I get back on my soapbox this week to talk about something I think is important. So many people feel broken or like something is wrong with them when they struggle with sex, but this is not true.
All couples go through lapses and setbacks. This does not mean anything is wrong with you. What you’re going through makes complete sense; we just have to understand why. It’s natural to doubt yourself when you have sexual difficulties; that’s just a normal part of being human. But you are definitely not broken, and steps can be taken to fix that type of mindset and prevent those thoughts from consuming your life.
I want to remind you that grieving and struggling with body image issues or desire discrepancy is normal, but it doesn’t have to take away from your ability to have an engaging, fulfilling sex life. Listen along.
It’s Common to Struggle with Sexual Desire
Despite how the media portrays the subject, consistent sexual desire is not a guarantee. There are so many factors that go into any individual’s libido. And there different ways of experiencing sexual desire.
There are two basic ways I describe sexual desire. First, there is proactive desire. This is sexual desire that is spontaneous, where you think about and want sex, and you’d like to take steps to make it happen. This is what culture teaches us constitutes ‘libido.’
But there is also reactive desire. This is when you only feel desire once you get going and start to be physically (and mentally) aroused. This may mean you feel absolutely no desire at any given moment, but once you get going in the way that elicits that desire within you, you start to react positively to that stimulus. Your desire then emerges.
Often, desire discrepancies occur because of a dynamic interaction between these differing modes of sexual desire. The person more interested in sex often has proactive desire. The person less interested often has the reactive kind. Both types are individual, they can fluctuate, and they are totally normal!
Sexual Performance and Dysfunction
If you struggle with any sort of sexual dysfunction or pain, it might be tempting to consider yourself broken in a tangible, “look at my dysfunction” type of way. But that’s a false narrative that should be restructured to reflect a more positive reality.
You are not broken. You may need to reorient the way you approach sex and get creative with it, but that doesn’t mean you’re broken. You can adapt and even pursue different medical interventions if there are treatments available. There are many approaches to take.
Loss, Grief, and Relationship Issues Can Contribute to Feelings of Brokenness
Sometimes sex will force you to confront issues that are emotionally upsetting–such as procreation struggles or sexual trauma–and this can also contribute to this hurtful cycle of brokenness,
These types of struggles can compound and carry over into your relationship, which can initiate and feed a vicious cycle of even more feelings of being broken. So, depending on how much work you’re putting into your relationship, you can expect there to be momentary (or lengthy) lulls in your sex life as well. This is not an accurate reflection on some innate sense of your self-worth but is a natural ebb and flow of being with a partner.
Lack of Knowledge and Experience
The state of sexual education in the U.S. has certainly not helped to dispel these feelings of inadequacy. And while many people think they’re learning about sex through pornography, porn is not education; it is entertainment. And it can contribute to body image issues and just an unrealistic portrayal of sex in general. This can widely influence feelings of brokenness.
Aging, Illness, and Trauma Affects Desire
As you age, you won’t feel the same sort of sexual readiness and libido as you used to feel. We all go through this, and we all have to adapt to our changing bodies. Instead of feeling broken, try to accept it as a natural progression.
And for more on how illness and sexual trauma can lead to feelings of brokenness, as well as the most important positive message to take away from this episode, keep listening.