Coordination, communication and practice are the keys to overcoming sexual difficulties

sex-doesnt-workI recently attended a trapeze acrobatics class. A group of 10 of us started out by peering wearily at the long metal ladder upward to a platform at great heights. While we knew we would be strapped into a safety harness, and provided lengthy guidance on how to grasp and swing on the trapeze bar, still the vast open air space in which to jump and swing into was mighty intimidating. There was certainly excitement and eager anticipation as well as we all stood looking at one another, listening to the instructors on how the event was going to go.

For some people sex is an easy experience. For others, the task is as intimidating as leaping from a trapeze platform into open air. Some of us were raised in households where we were told sex was shameful, wrong, and bad. Others of us had absolutely no conversation whatsoever about our private parts or how sex was supposed to go. When we have not been provided information about anatomy and basic sexual function, the prospect of being sexual can feel like jumping off a trapeze platform blindfolded.

Sex can go badly in so many ways. If it is painful for a woman, or maintaining an erection seems impossible for a man, many people often feel ashamed, embarrassed and confused. It is very difficult to talk about these types of intimate challenges with friends, family, or even health care providers. Men and women often are left feeling like they are the only ones experiencing these problems, when in fact sexual concerns are present in 44 percent or more of the population. Sexual problems often create a heavy burden on a relationship, and whether the goal is to become pregnant or simply enjoy a sexual experience more, many couples find themselves quickly at wits end when sex isn’t going well between them. Three out of four couples having relationship discord are experiencing a sexual problem between them.

Education and open conversation with a sexuality professional is the first step to improving sexual concerns. Before we climbed the tall trapeze ladder, we practiced hanging from a bar we could reach from the ground. The instructor used a toy model to show us how to extend our arms when in the air, and pictures to understand how to expect our bodies to move when we were hanging from the trapeze bar high up. Sometimes the first step of improving a sexual dysfunction is being willing to acknowledge that you have questions about basic anatomy and sexual function that you feel embarrassed to ask. Does this look normal? Where is that part I’ve heard about? A health care provider who is trained in sexuality can show you diagrams, pictures, and anatomic models as well as perform an exam to help explain and understand how our private parts work.

After we had practiced on the ground, the instructors buckled us into our safety harnesses. Every step of the way we had clear directions, “ready!” meant bending the knees in preparation to jump, “hup!” meant leap off the platform, and as I swung from the bar through the air for the first time it was difficult to even hear the instructions being yelled from the instructor still up on the platform because the brain easily becomes flooded with new experiences, and I wasn’t able to complete the acrobatic trick the first time.

Learning a new skill always takes practice. Whether sex has always been confusing or disappointing, or if it was once great but somehow the magic has been lost, discovering sexual fulfillment requires learning new things, instruction from professional, attention to medical contribution to problems, and regular practice. The next time I jumped off the platform I could hear the instructions clearly, I was able to hoist my body into the next position easier, hang upside down with my knees hooked on the bar, and even learned how to twist through the air as I was landing on the safety net below.

By the end of class I had learned how to leap from one bar to be caught by another acrobat swinging from the other side of the gymnasium, meeting together in mid-air to grasp one another’s arms. I fell numerous times trying to coordinate my swings with the partner at first. It was easy to jump too early or too late to coordinate the two trapeze bar swing arcs. But we kept talking, watching the movement of the other, and before long the leap and catch was a success.

Sexual problems are always a couples issue, because the trapeze catch in mid-air must require active coordination and participation from both people. Some sexual problems improve quicker when both partners receive professional support. Other times attending provider visits with your partner can be useful. Regardless, learning how to talk openly about sex with one another is critical.

Learning new things can be scary, but it also can be more satisfying than can be imagined. Taking off the blindfold and making a few educated leaps when sex isn’t going well can change everything, and make the difference between sex that is not working, and sex that is as exciting as an acrobatic feat.