Coping with Pressure to Overcome Sexual Avoidance
When I’m working with people in sex therapy who are dealing with sexual avoidance, there is often a lot of pressure to enter back into a sexual arena. Some of that pressure can be self-inflicted. It’s important to remember that not much changes when we’re making decisions out of fear. It’s true that a little stress can motivate us, but a lot of fear can make us freeze. It can also make us impulsive, where we try to seek out comfort, rather than make decisions for lasting change.
Pressure can make us become very all or nothing. One of the biggest issues I see in sex therapy is people becoming all or nothing about sex itself. Here are some examples of all or nothing thinking as it relates to sex:
- You’re either having sex or you’re not.
- Sex is penetration or nothing at all.
- Sex is good or it’s bad.
- You either have a spark or you don’t.
All of these things encourage you to freeze. They increase pressure on yourself.
Building Tolerance to Stress
To deal with this pressure, you have to learn to build tolerance with your stress. That often means learning to just sit with the feeling. By sitting with the feeling, it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, you learn that it doesn’t last and it won’t last at that intensity forever. So in a way, you’re dealing with all or nothing thinking here as well. You’re not either stressed or carefree. There is a lot of middle ground. And sex can be stressful, so learning to tolerate that stress is essential.
Identify What You’re Willing to Do
There may be a lot of things that you’re not willing to do yet. However, there may also be things that you’re willing to engage in. That can be as simple as kissing, cuddling, and holding hands. Or it can be something more intimate.
Treat Yourself with More Kindness
A lot of people who are struggling with sexual avoidance struggle with self-kindness. When people are dealing with a history of erectile dysfunction or vaginismus, this is often even more of a challenge. There can be a lot of shame for people when they’ve dealt with these sexual problems.
Sex For Yourself
People who are avoiding sex are often over focused on their partners. This doesn’t mean you need to stop trying to please your partner. But sex can’t be for this only as well. Now let me say that some get pleasure on putting their focus and attention on their partners needs. However, this is also a way of that person meeting their needs too. Ultimately, you have to learn to be a little selfish to identify what you want in the relationship.
Communicate and Ask for Support from Your Partner
When partners aren’t sure what you’re dealing with, they’re more likely to fill in the blanks on their own. This can lead to assumptions about attraction and meaning about you. Ultimately, that will lead you to feel more disconnected. Communicate openly about what you’re feeling and let your partner know how they can support you.
Watch out for Numbing
Sometimes people use numbing behaviors to help them avoid. This doesn’t only help them avoid sex, but it also helps them avoid their feelings. There are countless ways that people numb. And some numbing is OK, as long as it doesn’t prevent you from becoming vulnerable and making changes in your life.
One thing that we will see with people is using porn as a way of experiencing pleasure without the risks of getting hurt. The strategy makes sense, but it doesn’t necessarily build connection. So if you’re using porn as a way of constantly avoiding, it’s important to commit to becoming more vulnerable with yourself and your partner.
For some, type of numbing with porn can become compulsive. If it does, it’s a good idea to find a therapist who can help you build a plan to manage out of control behaviors, but also reconnect in your relationships and life.
Build Shame Resilience
Shame will do a lot of things. It can also kill your sex drive. Learn what shameful problems that you’re contending with and focus on tolerating shame by doing the following. First, identify it and how it feels. Secondly, share it with people who’ve earned the right to hear them.
If you’re dealing with sexual avoidance, and you feel like you’re getting stuck, we might be able to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.