Each week, clients come into my therapy office with problems with sexual connection. Most of these people are eager to get quick tips on things that can do to sexually reconnect. I get it. There’s a lot of frustration. There is sometimes even fear that this sense of sexual disconnection will only get worse. By the time couples come into therapy, they feel like they have to dive head first into a plan that will immediately help them “heat things up.” What many of them don’t realize is that this can actually create more problems if they aren’t careful.
It is true. Some couples need to spice things up. They need to add new things into their sex lives to create new experiences. For many of these couples, they are simply going through a sexual lull in their relationship. This is a common process for many couples to go through.
However, there are couples who are dealing with something else that is more serious. Many of these couples also think that they only need to add new sexual experiences. What these people don’t realize is that they are disconnected for a different reason. One or both are in a systematic freeze. They aren’t able to connect, because behind their frustration, boredom, and avoidance is a nervous system that won’t allow their body and minds to bond. For these couples, any overtly sexual interventions are only short-lived.
A freeze in the body is where a person goes into a part of their nervous system that deactivates, but it also disconnects. For those who are wanting more connected sexual experiences, sex is more reliant on a different part of their nervous system. This part is able to be more relational.
Concepts about a sexual freeze can be confusing for couples who have connected in the past. It can seem strange that there’s a problem, when there weren’t problems before. There are countless explanations for this. It could be that there is other stress that has nothing to do with the relationship, which is impacting either person. The body might not know how to deal with arguments. It might also have problems dealing with moving through a conflict. Regardless, these situations can make it impossible for people to enjoy sex.
This can turn into a viscous loop. The very thing that could be the underbelly of the sexual conflict, can further freeze up the body. Further freezing can lead to more disconnection. More disconnection is even further triggering, and this goes on and on.
A sexual freeze can be difficult to identify, but here are some signs:
- Amplifying sexual frustration in a relationship that had no previous problems.
- Empty promises that continue to go unfulfilled.
- A lack of energy surrounding the idea of sex.
- Feelings of shame surrounding a lacking sexual relationship.
- Lacking understanding about the source of the problem.
- A lot of thinking about the problem, without much action taken.
If you identify these issues in your relationship, mindfulness based psychotherapy is highly recommended. This type of therapy will help you better understand what is happening within your body. Thinking has some importance in a sexual freeze, but it’s less important than what the body is experiencing.
Our culture teaches us to focus heavily on our thoughts. However, we have an animalistic part of ourselves. The body tells its own story, which might not be congruent with what you think about this. In these situations, people have to become more connected with their bodies, and what their bodies are telling them. For example, when you want to sexually touch someone, or you want them to touch you, this sense doesn’t just come from your thoughts. It comes from your body as well. Unfortunately, most of us simply react to these senses, rather than identify how we got to this point. Thus, when this sense isn’t there, it’s hard to know where to go next.
The good news is that these problems are quite fixable. With some guidance, people are able to tap into a sense that they haven’t before. The problem is that they take time to fix. The body has flow to it, and you have to work to identify and understand this flow. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, find a professional who can help you understand. Somatic therapists, mindfulness based therapists, and some body workers can help you with this. If you understand what a sexual freeze is, you’re well on your way to finding that sexual space where you can enjoy a connected sex life again with your partner.