Wrapping up National Men’s Health Week 2012 it is important to look at sex and men’s mental health. Inside of relationships sex is one of the big three that couples argue over (money, parenting and sex). When I think back to the men who have been in therapy over the years, sex is probably either a primary or secondary issue in 2/3 of the cases. Most men’s self help books on the issue focus on becoming more competent at sexual activity so that his partner will want sex more often. Otherwise self help books focus on men becoming better partners to, what I call, “earn” having sexual activity. Neither of these is particularly helpful strategies when it comes to sex within relationships. Men are left feeling frustrated, resentful and emotionally unconnected and can undermine an otherwise passionate relationship. Their partners are left feeling pestered, pressured, and like a disappointment. None of these are particularly sexy feelings!
Counseling can help when men find themselves in a relationship where sexual frequency (actually either too high or two low) or specific types of sexual activity or attitudes are an issue. Counseling can help men by providing a safe, confidential, non-judgmental environment where living up to expectations of “male-ness” is unnecessary. Counseling can help men, and couples, understand how:
– Values and world views about sex and sexual activity affect their current relationship
– Self talk regarding sexual activity with their partner affects their relationship
– Unspoken “deals” regarding sexual activity can hurt not help the sexual relationship
– To communicate clearly about sex while respecting personal boundaries
– Sexual assault or sexual abuse of either partner affects sexual activity and how to address it
– A range of sexual activity can be physically and emotionally fulfilling
– To find time for sexuality when parenting, work, and home chores seem overwhelming
– Healthy and unhealthy ways men meet their own sexual needs help or hurt a relationship
– Depression/anxiety and the meds prescribed to address these issues affect libido
This only scratches the surface of how mental health counseling can impact physical and emotional connections within relationships. Finding solutions to problems in sexual relationships is not a one size fits all approach. The solution is found somewhere between the two partners – but it takes education and communication to find it. Two things that counseling can be particularly effective at.