6 Tips For Dealing With Sexual Difficulties
January 27, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller
As a sex educator, I receive questions almost every day from people who are facing some type of difficulty in their sex life and don’t know what to do about it. In this article, I’m going to share six science-backed self-help strategies that can potentially assist in resolving some of the most common sexual difficulties.
However, as you read this, keep in mind that sexual difficulties are best resolved through proper medical and psychological evaluation. Because there are potential biological (e.g., hormonal), psychological (e.g., depression and anxiety), and social factors (e.g., relationship conflict) that can all contribute to problems in the bedroom, it’s important to find a competent professional who can help you to determine the exact cause and best course of treatment. So if you have a persistent, distressing, and/or painful sexual issue, don’t be afraid to seek help—and if you don’t know where to get started, here’s a handy sex therapist locator tool.
1.) Expand your definition of “sex.”
Different people define sex in drastically different ways, but many people take a very restricted view and only count penetrative intercourse as true sex. However, research finds that people who have narrow views of what constitutes sex tend to be less sexually satisfied, especially as they age. Taking an expanded view of sex allows for more opportunities for pleasure and connection, especially if—for example—one partner isn’t in the mood for intercourse but is open to other things. Taking an expanded view of sex can allow you to engage in other ways that benefit your intimate life, rather than allowing situations like this to turn into a potential source of frustration, disappointment, or conflict.
2.) Experiment with sex toys.
Sex toys are a handy way to add a dose of novelty and excitement to your bedroom routine, which can be helpful for dealing with difficulties related to loss of interest or desire. However, they can also potentially help resolve other issues, such as premature orgasm, because—through practice—they can help people with penises to develop better ejaculatory control. Sex toys are also a great way of exploring your own body and figuring out what kinds of stimulation you do and don’t like, as well as the most effective ways to reach orgasm. New to sex toys? Learn more about incorporating them into your sex life here.
3.) Learn to be in the moment during sex.
Many sexual difficulties are caused by distracting thoughts during sex that prevent us from enjoying the sensations we’re feeling because we’re stuck in our heads. One way of dealing with this is through practicing mindfulness, which is defined as “non-judgmental, present-moment awareness.” In other words, we’re talking about being in the moment and paying attention to our body sensations without judging whether they’re right or wrong. Research has shown that mindfulness training can help resolve a wide range of sexual difficulties across persons of different genders. Learn more here.
4.) Pay attention to the details.
Research shows that detail-oriented people tend to be more sexually satisfied. Why is that? Detail-oriented people tend to take more time to set the scene or mood (think playing sexy music, lighting candles, etc.), which can promote relaxation and arousal. Focusing on the details can also help you to pick up on the things that drive your partner wild, which can give you a blueprint for more exciting sex in the future—and keep your partner coming back for more. Of course, it’s important to balance your focus on the details with being in the moment. If you’re too focused on details and making everything “perfect,” it can be harder to relax and enjoy the experience. Just remember that a little bit of effort can go a long way and that striving for sexual perfection every time can be counterproductive.
5.) Try some Kegel exercises.
Research has found that Kegel exercises can benefit men and women alike and treat a wide range of sexual difficulties. For women, the potential benefits include improved sexual functioning, such as increased sexual desire, relief from pain during intercourse, as well as the ability to reach orgasm more easily. For men, the potential benefits include improved erections and greater ejaculatory control. That said, it’s important to ensure you do them correctly and consistently (which you can learn more about in this article). Also, if you do the exercises incorrectly or overdo it, there are potential risks—plus, these exercises might not be right for everyone, so do some research to ensure they’re appropriate for you and follow best practices.
6.) Learn to love your body.
Research has found that both women and men with negative body image tend to experience more sexual problems. Why is that? Because it increases the odds of distracting thoughts popping into your head during sex (e.g.,“Does my partner find me attractive?”), making active efforts during sex to conceal certain body parts, as well as avoidance of sex entirely. Dealing with body image issues is easier said than done, of course. Also, different things might work for different people. For some, the answer might be psychotherapy, for others it might be diet and exercise, and for yet others, it might be resetting your beliefs about what’s “normal” when it comes to the human body. Any way you look at it, though, finding ways to build up your self-confidence has the potential to give you a boost in the bedroom.
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >