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My Integrated Model for On-Line Sex Advice

News Update
from Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

This material is presented for educational and informational purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health care professional for specific recommendations.
This material is presented for educational and informational purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health care professional for specific personal care recommendations.

Most advice given to people with sexless marriages is incomplete. It doesn’t matter if the advice comes from your Medical Doctor, your counselor, minister or priest, from the Playboy Advisor, or from Cosmopolitan or Redbook…. Most advice is partial.

I am a huge fan of Ken Wilber. Ken is the hippest philosopher in America these days and I have read all his books and worked hard to understand and apply his Integral Model. If you are interested in Integral Theory you can read Ken’s books, A Brief History of Everything, and A Theory of Everything. You can also go online to one of his websites, www.IntegralNaked.com. Ken’s integral model informs me tremendously in the work I do with individuals and couples in my office, with the family owned businesses where I consult, and with my on-line sex therapy. In fact, Ken’s Integral Theory has helped me to make more sense of life than has anything I have ever read, and his model is well integrated into my normal life. Not for everyone, Ken Wilber’s work is for thinking people who want to know how everything integrates with everything else in a holistic way.

Here is a map that will guide our discussion. This represents my Integral Approach to On-Line Sex Therapy.

Biological Challenges

This is where the medical community tends to go first. In fact, this might be the only place where the medical community goes.

This makes some sense to me. I’m starting here myself, and I encourage people who have a sex problem to start here as well. If you are in a sexless marriage, thinking you should get some sex therapy for yourself and/or your partner, then you are correct in examining the biological challenges first.

Women tend to be more comfortable in talking about their lack of sexual desire. Men with no sex drive tend to remain absolutely silent.

Women will talk with their physician more easily than will men.

When your biology is whacked out, you have to do something about it.

A man’s biology is less likely to be an issue than a woman’s, but if it is an issue, it needs to be addressed. Guys can have testosterone problems, for example. Without testosterone, there is no desire. I ask guys who are in a sexless marriage if they have erections during the night, if they ever wake up with an erection, and if they ever masturbate to ejaculation. If they say yes to any of those, then I am suspicious that they do not have a biological problem. Not convinced, but suspicious.

Women can have a plethora of biological challenges to deal with. Hormones, nerve damage from childbirth or surgery… frankly, the list could be pretty long.

You can sit and talk all day about having no sex drive, and that isn’t going to change a physical problem, unless your physical problem is a symptom of some other challenges. For example, some people are so uptight about sex that they can’t relax and consequently tighten up during sex. The result is painful sex, and then a lack of sexual desire is the consequence.

Bottom line – the first place to start is with a complete physical. Inform your physician of your problem. If your Doc is sensitive, he or she will not brush you off, but will make sure that your biology is working well.

Interpersonal Challenges

Human beings aren’t very sexually responsive to people they don’t like. And what complicates matters is that there are many reasons why you might not like your partner.

Do you remember the movie “10” with Dudley Moore and Bo Derick? Her seductive beauty mesmerized him, but when he finally began to have sex with her, she turned out to be a shallow person with no sense of responsibility… and it turned him off. He “lost it”, and left. There is more to sex than meets the eye.

Your physician might diagnose you with a “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder” but you might well know the truth; you don’t want to make love with your partner because your partner is an insensitive control freak (or, something else that doesn’t appeal to you).

Maybe your husband’s technique is horrible. Maybe he is one of those “wiz-bam, thank-you-ma’am” types of guys who lack any sensitivity when it comes to love making. Your sexless marriage might well be the result of living with a partner who has a knack for poor communication and poor problem solving. As a Marriage and Family Therapist I can assure you that there are any number of issues that can be going on between you.

When literally thousands of people go on the Internet and type in the keyword “sex help” what is driving them? I have a small survey on my website that invites visitors to give me some feedback. Every one that goes there reports that they are experiencing relationship problems. Every one. Are the problems you are having the cause, or the symptom of your sex problem? That is a good question.

Cultural Challenges

This area is the most often overlooked area in the whole field of sex therapy.

You belong to a certain tribe of people who have certain customs common within your group. These customs define what is “normal” for all of you. It is these customs that lead to certain stereotypes, and certain prejudices if not watched.

Some of us grow up in a tribe that is supportive of relatively healthy functioning, and some of us don’t. And some of us grow up and move past the lessons learned, and some of us don’t.

I grew up within the New York Metropolitan Area. Long Island and Northern New Jersey were home. I went to college in Holland, Michigan, a fairly conservative community predominantly occupied by people of a Calvinist, Dutch heritage. After a year in Southern California, my wife and I moved 40 miles away to Grand Rapids, a more urban area, where we have lived for 30 years. I’ve worked with a lot of people who have been influenced by their heritage, and who think sex is sinful and dirty.

The Italians I grew up with in New Jersey didn’t seem to have that same attitude. Although I admit my assessment was made at some distance from the center of their tribe. They no doubt had other issues that I wasn’t aware of.

Muslims approach sex differently than do Roman Catholics.

Your culture does have a significant influence on many of your attitudes and behaviors. Your culture is determined by your socio-economic status, your neighborhood, you geographical location, you religious affiliation… you name it. And any, and all of it, influences your openness and availability to a wholesome sexual relationship with your partner.

Personal Cognitive and Emotional Challenges

If you are struggling with a serious emotional challenge there will likely be a direct impact upon your sexual desire. The medical community has developed a long list of “mental disorders” and each is capable of being manifested in a sex problem.

Consider depression, for example. A major depressive episode can render a man or a woman helpless. Not only is there a lack of sexual desire, there can be a lack of desire for life itself. And someone who has chronic depression can struggle for years. There is post-partum depression, too. A woman whose hormones are out of whack after pregnancy can have no sex drive at all. Then there is the low-grade depression that accompanies chronic frustration with something as important as job satisfaction. If you live in the United States as I do, and you are male, you are supposed to achieve the American Dream. That dream is becoming harder and harder to achieve.

Then there are a plethora of issues surrounding the normal developmental process of life. As we move from being a Child, to a Rebel, to an Adult… we can lose our sexual desire. Adults are good and nice, mature in many ways. But Adults lack passion in so many instances. They have sex, but it isn’t hot sex. When one of you takes the next step and becomes an Outlaw, your sex life might need help. Outlaws want to live with passion and love, and they are willing to give of themselves for the pleasure. As we mature, our maps of life change. We grow from one mental-model of life, from one world- view to the next. Along the way, there are emotional challenges, and cognitive challenges. I had a woman in my office not long ago. She spent many years within a conservative Christian family, and when he husband died suddenly she found herself alone and vulnerable. Instead of collapsing, she tackled her life, grabbed a hold of her finances, and grew up. Then she had to face the challenge presented to her when a son came to her and told her he was gay. Her world was shaken. She took the next step, and became an Outlaw. She chose to love her son and to reject her conservative upbringing. She was in to see me because she had met a new man, one very different than her former husband. This woman, who once had been diagnosed with a Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, who had been in therapy years ago because she had no sex drive, was now alive and sexual well into her 60’s.

There are many, many personal cognitive and emotional challenges that can result in a sexless life.

Spiritual/Energetic Challenges

In the spring of 2003 there was a story, featured on the cover of Newsweek, about how exhausted American couples are. So exhausted, in fact, that 17,000,000 of them were living in a sexless marriage. At that time “sexless” was defined as having intercourse 10 times a year or less.

It takes spiritual energy to connect deeply during sex. In truth, the best sex is the sex that happens when two souls merge in bliss. This doesn’t happen, however, if one or both partners are spent.

In the Hindu thought system there is much given to the subject of chi, or energy. In the ayurvedic system, it is understood that there are 7 Chakras beginning with our root chakra, on up to our crown chakra. Each is a center of energy and each can be open or closed, low or high, balanced or not. When our energy is closed, low, and unbalanced we are not full of sexual desire. It is that simple. My wife is a Reiki Master and she makes a living helping people with their energy systems. Reiki is one of the bodywork professions that make up the field of complimentary health care.

Today, with our quantum world-view, we know that everything that exists is a bundle of energy. That includes you. You are a bundle of living energy and to the extent that your energetic system is open, high, and balanced… you live well… and you live long.

That which we call Spirit is energy. The invisible and ubiquitous presence of the subtle energy of the Spirit is what gives everything presence.

When you are spiritually aligned, you will be at ease with sex, and with everything else in life.

When you are not spiritually aligned, you will struggle in all the other 4 areas of life. Your biology will be affected by dies-ease, your social relationships will be affected by dis-ease, your cultural will be affected by dis-ease, and your personal emotional and cognitive functioning will be affected by dis-ease.

Conversely, when you are strong spiritually you are strong energetically, and the result is a high level of functioning in all of the other 4 areas: biologically, relationally, culturally, and personally.

How to Get Healthier, and Stay Healthier… Integrate Yourself!

Anything you do to increase your level of functioning in any of the 5 areas will make it easier to increase your level of functioning in the others. Take better care of your body and your energy level is raised thus making it possible for you to function better within your relationships, culture, and personally.

Take better care of yourself relationally, and all the other areas will be stimulated to awaken. Growth in one invites growth in the others.

Better sex....

  • where there isn’t a challenge with low sexual desire,
  • where you and your partner aren’t in conflict,
  • where there isn’t avoidance,
  • where you each are comfortable in your own body,
  • where you give and receive pleasure in an atmosphere of joyous fun…
    that kind of “better sex” can be yours to the extent that you function better in all 5 areas because all 5 are integrated.

A Short Check List that Will Help You to FOCUS

  • How healthy is your body?
  • How personally comfortable are you with your body?
  • Can you identify your body’s erogenous zones
  • What has been your body’s history with sex?
  • Are there parts of your body that are frightened of sexual contact?
  • Does your body struggle with some chronic problems that make it difficult for your body to relax and play?
  • How comfortable is your body with your partner’s body?
  • How comfortable do you suppose your partner’s body is with your body?
  • In your relationship with your partner, are you at ease?
  • Do the two of your communicate well?
  • Do you resolve problems with minimal conflict?
  • Do the two of you affirm and enjoy each other?
  • Do you each see the wonderful gifts and talents you each have, and do you celebrate those gifts and talents?
  • Do you truly love each other?
  • Does your tribe of people, your extended family and network of friends, enjoy and affirm sexual intimacy?
  • By chance, does your tribe push you to be sexual in ways that make you uncomfortable?
  • Has your tribe of people used guilt and shame to control sexual behavior among its members?
  • Which of your tribe’s values have your internalized, and are those values good for you?
  • Do you personally desire sex?
  • Does sex with your partner help your self-esteem?
  • Do you have personal issues that block your willingness to engage in sex?
  • If you do have personal issues that are standing in the way, do you have enough self-esteem to confront them?
  • Are your personal thoughts about sex good and positive
  • How comfortable is your partner with his or her own personal thoughts and feelings about sex?
  • Spiritually, does it make sense to enjoy sex?
  • Have you had wonderful spiritually fulfilled sex?
  • Can you tell when your energy level is low and your sexual desire is just as low?
  • Can you tell when your sexual desire is high, and your energy level is high?
  • Do you put enough energy into the sexual part of your own being, and into your relationship?
  • Does your partner put enough personal energy into the sexual part of life?

Can you see how each of the 5 areas of my Integrated Approach to On-Line Sex Therapy are actually integrated? One affects the others, and is affected by the others. If your culture taught you that it is shameful and dirty to expose your genitalia to anyone, well that is going to affect your body, your relationship, your personal thoughts and feelings, and it will not energize you.

So improving sex is more than just improving technique with the addition of more positions. It is more than learning how to engage in oral sex. It is more than learning how to become orgasmic.

Improving sex is about growing up and taking good care of all of your self, and in the process learning how to enjoy the whole gift of life.

Dr. Atwood

Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 173 page eBook written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage. You can find both at www.HopefulSolutions.net. Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net. ©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The material presented on these pages if for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research your own personal situation thoroughly.

Copyright 2002-2004 - Save Your Marriage, PLC
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