My least favorite question from clients working in sex therapy is the what-do-I-do-now question, because the reality is I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix your sex life, and I don’t like not knowing. I rather enjoy feeling like I know everything, and this question just reminds me that I don’t. So what are people paying me for? Answer to follow shortly…Read on.
In the last 3 blog posts in this series on sex therapy, I talked about
- …the fact that bad sex does not lead to good sex, so if you’re begging for it (which is generally a guarantee for mediocre sex) you might want to consider another approach (which doesn’t mean sitting back and letting HER initiate it this time).
- …the idea that often times, the very things we are doing to try to improve things is making them worse.
- … the idea of broadening your focus…i.e. to consider that a narrow and laser like focus on just the two of you can be destructive. There is more to your story.
In this fourth installment, I’d like you to consider another idea, the most important idea regarding the lack of intimacy in your marriage: Asking what-do-I-do-now is the worst possible question you can ask…either of me or of yourself or of your spouse (or of the internet).
Why? Because it’s an anxious question, and anxious questions lead to anxious answers. (And there’s not much that’s sexy about anxiety!)
Instead of worrying about what to do, consider reflecting on what-do-I-think. Why would thinking be the most important thing you can do right now?
Because thinking is often the last thing we do when our sex lives are lacking. Most of the time we react. We get busy, feverishly trying to change something that we don’t really understand. (Or maybe we’ve done enough of that so we withdraw and give up.) And these kinds of anxious “solutions” usually make things worse.
Intimacy issues seem to function as a force of evolution, demanding over and over again that we either keep reacting emotionally or we find a way to step back, settle down, and think through our problems with a little perspective. (This paragraph, by the way, is one of the thoughts people begin to reflect upon that changes their sex lives…the idea that there are forces larger than the two of you…the idea that you are part of evolution which is WAY bigger than you…the idea that stepping back—not withdrawing—is more important and more effective than any list of 10-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-improve-your-sex-life from Cosmo Magazine.)
I’m not talking about ruminating or overthinking. I’m talking about reflection. Reflection has a little wiggle room in it for curiosity and creativity and not-having-all-the-answers-while-having-faith-that-the-problem-isn’t-set-in-concrete.
Nowhere is this kind of thinking more powerful than in our most important relationships. A lack of intimacy in marriage pushes and shoves and manhandles us into defining ourselves, into living what we believe, into taking a leadership role (yes leadership), rather than getting lost in begging or fixing or giving up (more ideas here in this paragraph for you to consider).
What-do-I-do is an anxious question. How-do-I-think is a calmer question. So is what-do-I-observe and what-does-leadership-mean-when-it-comes-to-our-lack-of-intimacy and in-what-ways-am-I-a-leader-here and how-do-I-define-leadership-at-home and what-do-I-believe-about-what-makes-a-good-sex-life and what-is-my-spouse’s-answer-to-that-question and when-I-get-upset-about-our-lack-of-intimacy-what-happens-to-this-thinking?
Behind these questions, by the way, is the understanding that you have time to figure some things out. You can take it slowly.
The bottom line is I really don’t know how to fix your sex life. All I can do is help you think about it differently, help you stop running into the same old thought loops (which are really just emotional reactions) that get you nowhere.
So, what are people paying me for? They are paying me to help them think more clearly, objectively. What they decide to do with the thinking is, of course, up to them. But change comes when people stop with the anxious focus on what-do-I-do.
And in the end, if you really have to DO something, as my granny used to say (no, not really):