"My husband and I have been married for 11 years. In the past, sex was very enjoyable but now I can't even climax. We both seem to be very aroused at first but the arousal soon goes away as our bedroom play progresses. Could there be something wrong with me physically? Mentally? I do masturbate often, could this be part of the issue?"
Thank you so much for reaching out with your question! To start, I first want to mention that in relationships, our needs sexually change and that in 11 years it is expected that what helps your arousal may be different from 11 and even 2 years ago. With that said, to help you start pin-pointing what is blocking you from your peak climatic experience it is helpful to understand the differences between desire and arousal.
But first! I want to address your concern with masturbating often. Masturbation is something that I believe is a self-pleasure that we all have a right to. There is no specified “too much” for masturbation. Instead, just like eating, drinking and working out, if it gets in the way of your ability to function successfully in life than it can become an issue. So, if you want to masturbate in the morning and then enjoy sex with your partner, that’s not a problem. It can be helpful, however, to experiment with your frequency of masturbation and the time between masturbation and sex to see if that has an affect on your ability to maintain arousal and reach orgasm with your husband. Sometimes our bodies need some time between arousal and orgasm, called the refractory period, to “recharge”. This time varies greatly from person-to-person. Additionally, the time our arousal can be maintained also changes as we age. This means a two-hour romp in the bedroom is going to often guarantee arousal will dissipate.
Now, when we start to talk about desire it is largely dependent on your brain. To be open to desire it is important for your brain to be more in the on switch than the off switch. What can get in the way of your brain saying “yes” to sexual intimacy? Things like stress, trauma, health issues, relationship issues, messages growing up that say sex and pleasure is bad, pressure for sex, negative self-image, stress about performance, and kids, to name a few. The idea with desire is to seduce the brain away from the “off” and more into the “on” arena. Notably, this is not a quick flip of the switch like movies have us tend to believe. Instead, desire is often gradual, needs warming up, and takes more deliberate focus.
Arousal, on the other hand is more about the sensations that get the body into the “on” position, meaning the body getting heated, heart rate increasing, tingling and warming of the genitals. Ask yourself if you are getting the right sensations your body needs to maintain arousal and for orgasm to occur. Sometimes we want a lighter or harder touch than what we are receiving. Also, our sexuality changes across our lifespan and thus the sensations our bodies require for arousal to occur varies. Sometimes the sensation needs change simply because time has caused us to want something different. Other times, more obvious physical changes occur like when taking medications, having kids, and menopause, which alter our bodies and thus difference sensations are often needed. If you don’t have trouble maintaining arousal and reaching orgasm solo, however, than it is likely either an issue of conveying to your husband what sensations you need or that there is more of a mental block that is causing you concern.
A more mental barrier may occur, for example, if you feel a pressure to orgasm and it is taking you longer than you have in the past. This causes anxiety to enter into the body and mind and for arousal to dissipate. You may also have stress on your mind, such as a new job or a current relationship issue, that inhibits your focus from the physical sensations and pleasure in your body.
Questions to ask yourself:
Am I getting the right sensations that my body needs to maintain arousal and reach orgasm? And if not, can I tell me husband that I need a harder touch, a different position, or oral sex instead of manual stimulation to aid my arousal?
Has something physically changed recently that could be posing an issue for my arousal such as medication, having a kid, menopause, or other health issue? If so, can I go to the doctor to change my medication (for example).
Are there thoughts in my mind that mentally get in the way when my husband and I are intimate such as that dang project at work, the fact that I still don’t forgive my husband for something, a worry the baby will wake, or that I feel a pressure to perform sexually? If so, can I focus on de-stressing activities, talk to my husband about my concerns, or talk to a sex therapist to help me alleviate these anxieties?
Best of luck and I hope for many more orgasms to come,
Chelsea Holland, DHS, MS is a sex therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (Number: LPCC.0014082) and Registered Psychotherapist (License Number: NLC.0104923) in the state of Colorado. She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She also has completed the Associate in Sex Education and Clinical Sexology Certificate Programs from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, California. Her training includes counseling skills, resolving sexual concerns, sex education, clinical sexology and erotology. She is also an active member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and the American Counseling Association (ACA).
Dr. Chelsea helps individuals, partners, and groups, regardless of their sexual orientation, sexual interests, ability, and age with concerns and questions regarding their sexuality and relationships. Her approach is solution-focused and skills-based, along with the use of intimacy and emotionally focused therapy (EFT) to guide her practice. In addition, she integrates a person-centered approach with the supplemental approaches of cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. Her approach is open-minded, sex-positive, and nonjudgmental to help her clients explore, embrace and enhance their sexuality, and also address any problems that may be hindering their fullest sexual expression.
You can also follow Dr. Chelsea on:
Facebook (www.facebook.com/DrChelseaHolland) Twitter, (https://twitter.com/#!/doctor_chelsea), LinkedIn(http://www.linkedin.com/in/drchelseaholland), and on her Website (http://www.drchelseaholland.com)