THE BLOG
03/05/2018 11:02 SAST | Updated 03/05/2018 11:06 SAST

Dr Eve: Should You Tell Your Partner About Your Sex Problems?

Sexual self-disclosure allows partners to better understand each other's sexual needs and preferences.

Peter Cade via Getty Images

The number remains consistent: 43 percent of women currently experience one sexual problem and 12 percent report significant distress about their sexual problems.

By sexual problems, I refer to women with low sexual interest/desire and arousal, as well as women who are not orgasmic and those who experience sexual pain. This means that about half of you are lying in bed with a woman who is struggling with sexuality.

Question: Do you even know whether your female partner, beloved or casual, has a sexual problem?

Question: What are your reasons for disclosing /not disclosing your sexual problem to your partner/s?

Question: What have been the consequences of you disclosing /not disclosing a sexual problem to a partner?

A study examined the proportion of women (N=227) who disclose versus those who do not disclose sexual problems to their partners, and the consequences of disclosure. Sixty-nine percent reported disclosing sexual problems to their current partner. The women who did disclose reported fewer depression symptoms, greater sexual functioning, and more relationship satisfaction than non-disclosures.

Understandably, self-disclosing a sexual problem is a different kettle of fish. Women with sexual problems report feeling isolated, guilt, shame, and inadequacy as a romantic and sexual partner.

Let's unpack this.

It is known that greater sexual communication leads to enhanced sexual and relationship wellbeing. Sharing your sexual turn-ons, fantasies, favourite positions and fetishes are almost necessary for sexual functioning. Sexual self-disclosure allows partners to better understand each other's sexual needs and preferences — which leads to greater sexual satisfaction.

It also enhances feelings of intimacy, which increases sexual satisfaction. Easier said than done, right?! Both you and I know this is never easy. First of all, it requires you to know and acknowledge your own sexuality arousal cues. That means time alone masturbating, viewing porn, and experimenting — alone or with a partner; or multiple partners (safely, please).

The next daunting step is sharing this news with a partner/s. Daily I am reminded how women specifically struggle to ask a partner for what they really want. These are women who present with pre-orgasmia, and complain of sexual boredom, as they wonder what this sex thing is all about. Cyber- and real-life infidelity offer way more satisfaction than in-house sexing.

Understandably, self-disclosing a sexual problem is a different kettle of fish. Women with sexual problems report feeling isolated, guilt, shame, and inadequacy as a romantic and sexual partner. Who among us wishes to expose such vulnerability, even to an intimate partner? The unfortunate alternative for many women is to shut down sexually and claim a headache.

You may be wondering right now whether or not you should be disclosing a sexual problem to your partner/s. Perhaps it depends on your particular kind of sexual problem. Even though only 33 percent of women with sexual pain let their partners know, somehow this is a more acceptable sexual problem to disclose than pre-orgasmia.

Sexual pain is part of a female pain syndrome — thus it can be medicalised and treated without the male partner taking it too personally. Pre-orgasmia may make a partner feel inadequate, a bad lover, or make you feel like a complete failure as a woman — or as a sexual communicator.

Not feeling safe emotionally or physically in a relationship will not incline a woman to disclose a sexual problem to her partner.

Consider this: holding a secret causes increased anxiety. Increased anxiety exacerbates a sexual problem such as sexual pain. Also hiding negative personal information from a partner brings lower relationship satisfaction.

This predisposes you to more depressive feelings. However not feeling safe emotionally or physically in a relationship will not incline a woman to disclose a sexual problem to her partner. She may tentatively disclose, wait for his/her response and then decide whether or not to remain silent in her pain and shame. The more positive his/her response, the more her sexual satisfaction will be — as well as her relationship satisfaction.

Positive Reasons To Disclose Sexual Problems To A Partner:

* Significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms;

* Enhance feelings of partner support;

* Less negative thoughts about your sexuality;

* Provides an opportunity for the partner to offer support and empathy;

* Allows couple to adapt their sexual functioning to accommodate the sexual problem;

* May encourage help seeking for sexual problems , either as an individual or as a couple;

* Increases feelings of intimacy for both partners;

* Allows both people to respond to the problem as a unit;

I think these are good enough reasons to disclose your sexual problems to a partner/s.

If you need professional assistance, call me.