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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Getting Things Started

People come to my office for all sorts of reasons that pertain to their sexuality. But one of the most frequent issues that surfaces in our discussions turns out to be initiation – how to get sex started with one’s partner. It turns out that this can be a problem both for people in a new relationship and for folks who’ve been together for many years.

Among the newly dating, I’ve seen initiations that move at warp speed and those that have a more glacial pace. Sometimes the speedier folks’ motivation for jumping into sex quickly can range from “I’m so turned on that I can’t wait any longer” to issues that pertain to anxiety – “If I try to delay, he’ll think I’m not into sex” and “If I don’t make a move, she’ll think I’m not attracted to her.”

The slower moving group may also base its decision on issues of anxiety: “If I let it happen, what will he think of me?” and “If I try too soon, she’ll think I think she’s easy.” And, in some cases, it’s the converse of those who are so turned on they can barely keep their clothes on. It’s “I’m not really sure that I’m attracted to this person.”

People in long term relationships seem to collect even more reasons for hesitating when it comes to initiating sex. There are ones that pertain to one’s sense of self and those relating to one’s partner.

Often self-criticism lies at the heart of some of these reasons: “I’m too fat to get naked,” or “I may not get an erection.” Other times it boils down to a battle among competing human urges: “I’m too tired” or “I can’t be late to work.” But other times, it revolves around the fact that there are obstacles in the relationship that are difficult to overcome or ignore: “He’s mean to me,” or “I’m just a paycheck to her” or “Why have sex at home when the sex I’m having elsewhere satisfies me more?” And last, there are times when there just isn’t any urge: “I could live the rest of my life without having sex again and it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Women who misunderstand the mechanism of the PDE5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra) often will say, “Men have Viagra, why isn’t there something for women?” They sometimes oversimplify the issue of lack of sexual contact in their relationship – that a pill could make all the difference they need – when, in fact, there are so many possible explanations for the difficulty of initiating sex. Sex is complex and getting it started is sometimes also complex.

Sorting out all of these reasons that inhibit the initiation of sex is one of the jobs of a sex therapist. It’s one that comes up nearly every day. It’s quite clear that initiation issues plague a lot of people. Just notice the number of articles in magazines that tackle the topic of sexual frequency and the absence of sexual desire – even in men’s magazines.

Some people are unfortunately in the situation of having several reasons that obstruct starting up their sexual connection with a partner. At that point, it is very much like peeling the layers of an onion – physiologically fixing those that can be fixed and tackling those beliefs and ideas that rest upon anxiety within oneself and within a relationship. Asking oneself to be completely candid about what gets in the way of starting up a sexual encounter is the very necessary first step to making a change.

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Technorati Tags: initiating sex, healthy sexuality

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 7:30 am

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