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Couples Sexual Intimacy Counseling


Our culture is dominated by fantasy images of sex. Attraction is depicted as meaning instant sexual compatibility and eroticism with sex as always highly passionate orgasmic magic. The truth is, passionate sex seldom lasts even until marriage. The images presented through movies, porn, novels and songs are counterproductive for couples trying to renew or maintain a vital sexual bond. Most couples have had both exciting and disappointing sexual experiences. Becoming a sexual couple is a process that takes time and energy. Sexuality cannot be taken for granted.

Sexual Dysfunction in Committed Couples

The most frequently reported sexual dysfunction in couples involves problems of sexual desire. Rather than positively anticipating sex and feeling you deserve sexuality to nurture your relationship, you are caught in the cycle of inhibition. Inhibited sexual desire is the most common reason for couples who enter sex therapy.

Inhibited sexual desire can manifest as :

  • frustration
  • embarrassment
  • avoidance

Of course, relationship and real world problems can also undermine sexual desire. For many couples, until the relationship or other problems are resolved, sexual intimacy is never regained.

Common problems include :

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of respect
  • Anger or resentment over past events
  • Frustration over relationship roles
  • Power struggles
  • Finances
  • Work fatigue or burnout
  • Medical issues
  • And more.

In traditional marital counseling, it is assumed that sexual dysfunction is always a symptom of relationship problems. If an underlying emotional problem in a relationship could be successfully dealt with, it was believed the sex problem would also be cured. 

Sometimes, even when an underlying emotional problem in a relationship is resolved, sexual desire remains problematic. It is also true that many couples can have a trusting, respectful committed relationship and still experience sex problems. Why? It is often due to lack of information, performance anxiety, poor psycho-sexual communication skills, or a history of guilt and blaming. It can also be due to low libido with one or both partners.

There are also physiological differences between men and women in experiencing sexual desire. As a general rule, men are aroused with greater ease and have less difficulty reaching orgasm. According to pioneering researcher Shere Hite, 70 percent of women cannot regularly achieve orgasm through intercourse alone. Research on female sexual response finds that women consider sexual pleasure to be more about intimate, sensual touching than orgasm. Not all men realize this.

Surveys also find that far more women than men feel inhibited in bed if they don't share an emotional connection with their partner. In John Gottmans' research (What Makes Love Lasts), it has been discovered that most women want sex when they already feel emotionally close via intimate conversations and touch, while for men sex itself is a way of becoming emotionally close.

It is important to note that this does not apply to everyone. Sometimes the issues are reversed. In my work with couples, I have come to appreciate the complexity of sexual desire in both men and women. The information provided here may be applicable to most couples but there are also many exceptions.

The bottom line is that developing a couple’s sexual intimacy requires not only daily intimate connection, but also open communication about sexual needs and preferences, experimentation and a sense of playfulness. Sex is not the most important component in your relationship, but it is integral and special. It serves as a shared pleasure and a means to build and reinforce intimacy. If sex is allowed to stagnate, it can devitalize your relationship.                                    


 Desire for an intimate, secure relationship is a major force in the decision to marry. An intimate marriage facilitates sexual desire. In fact, a prime function of marital sexuality is to reinforce and deepen intimacy. The essence of intimacy is feeling emotionally close, connected and valued. Intimacy provides energizing special feelings

How best can you express those feelings? There are many ways of expressing feelings that nurture intimacy of course, but here are some suggestions for expressing your feelings to your partner that can particularly nurture sexual feelings :


  • I desire you. It can be validating to admit desire and energizing to feel desirable. The expression of desire reinforces your partner's sense of personal and sexual worth and promotes intimate communication. You can desire your partner in affectionate, sensual, playful, erotic and sexual ways.
  • You make me feel good. It is important to tell your partner that they please you. Feeling good is not limited to a sexual expression however, it also includes showing respect (“Wow, I felt so proud of you when you spoke the other night”) trust, (“You're always there for me, honey!”) and emotional intimacy. 
  • Emotional intimacy: “I care about you.”  Expressions of interest and concern are always welcome, but are especially important in times of stress and trouble. It is a fact of human behavior that expressing care increases the amount of genuine care and intimacy in a relationship. Caring and sharing can also lead to an increase in sexual desire.
  • Touching : Touch is integral to your intimate relationship. Touching allows both partners to express feelings of warmth and caring, whether it is simply holding hands, putting arms around one another, kissing or non-demand sensual touching and massage. (non-demand: not necessarily expecting sexual intimacy). Nevertheless, these scenarios can certainly serve as bridges to sexual desire.

Your sexual relationship needs continual nurturing and if you feel it is an issue you need to be addressing in your relationship contact me by email or call 212 799 1157. 

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