Sex advice with Suzi Godson: Pressure of a romantic weekend puts me off

My husband and I have been married for eight years. He has recently booked us what he has called a romantic weekend away as a present. I absolutely love the idea of spending time together in a different place, but I find the pressure of sexual performance a bit much. I’m feeling quite anxious about it.

What do you mean by “a bit much”? In an ideal world, would you rather have all the romance, but none of the sex?

It sounds like your lack of excitement is actually a lack of desire for your husband. 

It’s wise to remember that the issues that impact desire often have nothing to do with sex whatsoever.

Work stress, money, children, conflict, health issues, medication, infidelity or simply feeling taken for granted can have a direct effect on a person’s interest, or ability to engage, in sex. 

These issues are complex and it can often feel easier to sweep them under the rug than to tackle them head-on.

Because sex is a concrete manifestation of more abstract emotions, sexual difficulties often become the fall guy for more amorphous problems in relationships. 

By focusing on who “always” does this in bed, or who “never” does that for whom, couples can conveniently ignore much bigger elephants that are lurking in the marriage.

If something in your lives is coming between you, avoidance won’t solve anything. 

Your husband must also be aware that there is a problem, and I suspect that this weekend is less of a romantic gesture and more of an attempt to reignite your connection. It is a good plan.

A bit of time and space will give you both the opportunity to reflect. Sex is a pretty accurate barometer of the state of a relationship, and absence thereof or reluctance is a clear indication that something else is going on.

Couples who are married to each other should nurture the physical side of their relationship, because the benefits to the individual and the relationship are so immense. 

Sexually active couples have been found to have stronger immune systems, better cardiac function and even stronger muscles. 

They also have better mental health because sex decreases stress, increases trust, helps emotional expression and improves perceived relationship satisfaction. In the simplest of terms, happy couples have sex and unhappy couples don’t.

Sex doesn’t necessarily have to involve intercourse, but it does require intimacy. To be ‘intimate’ means to feel relaxed and open about being touched by your partner. 

This is important because, somewhat controversially, female sexual arousal is often ‘responsive’, rather than spontaneous. 

What that means is that desire often emerges in response to erotic stimulation, rather than as a result of spontaneous arousal. Imagine yourself reading the paper. Sex is the last thing on your mind, but your husband comes up behind you, brushes your hair to one side and begins to kiss your neck. 

You might shrug a little and say you are busy, but essentially he knows you are receptive to his touch, so will kiss you again later — and whether it leads to sex or not, it is a display of closeness and intimacy with each other.

Sex is the glue that holds a relationship together — the critical component that differentiates a marriage from a friendship.

If you dread it, loathe it or view it as pressure rather than pleasure, there is something wrong. If you want your marriage to thrive, you need to find out what the problem is and do your best to address it.

A weekend away together provides a perfect opportunity to say the things that you may have been withholding and to explore your marriage in depth. 

Honesty will unlock whatever it is that is holding you back, and it may even trigger an authentic physical and emotional response in you.

If you can’t work it out together, invest in your marriage by talking to a really good counsellor. 

Counselling is an expensive and time-consuming commitment, but when it works it can transform your emotional connection and your sexual relationship. 

If more couples used it as a preventative measure rather than waiting for the wheels to fall off, fewer people would end up getting divorced.

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