Mt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western AustraliaMt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western Australia

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Sex, Intimacy and Love

Fiona Owen

Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

Sexual desire is what draws us towards and away from sexual behaviour. Sex is one means of attachment, and it can also reflect the quality of that attachment.

The right amount of sex for a couple is what works for that couple. If there exists a desire discrepancy then there is a problem for the relationship, not necessarily for either individual.

Sexual desire changes over time even in the most committed, loving relationships, and those changes can differ depending on gender. Generally, a woman in a committed relationship aspires to psychological intimacy as a gateway to sex, whereas a man aspires to sex as a gateway to a sense of closeness.

The sexual desire continuum goes like this:
Aversion-Indifference-Interest-Need-Passion.

Passion is an emotionally intense desire to seek physical intimacy through love. Lust is an intense desire generated by high levels of physical sexual arousal. For us to behave sexually, there needs to be desire, and for desire to surpass lust, then there must be some emotional engagement.

Some factors that impact on sexual desire are:

  • Level of happiness in the relationship
  • Level of respect of the other and self
  • Level of optimism about "love".

Women are far less likely to initiate sexual activity than men in a long-term relationship. However, if the right components are present in the relationship, once sexual desire is present then women are receptive to satisfying sex. Biology helps to explain the difference in sexual desire that is often present between men and women in a healthy sexual relationship. Many factors can interrupt women's desire for sex, whereas men are more able to block out distractions and focus on sexual desire.

Psychological intimacy is the sense that both partners can be open and honest in talking with each other about personal thoughts and feelings not usually expressed in other relationships. The absence of major conflict, a conflict management style between partners that enables resolution of issues, a sense of fairness about the relationship, and the expression of physical affection between partners improves the quality of the intimacy. Women in same-gender relationships, compared to their heterosexual and gay counterparts, are more likely to report that psychologically intimate communication is central to their relationships.

Psychological intimacy creates a basis for sexual intimacy. Continued psychological intimacy enables lovemaking over time and the discovery of sexual potential. Partners who set aside time to share activities and to discuss thoughts and feelings about various topics are more inclined to behave sexually.

Typically, women require more psychological intimacy than men. Most psychologically healthy women organise their lives around relationships and connection. They evaluate success in terms of psychologically intimate relationships and responsiveness to other people's lives.

Generally, men tend to consider success in terms of being a self-sufficient wage earner, and not as a relational being.

Love is more than a feeling, it is also an activity, primarily the act of giving. You might say you love chocolate or your favourite sweater and what is generally meant is that you gain pleasure and enjoyment from them. When the pleasure becomes more intense it connotes joy. Joy intensified becomes exhilaration. All of these are akin to love, however, love can also be:

  • An ambition that is idealised and as such may not be realistic. Partners are chosen to accompany, assist, emotionally stabilise, and enrich us as we change and grow and cope with life's demands.
  • A commitment where the decision has been made, however there are times when one partner or both does not like or enjoy the company of the other, even though intimacy and passion can be present.
  • Balanced love where each member of the couple do not need each other for completing themselves and choose to be together with commitment and passion.
  • Entanglement such as a long term relationship where love is woven into the fabric of the relationship, and there is too much to lose, so the individuals tolerate the negative aspects of their partner.
  • An infatuation - one-sided passion without commitment or intimacy.
  • Empty love - commitment without intimacy or passion.

To improve sexual relationships and promote desire, other aspects of the relationship need to be healthy. Relationship counselling will help to clarify underlying problems within a relationship, and provide an opportunity to explore how to improve the sexual part of the relationship by strengthening psychological intimacy and the way in which couples interact.

If you would like more information, or to make an appointment, please contact:

Fiona Owen

Accredited Gestalt Psychotherapist
M Soc Sc (Counselling), B Sc Psychology, Grad. Dip. Ed.
Perth, Western Australia 0409 995 411
Email: fionaowen@me.com

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