Are inhibitions ruining your sex life?

For a fantastic sex life and a stronger bond, drop your inhibitions

happy coupleYou are looking forward to some exciting intimacy with your spouse. You lust for him, but he seems more interested in the racy bestseller that he's reading. You know that just one cuddle and a small loving gesture—a kiss on his lips—will turn him into jelly, but you just lie next to him staring at the ceiling. You are mortified of making the fist move.

He wants the light turned on while having sex, but you don't want him to see your stretch marks. He loves you for who you are and couldn't care less about them but you shy away every time he makes the suggestion.

You are inhibited. Join the gang. In all cultures, across the globe, people harbour inhibitions towards sex. Some inhibitions are valid while others arise out of ignorance, myths and misconceptions about sexual matters or deep-rooted long-standing weaknesses in a personality.

Are you willing?

For sex to be special, for your senses to experience untold pleasure, you have to be willing. You should want the arousal, the actual pleasure and even the orgasm. If you are a reluctant partner, the passion just fizzles out, and sex is reduced to a cold, clinical, one-sided sexual act.

Match your partner's moves uninhibitedly and you can induce desire, make the sexual act passionate and enjoyable and even heighten the possibility of experiencing an orgasm. There is no other way but to work at it. You have to create the conditions that generate sexual excitement.

If you are an unwilling partner, disinterested or passive, you restrict your natural sexual response. Sex is a great barometer for telling you how well your relationship is working, and if it needs more attention.

Enjoying sexual freedom certainly does not amount to having sexual license. In no way does it mean indulging in acts that cause you discomfort or that cross the barriers and limits of respect for bodily space. It also does not mean justifying unphysiological and medically-harmful acts such as anal sex.

The best-ever sex happens when you guard each other's privacy, share mutual respect and modesty, love and care for each other and believe in fidelity. Otherwise, sex becomes as famous English writer Aldous Huxley described it, "a maniac struggling in the musky darkness with another maniac".

Not just a physical act

Ideally, marriage should put an end to a person's sexual strivings. It should foster a relationship in which tenderness and sensuality flow together, each strengthening the other. But, in practice, it rarely works out this way. Many couples are so concerned about using the right techniques, are so stressed about doing it right that they lose all spontaneity.

American psychologist Rollo May says that the emphasis on technique in sex "makes for a mechanistic attitude towards lovemaking, and goes along with alienation, feelings of loneliness and depersonalisation".

When couples become impersonal and aloof, they try to combat their terror of loneliness by using techniques to get closer. Because sex cannot achieve this monumental task, the loneliness and the terror that accompany it grow deeper.

In the process, tenderness goes missing from sensuality. Instead of the two persons flowing together, sex becomes copulation and we are more slaves to our bodies than perhaps ever before. Sex is not purely a physical act; it is the culmination of your love, passion, tenderness you feel towards each other.

This is ok...

It's perfectly fine if you are inhibited about:

  • Indulging in an activity that is unphysiological and against the law of nature such as anal sex, sadism, or masochism.
  • Using crude and abusive language, explicit and crass verbal expressions as means to get aroused.
  • The use of pornography for arousal before or during the sexual act.
  • Involving someone other than your partner during the sexual act, as a variation.

...but this is not

Free yourself if you are inhibited about:

  • Undressing in privacy, even after a significant period after marriage. Hesitation to undress is common in newly-married women. However, it is a temporary phenomenon. When it is prolonged beyond a week, in spite of all the understanding by the partner, it is definitely not normal unless it is a way to convey total disagreement towards the marriage.
  • Performing normal peno-vaginal intercourse out of fear, anxiety or excessive shyness.
  • Trying different positions during peno-vaginal intercourse, desired by the partner and which are physically possible.
  • Being an 'active' and 'responsive' participant during lovemaking. Many people think about their sex life in the right direction and in the right proportion, but find themselves completely at a loss when it comes to 'doing' something about it.
  • Concealing your desires out of the fear of incurring a partner's disapproval. Always take a chance. An invitation to make love is a compliment. It will flatter your partner, and although s/he may not reciprocate on the spot, s/he will undoubtedly return the compliment before long.

Communication is crucial

Lack of correct communication is the only cause of most inhibitions in women as well as men. Psychologist Shubha Sovani wondered, "How can my husband and I love each other so much, yet have such a dull and unexciting sex life?"

She has never discussed this problem with her doctor husband. Says she, "I seem to be able to talk to him about everything but our sex life. I don't know how to tell him what I need without seeming critical".

A lot of women voice similar sentiments. Most married people lack basic information about their spouse's sexual likes and dislikes. Most couple express sexual wishes with hints, code words and symbolic acts.

While there is nothing wrong with this, couples that use such signals should be aware of how easily they can be misread, misinterpreted or simply missed. Choose signals that can be clearly recognised as preludes to sexual activity.anything that both partners will recognise and respect. But clear verbal expression is much better.

For everyone in a conjugal relationship, and at all the stages of the relationship, communication is the lifeline. Try to define for yourself and your spouse what your complaints and pleasures are. Many people are uncomfortable and shy about making specific requests.

But open talk and experimentation are vital. No one can automatically know what pleases another, without adequate feedback. Love does not make one a mind reader.

Love means trusting one another enough to ask openly and answer honestly. It isn't the amount of sexual relations that makes or breaks a marriage, but rather the degree of 'fit' between partners' sexual needs. Such mutuality comes only with communication.

Say researchers, William Mastrers and Virginia Johnson, "Love and physical desire wax and wane throughout a lifetime. This can not only be accepted but even enjoyed, if partners can communicate."

Make love...last

Physical gratification for self-indulgence, without the tenderness that comes from love, can mar a relationship. The moment sex is unavailable; such relationships collapse. However, if both partners are in a sincere and committed relationship based on love, care and mutual respect, then sex is just one of the many ways of expressing such love, and sharing intimacy. Such relationships are truly meaningful and fulfilling, and last forever.

For no matter how long two people have been together, they can still get better and better at connecting with each other, sharing intimacy, making plans, talking about feelings and fantasies and learning how to play and touch.

Couples who never stop using their own intelligence, sense of humour and imagination to refresh their physical and emotional relationship can have an enriching and meaningful sex life for a long time. So drop the inhibitions and start talking.

Shy away from porn? Good!

Many people rely on pornography for sexual stimulation. This is because they have spent so much energy numbing themselves emotionally that they cannot really 'feel' without lots of stimulation.

In our work with couples, we have found that many sexual problems stem from using pornography. For instance, a wife may not open up to her husband in bed because of his addiction to watch erotic videos. It may make her feel inadequate for him, inhibiting her during sex.

To many, pornography is harmless fun with no ill effects. But Mary Anne Layden, director of education, University of Pennsylvania Health System, points out that in her 13 years of treating sexual violence victims and perpetrators, she hasn't treated a single case of sexual violence that did not involve pornography.

Research has shown that pornography shapes attitudes and encourages behaviour that can harm individuals and their families. Pornography is often viewed in secret, which creates deception within marriages that can even lead to divorce.

Pornography promotes the allure of adultery, prostitution and unreal expectations that can result in dangerous promiscuous behaviour. So, if one is unwilling to use pornography, such an inhibition is in one's own best interest.

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Minnu Bhonsle
Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre

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