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How Relationship Issues Affect Your Sex Life

Nancy Friedman, M.S.W., R.S.W. - Registered Social Worker

How Relationship Issues affect Your Sex Life

Many of my clients come to counselling identifying that they are frustrated with their current sex life. They identify that when they first met their sexual relationship was great and are disappointed with their current sex life.

When I meet with them, whether providing them with individual or couple counselling, I find that in addition to the challenges regarding intimacy, the couple has difficulties in other areas.


1. One spouse says: my partner doesn’t want to have sex with me the way we did before. The other spouse says: my spouse works long hours, comes home late and plays video games for hours.

2. One spouse is ready to have sex every night and the other is exhausted every night after taking care of their 4 children who are six & under.

3. One spouse is upset that the partner is not forgiving their previous infidelity and avoids sex. The other partner is upset that the spouse cheated, has lost trust and is afraid to be cheated on again.

Relationship conflict has long been thought to cause, maintain, and influence the therapeutic outcome of sexual problems in the absence of a physical cause. The results of conflict can influence partners' relationship satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction can influence sexual satisfaction. General relationship deficiencies, such as unresolved conflict, undermine the mutual acceptance that is important to healthy sexual functioning. The purpose of this article is to summarize some of the basic empirical findings of studies of conflict patterns in relationships and their role in sex dysfunction and to suggest a model for assessing relationship conflict as a feature of sexual dysfunction.

Results from several studies indicate that couples with sexual problems may have conflict-management issues and employ distinct conflict-resolution styles compared to satisfied couples. Dysfunctional conflict resolution may be a cause or result of some sexual problems, whereas constructive interaction concerning conflict can add to emotional and sexual intimacy in a couple's relationship. These patterns warrant systematic attention in assessment and intervention in sex therapy. (Assessing the Role of Relationship Conflict in Sexual Dysfunction, Norman Epstein Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 28(2):139-64).

In order to improve the sexual relationship, it is important to identify what are the other challenges in the relationships. Some examples are communication, trust, stresses in navigating parenting, finance, household responsibilities and relationships with extended family. Together, we work on addressing these challenges to build constructive interaction concerning conflict by looking for win-win solutions. In most cases, once these goals are met, the couple reports improved satisfaction in their sexual relationship.

Conclusion: We need to fix the underlying issues and the lack of intimacy will disappear.

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