The new mantra in couple sexuality is desire/pleasure/eroticism/satisfaction. Of these dimensions, desire is the most important. And what brings couples to therapy most often is the problem of inhibited sexual desire.
Most desire problems are secondary — the client had experienced desire, but now lacks desire and usually avoids any sensual or sexual touch. The most common cause for a woman is she has lost her “sexual voice” and views her partner as more interested in sex than in her. For a man, the most common cause is he has lost confidence with his erection and feels he “doesn’t want to start something he can’t finish.”
The key to rekindling desire for women, men, and couples is to learn to value intimacy, pleasure, and eroticism combined with positive, realistic sexual expectations. From years of successful clinical treatments, I’ve found simple strategies and techniques to confront and change desire problems as an intimate sexual team. Key to the dialogue are the “Five Dimensions of Touch,” a core psychosexual skill exercise to increase the awareness of each partner’s gears of connection. A majority of couples only use two gears, affection or intercourse, falling into the trap of believing that sex = intercourse.
When couples believe “sex=intercourse,” they have a power struggle over intercourse initiation and frequency. In my latest book, Sex Made Simple, I have identified 20 guidelines that break the power struggle by emphasizing that the essence of sexual desire is giving and receiving pleasure-oriented touch. The couple learn to value sensual, playful, and erotic touch for itself rather than as a demand for intercourse. This results in more touching, desire, and intercourse.
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This post is an excerpt from the book Sex Made Simple, Clinical Strategies for Sexual Issues in Therapy by Barry McCarthy, PhD. McCarthy is a board-certified clinical psychologist, Diplomate in sex therapy, certified marriage and family therapist, and a tenured professor of psychology at American University.
He has published 105 professional articles, 27 book chapters, and co-authored 15 trade books. Barry’s clinical expertise is in sexuality, especially issues of sexual desire, sexual function and dysfunction, relapse prevention, and prevention of sexual problems. He has presented over 350 workshops in the United States and internationally.
Tags: Couple Therapy