex therapy might empower you both to make the most of that.

Watch next: The weirdest things we've heard while between the sheets.

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