When we talk about health, we need to consider sexual health, which is critical to our wellbeing. Unfortunately, the pandemic, which has affected every aspect of our lives and is seriously affecting our mental health, is also affecting our sex lives.
“Anything that negatively affects the individual or the relationship is likely to have a spillover effect on sex,” said Emily Jamea, Ph.D., certified sex therapist and member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council. “Couples suffering from economic pressures, conflicts over how much to socialize, school pressures, etc. are likely to feel not only emotionally separated, but also sexually disconnected.”
She added that the lack of free time (due to increased responsibilities at home) and lack of opportunities like social engagement and group exercise could make some people too exhausted to have sex.
That’s one of the reasons it’s important to take the time to focus on your sex life.
“Sexual satisfaction is an important aspect of sexual well-being. If sex doesn’t feel good or isn’t satisfying, you won’t want it. This leads to frustration in the relationship and an emotional breakup,” explained Jamea.
Here are five things Jamea recommends to improve your sexual wellbeing.
Jamea sees the lack of information as the biggest barrier between people and sexual wellbeing. This could be because you grew up in a conservative or religious household where shame can be associated with sex.
“It becomes difficult because those feelings can persist,” said Jamea, adding that it can also be when people get married and have “permission” to have sex. “It’s like an emotional whiplash. Just the uncomfortable way people feel when they talk about sex is a direct result of the shame so many of us bear.”
Schools may also not provide adequate sex education. Information about masturbation, pleasure, and how to talk to your partner about sex is often not discussed, Jamea said. In addition, there are barriers to information and sexual health care such as racism and bigotry for those in minority and LGBTQ + communities.
It is therefore important to find a healthcare provider who will work with you or do your own research.
“At the very least, finding well-researched books and websites is a first step,” advised Jamea.
Or you can get a group of friends together and reach out to a sex educator for a presentation. Jamea said even adults can take advantage of refresher courses in sex education.
Make yourself comfortable with your body
Once you’ve educated yourself, the next step is to put that information into practice.
“A lot of people have no idea what pleasure is and what it means to them,” said Jamea. “You have to spend time figuring out what feels good for you and how to communicate that to your partner.”
Get to know your body through touch. Find out what you like about your body and what feels good and what doesn’t.
“Developing a positive attitude towards your body and sexual pleasure is of the utmost importance,” explained Jamea. “It will create a feeling of empowerment.”
Learn to communicate
Simply put, you need to be able to talk to your partner about sex.
“Learning effective communication skills is absolutely essential,” said James. “People need to learn how to use their voice to communicate their likes and dislikes with their partners.”
The American Sexual Health Association recommends discussing boundaries and desires with your partner before getting acquainted. That being said, it might also be fun to experiment and talk to your partner at the same time, giving practical directions in the moment.
“Find a respectful partner who you feel safe and comfortable with and learn to work together,” said Jamea.
And remember, just because something worked or felt good with your past partner doesn’t mean that your current (or future) partner does too.
“Good sex is about mutual consent and pleasure,” said Jamea. “If these two things don’t happen, sex really isn’t healthy.”
Just like with other aspects of your life, your sexual needs (and those of your partner) can change over time.
“Talking about likes and dislikes is not a one-off conversation as sex will be different from the honeymoon phase for up to five years,” said Jamea. “When [the honeymoon stage] subsides, then you need to learn to have great sex. “
Be ready to adjust to differences in everything from changes in your partner’s and partner’s sex drives to wants and preferences.
“A lot of people think that sex should come naturally and easily, and that doesn’t apply to some people,” Jamea said. “Check and re-examine and renegotiate and keep talking.”
Bring a professional
If you and your partner are unable to do things on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“If you feel like you’re running into roadblocks while communicating and you are having sexual difficulties, it might be time to speak to a specialist,” Jamea said.
A therapist can help couples talk about desire and arousal, and resolve other issues that are troubling them.
“It is especially difficult for women to experience high levels of sexual satisfaction when the emotional connection is weak,” said Jamea. “It is better to seek treatment early. The longer a problem lasts, the more difficult it is usually to overcome it.”
These problems don’t exist in a vacuum: just because a partner is struggling with their sex drive, for example, doesn’t mean they’re the only one in need of help.
“It’s a couple problem and needs to be addressed as a couple,” said Jamea.
Don’t dismiss sexual wellbeing. If you are not satisfied or get what you want, speak up.
“It’s just as important as the other aspects of our wellbeing,” said Jamea.
HealthyWomen would like to remind you to always practice safe sex.