Sex Therapy: Is It For Me?
How do you know if sex therapy is for you? Maybe things aren’t going so well in the postpartum period, but I mean really, isn’t that to be expected? Short answer— yes! Of course! Postpartum life is so hard and there is no shortage of challenges, including challenges to sex.
But… is it bad enough to see a sex therapist?
I invite you to consider the question in a new way: would it bring me comfort and peace of mind to have someone to work with me (or my partners and I)? Would sex therapy be a greater burden to me right now, or would getting some of my questions answered in sex therapy put me (or us) at ease?
If you’re still not sure, I’ve compiled a short list of common situations people find themselves in postpartum that bring them into sexual health counselling. If you see yourself in any of these situations, maybe a few visits would be helpful!
Okay, here we go— is sex therapy for you?
My partner wants to have sex more often than I do. Or maybe it’s the exact opposite, either case, we call this “desire disparity” in the sex therapy scene. It is the most common complaint in most people’s practices, and that makes sense— how likely is it that we find our PERFECT sexual match? But does that mean you’re doomed! Absolutely not! There are lots of tips and tricks to help you and your partners sort out how to navigate desires that do not align. Which tips and tricks will depend greatly on each individual’s situation and any sex therapist you work with should do a thorough intake process to figure out the dynamics of your specific situation before proceeding.
I want to want to have sex again. Another big one for the postpartum crowd and it often goes hand in hand with desire disparity. When desire has completely flown out the window, sex therapists should have the sex education and knowledge to help folks understand how desire works and how you can work with your desire to tease it out of its slumber (if you desire to desire)! Put simply, it’s not (just) hormones, it’s not (just) your body, it’s not (just) getting out of your head: it’s working with all the pieces to see where the fire burns.
I don’t know what happened— I just don’t feel like a sexual being anymore. Becoming a parent can have all sorts of ripple effects across our identities and sense of self, including our sexual self. Sex therapy can be really helpful in uncovering what changes has impacted sex. Is there a belief that mothers shouldn’t have sex? Is there major body dysphoria during chestfeeding? Did the things that used to turn you on proactively turn you off now? Although this type of feeling can feel the more uncertain and vague, it is some of my favourite type of work to do because it invites us to take a curious, exploratory, and eventually playful look at the person we have become. It can be a painful journey, and ultimately enlightening and life changing.
I feel so broken. My body just doesn’t work like it used to. Some folks have described the postpartum period as a second puberty, and for many of us, puberty was painful enough the first time around. If there is any kind of pain in the pelvis, vagina, or anus, working with a pelvic physiotherapist is an excellent person to connect with… but what do you do in the meantime? Sex therapists can help with the meantime. Relearning new ways of finding pleasure with yourself and with your partners can feel daunting at first, but it can also inspire creativity and exploration that you may have never considered before. After the grieving, new horizons can be discovered.
Old wounds get new openings. It is not uncommon for sexual traumas from the past to bubble to the surface in the postpartum period. Birth is a full body, full psyche, full spiritual experience that can kick up a lot of sediment that may have settled on the rock bed of your being where it didn’t bother you and everything was fine. You’re not broken again because you never were: you are human having a human experience that is understandable and old wounds can be mended in new ways.
I’m just so exhausted. Honestly, this is a tough one. There are lots of great sleep techniques from insomnia research, but feedings through the night and being on a child’s schedule can really throw a wrench into good ideas. Any therapist should be able to work with you on how to set-up a good sleep plan, though. This is not necessarily a sex therapy moment (not necessarily not! As sex therapists should be trained in psychotherapy, more generally), but if main complaint is I am just too tired, you may not require the specific skills of a sex therapist! How do you know sleep is the only storyline? Well, that’s when a sex therapist may be handy!
How soon do I need to see a sex therapist? Should I address this right away?
This is a very tough questions to answer! Everyone’s relationship to their sexuality is different, and every relationship has different needs.
Typically, if all partners are in agreement that sex is not a major priority right now and you’ve got bigger fish to fry, you can shelf it and come back to sex when you’re both ready. Likewise, if you both agree getting some help is a priority, the timing is ripe!
If one partner feels it is more important than another, that can be tough, but ultimately we can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do and in that case it might be helpful to work with a sex therapist to get on a page everyone can live with even if it’s a temporary solution.
A friend of mine once said to me, “choose the choice that feels like freedom.” In other words, there’s no magical timeline or right answer— go with your gut.
These are not the only reasons people seek sex therapy in the postpartum period, but these are some of the most common. If you have any questions or want to connect with myself for a free 30min consult to see if you would benefit from some sexual health counselling, I am ready when you are.
Tynan Rhea is a queer, nonbinary settler with German and Czechoslovakian ancestry. Tynan has a private practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) as a sexual health counselor, educator, and aromatherapist. Tynan developed and teaches the Sex & Birth course for Doula Training Canada and is the founder of PostpartumSex.com. Tynan approaches their practice from sex-positive, queer & trans-affirming, trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, and feminist frameworks. You can find Tynan on Facebook, Instagram or TynanRhea.com
Thanks for stopping by! If you are looking for a Sex Therapist or any other practitioner for your pregnancy or postpartum needs check out the League of Moms directory here.
League of Moms / 03/18/2019