Why Is Sex So Difficult?

Sex.  A remarkably complicated endeavor for such a tiny word. As a couple and sex therapist, I see people everyday who wish they had more satisfying sexual relationships. Typically, these folks do not have serious medical issues or complicated past traumas that prevent them from fully embracing their sexuality. They are healthy, smart, funny, loving people who just can’t figure out how to have consistently good sex. I’m here to help you understand why we struggle with sex and what we can do to make sex easier and more enjoyable.

We all struggle with sex at some point in our lives. What if I told you it could be easier? That you could feel less pressure to perform while feeling more relaxed and sexually satisfied?

First, let’s understand why sex is so difficult for many of us.

Sex consists of two major processes: an involuntary process and a voluntary process. Involuntary processes are those which our body does automatically without our conscious assistance (e.g. breathing, blinking, erection, lubrication, orgasm). Voluntary processes are actions over which we have conscious control (e.g. walking, talking, touching, thinking about what we are experiencing).

Where a majority of us go wrong is in trying to make sex happen by focusing on what we cannot control – our involuntary processes!

Our minds are focusing on making our body respond by becoming erect or lubricated, or we try to will ourselves towards having an orgasm. These physiological functions are involuntary and no amount of “thinking them into being” is going to result in satisfying sex. In fact, this often leads to undue pressure and anxiety, making good sex nearly impossible.

Let’s try an analogy…

Imagine you’re driving your car. What are you thinking about as you drive? I’m usually thinking about the cars around me, adjusting the A/C, or pressing the brakes as I approach a stoplight. These are all voluntary processes.  I am aware of my environment and am taking actions to help achieve my goal of traveling comfortably in the car. I’m not thinking about how the steering wheel is connected to my tires or how the engine is keeping itself lubricated to keep from overheating. These are involuntary processes. The car is performing these functions without my conscious assistance. I know how to adjust pressure on the gas pedal to make the car go faster, but I don’t have to think about the mechanics of the engine in order to move forward. Imagine what it would be like if you attempted to drive while trying to control the complex mechanics of your car… you would be so distracted you’d likely crash into another vehicle!

This is exactly what we do when it comes to sex. We focus on the internal mechanics of our bodies (e.g. becoming erect or lubricated) instead of attending to the behaviors that make us feel good. When we teach ourselves to start focusing on what we can control we become more adept at consistently experiencing sexual pleasure and relaxation.

So, what’s next? How do you take this information and apply it to your own sex life?

I want you to try a small homework assignment to integrate the information I’ve shared with you today.

During your next sexual encounter, begin to notice what you are thinking about while you’re having sex. Ask yourself, am I focusing on behaviors and actions, things over which I have conscious control? Or am I thinking about how my body is or is not physically responding to sex? Make some notes about your experience and then stay tuned for my next entry SEX: Feeling good without breaking a sweat  to learn more about how to take control of your sexual satisfaction.


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