by Dr. Elliott Kronenfeld

You know those moments when sex seems like the most challenging thing you can do? In concept, you want to be close to your partner. You know that it might feel good and that it would do your relationship good. You remember that if you could only get into it, the outcomes might be beneficial. The primary roadblock to great sex is the fear it will be boring, you are tired, stressed, (fill in the blank). All of the physical stressors, social pressures, environmental challenges, and the stories we tell ourselves work against creating openings – leaving us with closed doors. I am not saying that you are going to have mind-blowing sex all the time, but oftentimes it is the getting started that is the hardest part.  I call this “but..” sex.

“Hey baby, I would but…” “I want to, but…” It does not really matter what follows the “but”. It could be the kids, I’m tired, I have to get up early, someone will hear us, I want to finish watching my show, my back is sore, and so on. The “but” is an ending. It stops action and dampens connection. While I think “but sex” can be challenging to overcome, there are some places to start creating a new dynamic. I think there are two important adjustments to the response that will reap greater rewards.

The first adjustment is to scratch your but. Simply by replacing the “but” with “and”, you open a level of communication that does not force you into anything you are not ready to do. “Hey baby, I would, and I hope we can plan a time this weekend for us.” “I want to and as soon as the kids are soundly asleep…” Simply by changing that one little word you communicate a completely different sentiment to your partner, regardless of what comes after the “and”.  It moves from a shutdown to an opportunity to talk about the desire for connection even when it feels challenging. Changing the word also challenges you to think through what possibilities may be present. When you use the “but”, it is a yes/no option. “And” allows you to create an opening for exploration that can offer options that appeal to you and your partner.

The second adjustment is to reframe what you mean by sex. If your concept of sex always includes intercourse, and/or orgasm, there may be too much pressure to perform in a certain way that you and your body are not desiring at that moment. Outercourse (non-penetrative) sex can be deeply rewarding, pleasurable, and connecting. While orgasm can be great, great sex does not always include orgasm. Knowing that you can have a variety of deeply pleasurable, erotic, sensual experiences that do not follow a particular script every time can invite creativity, openness, and a sense of excitement. Broadening your conception of what sex can be and your menu of options will help you to “scratch your but”.

Again, changing “but sex” does not happen overnight and needs work and focus. Avoiding “but” sex can allow you to open up to curiosity, hope, and new ways of connecting. Whenever you can avoid a closed door to intimacy, you allow yourself the freedom to make choices that you may not have been aware that you had. When you feel you have choices, you move out of the yes/no binary of decision making – and then wonderous things can happen!

To learn more about overcoming obstacles to sexual connection, contact Dr. Elliott at [email protected]



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