Monday 16 December 2019

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'We need to talk about what happens when loving couples stop having sex'

Off the agenda: Thirty one per cent of under-50s and 38pc of over-50s — despite being in a relationship — are having no sex.
Off the agenda: Thirty one per cent of under-50s and 38pc of over-50s — despite being in a relationship — are having no sex.
Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

A new poll finds that almost a third of us are in sexless relationships. Thirty-one per cent of the under-50s and 38pc of over 50s - despite being in a relationship - are having no sex.

There were other slightly poignant findings in the study, such as the average adult hadn't been told they were attractive in 345 days, hadn't had sex for 312 and hadn't been kissed in 266. And you might say, well maybe, that's OK.

Maybe we aren't as keen on sex as we are led to believe in rom-coms, except it turns out that over 40pc of us within relationships are craving intimacy - not that far behind the level of those who are single and craving intimacy. And I, for one, think it's very sad.

Sex within relationships isn't always easy. They call the first stage the honeymoon period for a reason. It's normal that people crave sex with a new partner they really fancy or they are longing to connect with. Over time, however, that can change. Things can become a bit samey.

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You know your partner's moves and are slightly bored by them. You're exhausted - from work, kids, life - and sex doesn't seem as attractive as sleep. Age changes the body so you lose body confidence and as a consequence sexual confidence. Or health issues occur that make sex more challenging and you avoid it.

But another big reason is rarely mentioned - you aren't really getting what you want and friendly sex with your bestie isn't really doing it for you.

Over time, familiarity and companionship foster - if you're lucky - a deep friendship between partners. And sometimes that gets in the way of where your head is at sexually, and that is hard to talk about.

Sex isn't always about making love or a 'special cuddle'; sometimes it's about heat. It's about passion. It's about leaning into basic animal instincts - and when we lose all sight of that, it's hard to keep a sex life alive.

So how do you get past all that, if that's where you're at?

Well, sex at its basis is about communication. If you can't talk about it, then how can you ever tell your partner what you like?

Yet sex is one of those things - particularly for older generations - that we feel inhibited about discussing. If you want a better sex life but don't say so, then it's unlikely to occur.

How you discuss sex is important, though. People often fear rejection or hear blame when someone tries to initiate a conversation about there being something lacking in the bedroom. So tread sensitively when bringing the matter up.

Health issues can often be dealt with. If as a woman you are post-menopausal, there are medications and lubes that can treat vaginal dryness and low libido.

If as a man you have erectile dysfunction, there are also medications and other treatments that can help. Or try a c**k-ring to prolong and improve the quality of your erection. We are far too squeamish about being open about sex and that is part of the problem.

If penetrative, vaginal sex isn't possible at all for some reason, there is always oral, anal or manual. Be a bit creative. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

One of the reasons women go off sex is a lack of climax. There are women all over the country who have NEVER had an orgasm with their partner. That is the sad truth.

So much emphasis has been put on vaginal sex - the way men climax - that there are lots of people out there that don't even know that clitoral stimulation is how women climax. Imagine, lads, having sex all of your life and never climaxing.

Yes, women are truly warriors. If you don't know where the clitoris is, look it up. And don't give me that 'aul guff about not being able to find it - it's pretty big and it's the first thing you come to, if you'll excuse the pun.

And women, if you're one of those who isn't having orgasms, masturbation with your hands or a vibrator is a great way for you to find out what it is that you like and doesn't have to be done on your own.

People are often afraid to say if they'd like something they haven't done with their partner before. So they watch porn and see people having basic, raw sex - but they don't know how to ask for something similar themselves. Porn gets a bad press but one of the areas where it can be useful is in turning you on - and also allowing you to show your partner something you like, without necessarily having to describe it awkwardly.

Lots of couples watch porn together. Lots of couples do all sorts of things together - use sex toys, cosplay, BDSM or act out erotic fantasies. Don't be put off because no one has mentioned doing X, Y or Z at your book club, so you think it isn't normal. Don't be afraid to try anything once - if you don't like it, fair enough - but how will you know unless you've tried it?

Think about how you talk during sex. Lots of people talk quite differently, use words that might be considered expletives or say things that might up the ante in terms of arousal. Create the theatre of sex. Remember the greatest erogenous zone you have is your brain.

You also need to make time for sex. Of course, you don't necessarily feel horny of a Wednesday night after doing the ironing, collecting the kids, preparing a report for work and having an early start in the morning.

So maybe a Friday is a better time to initiate sex, but beware of too much booze on board - it can cause erectile issues and make it harder for either partner to orgasm.

You may be one of the people in a sexless relationship that thinks it's grand - you don't really miss it. But considering the stats show almost half of people in couples crave more intimacy, think on. There's every chance your partner doesn't agree with you. And sex can add a layer of happiness, excitement and real connection to any relationship - so what's not to like?

Lastly, I realise it's unlikely you will go from zero sex to full-blown trapeze artistry. Start slow.

If sex has been off the agenda for a long time, just agree you are both open to it and perhaps even say the first step won't be actual sex, it'll be massage, touch, kissing, nakedness.

Obviously if you get carried away with that, that's good too, but take the pressure off. Really good sex often requires an element of trust and finding your way together.

You can work up to things as you grow in confidence and in comfortableness. It's a marathon - if you're lucky - not a sprint.

@ciarakellydoc

Sunday Independent

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