Relationships have sexual ups and downs — and that’s normal. Factors, from stress to busy schedules to hormones, can get in the way of intimacy and make our sex lives feel less exciting than they likely did at the beginning of a relationship.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your bedroom problems, it may be time to consider calling in some professional backup and seeing a sex therapist. “There are always one-offs here and there, such as stress, lifestyle, and hormones,” says sex therapist Kat Van Kirk, PhD, “but the real indicator that you need someone to address your issues it is to look for a pattern.”
Sex therapist Vanessa Marin agrees, pointing out that waiting to solve an issue can be unhealthy for your relationship. “Too many couples put off sex therapy and the problem snowballs,” she says. “If you’re in crisis mode by the time you land in a therapist’s office, you’re going to have to spend more time trying to address your anger and resentment than you will addressing the original issue.”
Here are seven signs you might benefit from sex therapy from Drs. Kat and Marin.
You’re Constantly Fighting With Your Partner
If you find that you and your S.O. are bickering more than usual, don’t get too alarmed. “What you have to do is make sure the fighting is constructive,” Dr. Kat says. If you feel like your arguments are getting unproductive and repetitive, a therapist can help you walk through exercises to turn your fighting from nasty to constructive. Dr. Kat, for example, works with couples “on getting them aware of what their triggers are, what the signs are in their bodies [when they’re reaching to triggers], and what their negative self-talk is.”
Once patients are aware of why they’re feeling what they’re feeling during a disagreement with their partner, Dr. Kat helps them with tools for managing their emotions and getting out of “fight or flight” mode, which encourages people to get defensive or abandon a discussion altogether.
“This can involve breath work, verbalizations, eye-gazing, advocating for two-minute breaks to regroup, counting to 10, or even reaching out for body-to-body contact in order to switch up the energy of the interaction,” she explains. “Also, having established ‘fair fighting rules’ can be helpful. What works can be different for every couple.”
You Can’t Orgasm
Let’s say you’ve been having sex with your partner for a while, but you haven’t orgasmed from it yet. While orgasm isn’t the be-all and end-all of your sex life, it can be a great part of it and you deserve to figure out what’s going on. Take a look at what’s happening in your life and your relationship: Have you been feeling more stressed than usual? Have you been communicating your desires to your partner? If it’s been a while and you still don’t know why you haven’t been able to come with your partner (and that’s an experience you’d like to have), it’s time to think about sex therapy.
And what if you’ve never had an orgasm — like, ever? Seeing a sex therapist is a great step. “The main issue is that women are made to feel guilty for not knowing how to orgasm, but they’re never given the opportunity to learnhow to orgasm,” Marin says. “They feel really lost about what they need to get there, and it’s hard to find accurate information.”
Sex therapists can be like detectives, working with you to pinpoint what’s holding you back from maximum pleasure and giving you action items, such as masturbation techniques, to help you get there.