2. Improving how sex feels

***TW: below some difficult reasons are discussed as to why sex can be painful or uncomfortable, including medical reasons, post-sexual assault or because of coercion/control***

Often there is a really valid reason as to why we don’t want sex, yet we doubt ourselves about why that is.

There could a be thousand good reasons why we don’t (find out more here).

However, sometimes that reason might be that the sex itself (or the build up to it) is the problem

The simple truth is that if sex doesn’t feel good, we’re unlikely to want it in the future.

You wouldn’t want to eat something that tasted gross, made you worried about eating it, or hurt you.

In fact, you’d probably actively avoid it.

So if you’ve been shuffling away from your partners advances or going to bed later/earlier than them to avoid sex, perhaps there’s something in it about how the sex feels.

Read on for details about how distressing, unexciting, or bad sex (either the sex you’re having or your experience of the build up) can impact on your sex drive….

Stressful/uncomfortable sex

It might be that sex has become stressful for you, for a variety of reasons.

This might be around anxiety.

You might be trying your hardest to relax into sex but if you feel stressed or worried, sex might be the time when these anxious thoughts seep into your mind.

You might be trying your hardest to be “in the moment” and surrender to pleasure but instead are fighting an internal battle against intrusive thoughts.

To really enjoy sex you need to be relaxed so this then becomes a vicious cycle in which you can’t orgasm because you’re so stressed by not feeling like you’re going to orgasm. Capeche?

This worry might then extend to the build up to sex so that anxiety about sex becomes triggered every time you think about it or your partner tries to initiate it. You might worry about whether you’re going to be able to perform- e.g. will you be wet enough to have sex? (I always felt embarrassed about the idea of using lube!). Will you be able to relax enough to enjoy it? Are they enjoying it? Do you look OK? Will you be able to orgasm?

These worried thoughts become so tied to sex that any kind of initiation trigger- e.g. a hand on your back, the pre-breakfast sex requestcan send you into a spiral of worry. Sex is so enmeshed with anxiety that it isn’t enjoyable. And if it’s a stressful experience for you, makes sense that you’d avoid it!

To read more about sex and anxiety, click here.

It’s a similar issue with body image.

If you’re worried about how you look, whether this bit is jiggling, if his ex looked better, if they’ve noticed your scar, if you smell OK- you’re not focused on what you’re doing and are again stuck inside your own head (just like anxiety).

This takes away the pleasure of sex and instead turns it into the equivalent of your year 10 PE classes where you feel vulnerable, exposed, and forced to do an activity where you feel the height of discomfort because you’re worried about what your peers are thinking. The same goes for the build up cycle- if you know you’ll be worried about how you look, even the initiation of sex becomes something stressful. To read more about sex and body image, click here.

Both issues (and any others you can think of that might mean sex is stressful for you) can mean that your libido takes a nose dive because sex is a stressor not a relaxer. Click through to the above pages for more guidance on how to move past this so that you can enjoy the great sex you deserve!

Note that sometimes sex becomes so entwined with worry that it’s also worthwhile consulting a professional on how to move forwards.

Unexciting Sex

If sex is always the same old same old, it’s likely to be very uninspiring and unappealing to you.

Especially when you’ve been in a long term relationship and you feel like you’ve done every position under the sun.

Take a read of this article on having engaging, varied sex to see how it could be very simple things you incorporate into your lifestyle to change up sex and make it exciting again. Especially worth noting is the advice from Esther Perel!

Sex that makes you feel bad

So- sex should NEVER make you feel bad.

And yet, there are times when having a low libido can mean sex becomes a charged issue with the household.

Sex (or the lack of it) can cause arguments, leave one or both partners feeling rejected, and can create bad feeling as well being a consequence of it.

One of the most common ways that sex can leave you feeling bad is around losing control of the initiation process. 

Feeling constantly hounded for sex, being the one that is pursued and then have to “give in”, is one of the least sexy patterns to be stuck in.

But having a low libido can mean that a couple can be stuck in a rut of one partner initiating and the other feeling a total lack of control over sex generally. And often it’s the element of control that makes you feel sexy in the first place.

So the initiation of sex itself and the signs that go alongside it can become associated with occupying a certain position in the relationship that gets played out over and over, leaving one or both partners feeling bad or frustrated at the role they play. Read more about initiation and control here.

Sex can also leave you feeling bad if you’re anything like me and don’t like the idea of scheduling sex and the impending doom that calendar entry creates when it arrives- the pressure and expectation around scheduled sex isn’t for me at all! Read more here on scheduling sex.

“Feeling bad” after sex can also have a more concerning side.

Many of us often think we understand consent, yet navigating sex and consent in a long term relationship where one partner has a lower libido can be an issue that is complex. Often women are told to “just do it” in order to get in the mood, yet this creates problems when we only talk about sex in terms of “enthusiastic consent”.

We also don’t tend to talk about sexual assault within relationships, and when a low libido is at play (possibly caused by issues within the relationship to begin with), partners might be more at risk of “giving in” to sex to “keep the peace” or experiencing forced intercourse from a partner that feels entitled to sex.

This can leave women feeling guilty, confused, upset, and unsure how to feel after being manipulated or coerced into sex.

When sex doesn’t feel good or leaves you feeling bad, this is a very good reason for not wanting it in future. If you recognise yourself within this or are concerned, Rape Crisis England have some amazing resources and a helpline to call if you’re experiencing sexual coercion.

Further reading:

For help, you could also visit the Sexual Pleasure page or Cultivating Sensuality to read about Sensate Therapy which is often recommended to help women unwind before/during sex.

You could also consider talking to your partner about what is going on, and gently instructing them how to touch you to help you feel at ease and turned on.

Is there anything else that has worked for you if sex hurts or is uncomfortable?




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