An expert has advice on how to overcome common sex problems couples may encounter during their relationship.

If the horizontal mambo has been less than satisfactory in the past few months, it could be due many factors. Physical, mental and emotional issues can cause partners to withdraw from each other, which would affect their sex life in the process. Many couples will encounter sex problems at one point or another throughout their relationship, especially over time.

States Dr Martha Lee, a clinical sexologist at Eros Coaching, “Sex problems can strain the relationship. Such problems will then affect the sense of physical and emotional intimacy between couples.

“Beyond the dating and honeymoon period, there are the practicalities of life to grapple with. Many modern couples travel for work, juggle demanding jobs meant for two or three people, and work long hours. Many of my clients report being too exhausted for sex,” she adds.

However, sex problems can affect couples of all ages, not just older couples. In some cases, communication is all you need to get your sex life back on track again. However, if you feel that the problem is really impacting your relationship, do seek professional help before things escalate.

1. Lack of emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy can refer to the way partners interact, or the amount of respect and trust they have for each other. When there is a lack of emotional intimacy with your spouse, you might not be as willing to have sex. This problem usually occurs due to a lack in communication between both parties. “Your need for intimate physical and emotional connection is ageless,” Dr Lee points out. So, it is vital that couples have a deep connection with each other.

Solution: Start spending more time together as a couple and learn about the other party’s likes and dislikes. “It is important to communicate your sexual needs and wants, and be open to talking about it,” stresses Dr Lee. You can try switching things up, too! For example, instead of having sex at night, why not do it in the morning after the both of you have had a good rest?

“It is important to communicate your sexual needs and wants, and be open to talking about it.”

2. Decreased sexual desire

Stress, fatigue, awkwardness and guilt ― these are just some things that can lead to a lower sex drive. In fast and busy Singapore, most people do not have enough time to rest as they spend more time at work than they do at home. Of course, you won’t be in the mood for any hanky-panky when you are that exhausted! Dr Lee states that physical factors such as poor arousal and lack of elasticity in the vaginal tissues can lead to painful sex as well, which will obviously be a turn-off.

Solution: “If this problem persists for more than six months, pay a visit to the doctor to get your hormones checked. If the problem is not caused by a hormonal imbalance, you can consider consulting a sex therapist or sexologist,” she says. Getting enough exercise and rest, having a healthy diet, as well as reducing your stress and anxiety levels might help as well.



3. Painful sex

Studies show that 30 per cent of women experience pain during intercourse at some point in their life. “Pain experienced during sexual intercourse is called dyspareunia. Besides the physical issues, dyspareunia can also bring negative psychological emotions to the equation. This combination can take a great toll on our sexual desire and relationship,” Dr Lee explains. Some conditions that cause painful sex are:

- Vaginismus: Involuntary contraction of the muscles at the entrance of the vagina. This arises when women fear the pain of penetrative sex.

- Vaginal dryness: Anxiety, medication, irritants and lack of water can all contribute to vaginal dryness. One out of three women will experience this when their oestrogen levels drop during menopause.

- Vaginal infections: Intense itch and a burning sensation are common symptoms of an infection. As it is contagious, your partner may get it if you engage in sexual intercourse during this period.

Solution: Vaginismus is a psychological issue that should be addressed by a trained sexologist. If you experience vaginal dryness, try using a body-safe lubricant and focus more on foreplay. “Any burning, itching, or discomfort in the vaginal area warrants a call to your doctor or gynaecologist,” Dr Lee warns. Vaginal infections can be cured with anti-yeast cream or oral medication. If nothing seems to work, seek help from a medical expert to examine if there are any underlying problems, such as scarring from delivery.

4. Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a common health issue in men where there is a consistent inability to sustain an erection for sexual intercourse or the inability to achieve ejaculation, or both. “This happens when a man has a decrease in desire for sex, is uninterested in sex or is unresponsive to sexual stimuli. Then there might also be issues with his body image, intimacy or sexual performance,” Dr Lee reveals. Smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to this problem too.

Solution: To improve the blood flow and sustain their erection for a longer period of time, men can try the famous blue pill, Viagra. Besides oral medication, Dr Lee notes that treatment options include mechanical devices and behavioural training, as well as couples coaching.

“Body image…also has to do with the mental picture you have of your own body as well as your thoughts, feelings, judgments, sensations, awareness and behaviour.”

5. Premature ejaculation

Some 30 per cent of men from the Asia-Pacific region suffer from premature ejaculation, one of the most common examples of male sexual dysfunction. It can affect your relationship, as men tend to pull away and lose interest in sex because of performance anxiety. If your man is suffering from this problem, support and encourage him. Accompany him to the doctor and show him that you are willing to go through the suggested exercises with him. Most importantly, don’t be critical as this will just cause him to withdraw even more.

Solution: Seek a trained sexologist’s help as she can help you overcome premature ejaculation. Dr Lee advises, “Find somebody who is comfortable talking about sexuality, who can sympathise about early ejaculation being a stressful situation, and is able to explain treatment methods in simple terms you can understand.”

6. Negative body image

If you don’t feel confident in your own body and skin, it will affect the way you act with your spouse, too. You might be less willing to have physical contact with your husband. “Body image does not just refer to aspects of our physical appearance, attractiveness, and beauty. It also has to do with the mental picture you have of your own body, as well as your thoughts, feelings, judgments, sensations, awareness and behaviour,” Dr Lee explains.

Solution: “We view our own physical attractiveness based on what is expected culturally, including from the media, our family, and our peers,” Dr Lee adds. So, instead of comparing yourself to others and focusing on the bad, why not focus on the good? “There might be several areas of your body you cannot change. However, you can modify your beliefs and attitudes, which influence the way you feel about yourself.” In short, think positive!

Dr Martha Tara Lee is a clinical sexologist, sexuality educator, speaker and writer at Eros Coaching.

Photos: iStock

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