Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson first presents the harm that sex fears do to individuals and couples; and then goes on to review the many faces of sexual fears both, conscious and subconscious; talks about things not to do; and much more.
The Harm Sex Fears DoSamuel and Sarah are breaking up mostly because of their fears related to sex. Sarah dreads even thinking or talking about some new sexual activities Samuel wants them to experiment with. Samuel secretly fears he is not sexually ‘man enough’ or sexy enough to keep turning Sarah on, so he wants to attempt some new, exciting, erotic things he has been hearing about. Both Sarah and Samuel are too afraid to openly and honestly talk with each other about their sex fears. Consequently, on the increasingly rare times when they try to make love, Sarah tightens up with fear. That in turn makes attempting intercourse painful for Sarah.
Sensing Sarah’s reluctance, Samuel has begun to fear that he will say or do something that will turn Sarah off to him more, which he thinks seems to be happening. This fearful worry is making him have trouble with maintaining erections. Recently Samuel has started having premature ejaculation problems. Because of those problems Samuel and Sarah are beginning to emotionally withdraw from one another. They also have started to argue about all sorts of small things that really do not matter to either of them. Therefore, they both are becoming increasingly sex and love malnourished in their relationship with each other. Both have begun to secretly fantasize about how things could be better with someone new and different.
In desperation Samuel and Sarah went to a counselor. It turned out the counselor did not know much about handling love relationship or sex problems; as that had not been a part of the counselor’s training. However, the counselor was able to refer them on to a well qualified couple’s therapist who had also been trained in sex therapy. Over a fairly short period of time this therapist artfully guided them to tap into their love for each other which gave them the courage to carefully, kindly and compassionately say the things they feared to say, in loving ways, and to accept the things they heard from one another, and later to do the erotic things they feared to do together before. In the process Samuel and Sarah learned to develop and use a variety of new love skills, applying them to overcoming fear and greatly expanding their sex life together.
Unfortunately there are thousands and thousands of couples and individuals whose relationships are defeated, divided and destroyed because they do not know how to ‘use their love to master their fears’. There are thousands more whose love and sex lives continue on but are hindered, hampered and harmed because they don’t know how to ‘use their love to master their fears related to sexuality’.
The Many Faces of Sex Fear“I’m so afraid my wife doesn’t love me because I found her reading women’s porn and masturbating”. “I’m scared he just wants me for sex”. “I mask it well, but I’m really threatened by the idea that I may be sexually inadequate and inferior”. “Since I got out of the hospital I am totally terrified to try sex again”. “I guess I am a coward but I can’t bring myself to ask my husband to do the erotic things I want him to do to me and I’m just dying to try”. “I get really shaky when I start thinking about my sexual performance not being as good as what my spouse experienced with others”. “I sort of panic when I suspect my sex dreams and desires are actually very sick, wrong and sinful”. “Even though I really want to, I just can’t bring myself to do the things my lover wants me to do”. “If I get into sex the way I’d dearly like to, I fear I’ll get addicted to it, my husband will think I’m a slut, and God will hate me”.
These quotes represent just a fraction of the many life-limiting, sex-related fears people are struggling with and are consciously aware of. But then there also are the unrecognized, subconscious, sex-related fears which may be doing more harm than the conscious ones.
Subconscious Sex FearsMany couples’ love relationships are being crippled, or at least limited, by deep sexual, non-conscious fears and the ‘cousins’ of fear – anxiety, worry, apprehension, sense of threat, etc. Subconscious fears often are rather complicated, confusing and a little harder to get to. After some in-depth counseling, Beth said, “I finally admitted to myself that I get mad at my husband for one thing or another, whenever I think he might want sex. Then we fight instead of having sex. Something about having sex makes me fearful”. “Looking way down inside me, I suspect I still believe sex is essentially bad, and I was taught no one will really love me if I’m bad”. “Understanding it that way makes me feel I might be able to change it. Now I think I might be able to by talk this over with my husband by asking him to choose to be extra loving as we work to get rid of this problem. I think that may work”.
Bill stated, “I see it now. What I’m actually upset about is not her looking at other men, it’s when she looks at me I irrationally think she will remember my penis is small and think those other men probably have bigger cocks than I do. God, I hate to say that but when I say it, it feels true”. Barbara related, “I’ve been denying the truth so much it’s coming out in my dreams. Although I truly enjoy sex with my husband, I dream about having sex with other women. I’m scared to ask but does that mean I’m really a lesbian, or maybe bisexual, or perhaps a sex addict who wants it with everybody? If I am one of those things what will that mean for my marriage, and my family and everything about my life? That’s really scary!”
Everyone can have, and just about everybody does have, or will have some sort of fear issues related to sex. When it happens to you, you may be quite conscious of it or it may affect you in strange subconscious kinds of ways. The good news is that with healthy self-love and/or the love of another, plus with some good inner-work you can master, overcome and defeat fear and its effects. But take note, it also is good to be aware of some of the things not to do.
Things Not to DoDon’t blame! Don’t blame yourself, or your beloved, or your parents or anyone else. Blaming seldom arrives at solution. Don’t surrender! Letting your fears have their way just gets in the way of developing the love skills and methods which help you get past your fears. Don’t keep quiet! In the most loving way you can, talk to your beloved if you have one, talk to non-judgmental friends, knowledgeable source people, helpers like counselors and therapists and talk to yourself in encouraging, self honoring ways.
If it is your beloved who is having the most obvious problem with fears, don’t come at them without lots of love showing. Don’t use argumentative reasoning, logic and debate skills on them. Don’t use sarcasm and ridicule, and especially don’t use any condemnation. Don’t try to hint, suggest, use innuendo or in other ways ‘beat around the bush’ about the problem but rather ask for their loving help, while talking clearly and directly about the difficulty. Don’t use anger, threats, manipulation deception, withdrawal, cold silence or anything else that might be anti-loving.
How Love Wins over Sex FearsListen to Joe and Jesse. Joe asked Jesse to do a striptease for him. Jesse replied she would like to be able to do that but she couldn’t because she was too afraid. Joe with slow, soft kinds of tones in his voice reassuringly said it was okay if Jesse did not do that. Then he asked her if she could share what her reluctance was all about. With much hesitation and nervousness Jesse related that she thought she was too fat, and far too clumsy and awkward. She said, “Joe you will just laugh at me, and it would all end up as a great big turnoff”. Joe tenderly suggested that they just dance together, and as they dance together they take each other’s clothes off. Jesse replied she was still scared but that was something she could try if they turned down the lights. That’s how they started. A month later Jesse turned on stripper music and told Joe to just watch and applaud. Then she danced and stripped for him, better than anything he had ever imagined.
How did this victory over fear happen? Jesse and Joe approached each other, and the problem, gently but clearly with stated truth, mixed with tender caring love. Their love of each other led them to help each other take small, careful steps toward what was desired. Jesse said Joe made it obvious that his love for her was a lot more important to him than his desire. And that, she said, made her want to do what he wanted ever so much more, and gave her the courage to try. She also related that her self-confidence and self-love improved in the process. Joe says his love and respect for Jesse were already big, and now they were much bigger because she worked so very well with him about doing what he wanted.
How Fear Can Assist YouWhen you work with your fear, it can assist you. Fear is in us to protect us but, like all human systems, it can overdo it, miss do it, under do it, and otherwise malfunction. Fear tries to protect us from harm. However, many things we are trained to fear have no real harm potential. This is especially true in the area of sexuality. As Jesse learned, taking off her clothes to music could not really harm her. No bleeding, bruising or breakage would come from it. However, not doing it might be a bit harmful to their relationship. So, whatever you fear, assess the harm potential. ‘Harm’, by the way, is not to be confused with its enemy ‘hurt’. Hurt, like fear, warns you that harm may occur, so be careful. Some sexual hurt may occur, much like what happens with exercise, and then turn out to be a good thing for you.
What to DoThe basic thing to do is study love and develop your skills for conveying, receiving and applying love. Then use those skills of applying love to work on your own and your beloved’s fears. Whatever you fear to do, for healthy self-love, assess the harm potential. That may take some research. If the harm-potential is nonexistent or not high, carefully explore and experiment toward what you fear. Remember, many sexual things can be lovingly done best by playacting and shared fantasizing.
In good loving teamwork, help your beloved to do the same. You might want to read the book Feel Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. If your own efforts are not quickly getting you far enough, seek good professional assistance in the form of a love knowledgeable, couples therapist with sex therapy training and experience.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Sexually, what fear have you already overcome and what sexual related fear might you want to overcome next?