Written by Brian Swope, MFT.

Originally published on Philadelphia MFT.

Desire, arousal, and the rest of the sexual experience is an easier process for some people, for any number of reasons. But that shouldn’t make sex that takes more work any less fulfilling for people and relationships.

So where does someone start if he or she finds it difficult to start or stay in the game? In it’s simplest form, it’s following what you are actually feeling at that moment. Is sex the last thing on your mind? Do you feel pressured (by your partner, by expectations, by gender norms) to say yes, despite not feeling sexual at the moment?

And what if saying or hearing ‘no’ is not easy for you?

This is a recipe for a sexual experience that will most likely end in ways that no one really likes.

1. Try saying, “No, but …” Maybe it’s not the right time for you, but in an hour, you’ll have had some time to relax, or get done what it is you feel you need to do right now. Answering in a way that offers an option is easier to say and hear because the disappointment is lessened with hope for another time. With this route, then you should either initiate or not so subtly hint when the time is right.

2. Building the mood. A quickie can be fun scenario for late night or early morning or some situations at other times, but rather than just asking for sex, find other ways to be intimate that are arousing. Playful touches or words that progressively get more explicit can prime the experience.

3. Explore what is satisfying. Maybe an intense make out session is enough at the moment. Perhaps there is something else you’d like to try or do. Sex means so much more than penetration and orgasm. Those are great means to the end when the goal is pregnancy, but if sex is about closeness and pleasure and fun, what else is there to this end?

4. Saying no. If you’re not comfortable, and you don’t want to be in the mood, then you shouldn’t have to be in the mood and you should have the permission from yourself and the safety in the relationship to say no. Coercion is disrespectful, abusive and rape.

But all of these options require a deeper understanding of yourself and why you are responding the way that you are. That is about emotions, but it is also about a physical state. Are you anxious? Anxiety is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to erection and ejaculation problems. You can not just will an erection or other arousal responses, which is why Viagra and similar medicines have limited effectiveness.

Seeing a sex therapist is a great way to explore the expectations around sex and sexuality in a safe environment to allow you better identify and understand your own thoughts and feels in an effort to understand yourself, your partner and the dynamics of sex. To that end, a more satisfying sexual relationship is possible.

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