I am teaching a course this summer entitled “Common Issues in Partners’ Sex Therapy,” and as I’m in the midst of creating the outline and curriculum, I thought it appropriate to go through my old catalogue of articles and see what I’ve already written that provides further resources to the material I plan on covering. I’ve divided the class into six sections– 1) General considerations; 2) Communication issues; 3) Infidelity/sexual compulsivity; 4) Desire discrepancy; 5) Relationships in transition; and 6) Alternative relationships. I’ll go through each of these in turn.
Let’s start with “General considerations.” Typically when I work with a relational system, I want to get a sense of where each individual is developmentally. Are these folks in they honeymoon stage? Are they trying to differentiate from one another? Are they in different head spaces (one is trying to assert independence while the other is trying to maintain the status quo)? Are there any personality disorders that are preventing this relationship from moving forward? Here are some articles I’ve written in the past that provide further detail on these subjects:
The Connection Between Attachment and Sexuality
Couples Therapy: What is Differentiation?
Why The Beginning of a Relationship Determines It’s Success
Borderline Personality and Sexuality
Narcissism and Sexuality
Boundaries: The Most Important Part of a Relationship
Moving on now to “Communication issues,” my work as a therapist requires me to dissect the communication difficulties that relationship systems struggle with and then model new, more productive forms of relating. I am informed by numerous thinkers in this area including John Gottman and Daniel Wile and here are some articles that highlight some of these key ideas:
The third section of my course is on infidelity and sex addiction/compulsivity. I group these together because they are so often conflated that I have found separate categories often to be redundant. Looking back on my writing, I realize I haven’t focused much on infidelity, but my thinking around problematic sexual behavior has been to challenge the prevailing model of “sex addiction” and instead view it through a much more nuanced, sex-positive lens. In the 2nd article below I endorse a new model created by two of my colleagues Doug Braun-Harvey and Michael Vigorito, which I feel much more adequately addresses issues around sexual compulsivity in a more neutral, systemic way:
The fourth section of my course is on one of the most common types of problems I encounter– desire discrepancy. Often, one partner has completely lost desire for sex, or even both partners still want sex, there is still a huge gap in quantity and type of sex desired. This is a very complex issue that has both biological (innate differences in desire) and relational (resentment) components. In the following articles, I discuss the most common reasons behind desire discrepancies, as well as new research that provides information on the way forward to improve or even resolve them:
The Three Main Reasons Behind Loss of Sexual Desire in Couples
Research Shows When It Comes to Sex, It’s Quality Over Quantity
Sexual Selfishness is a Necessary Turn-On
How to Keep Relationships Fresh and Exciting
Couples– To Deepen Feelings, Show Not Tell
Another Word on Loss of Sexual Desire
Couples: Making Space for Connection
The fifth section of my course covers relationships in transition, which means any relationship that has just encountered a destabilizing event. This may include a partner that has revealed an uncomfortable fetish or a desire for nonmonogamy. These are some of my most common clients, so I have written extensively on this topic. Below are some of my numerous article on depathologizing “non-normative” sexual interests, as well as different ways of thinking about how to integrate them into the existing relationship:
Kinky Sex or Paraphilia?
Three Types of Sex
Facing Your Shadow
Ecstasy Through Surrender
The Use of Role-Play as a Means of Identity Exploration
Sexually “Deviant” Fantasies: A Concept Without Credibility
New Study: “Unusual” Sexual Fantasies Not So Unusual
Is it Possible to Eradicate a Fetish?
More on Working with Fetishes: Important Considerations
Sexuality and Creativity
Finally, the last section of my course in on “alternative relationships.” These are usual “lifestyle” people– in other words, folks who are steeped into the BDSM/kink, polyamory or swinger communities. They strongly identify with one or more of these communities and they usually seek me out for more mundane issues, but with the desire to work with a knowledgeable, non-judgmental therapist with whom they can be transparent and authentic. As a result, I have also not written as much on this topic as much of my work with these relationship systems has been more along the lines of “general” psychotherapy. However, to wet your beak, I have provided two articles below about power dynamics and BDSM.
Enjoy! And hope to see you in my “Common Issues In Partners’ Sex Therapy” class later this summer!