How to keep the intimacy in spite of sexual dysfunction
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How to keep the intimacy in spite of sexual dysfunction

What intimacy is?

Sexual intimacy is not only about penetrative sexual intercourse and orgasm, although it is often seen as consisting of them. There may be sexual intimacy without penetrative intercourse and orgasm and there may be no sexual intimacy even though both are present.
Sexual Intimacy can be defined as a condition of physical and/or emotional closeness characterized by the exchange of emotions and sensations while Sexual dysfunction is characterized by the persistent impairment of a person’s normal pattern of sexual response that may trigger distress.

What can happen to intimacy?

Sexual intimacy once reached cannot be considered as stable for a lifetime or for the duration of the relationship.
It must in fact be supported, sought after and protected by various risk factors [1] such as habit, stress and sexual boredom.
However, when a person who has had a satisfactory sex life begins at some point to have difficulties or dysfunctions, the usual way of having sex is prevented and sexual intimacy in the couple is at risk [2].
The risk is greater if people faced with a sexual difficulty prefer not to talk about it and avoid any intimate contact, even not sexual, for fear that the exchange will lead to a sexual situation where the difficulty emerges. This situation of avoiding the partner and the lack of communication about it is a specific risk factor in case of sexual dysfunction.
Moreover, a rigid view of the sexual patterns of one's own sex (as a man should be, as a woman should be) increases the discomfort that the dysfunction causes and decreases the possibility of asking for help [4-6].
This attitude often takes the form of going to bed much earlier or much later than your partner, working at times compatible with intimacy, or arguing when you might have sex.

Who risks more?

For these reasons, the couples most at risk of losing intimacy in case of sexual dysfunction are those with rigid sexual stereotypes, a very limited sexuality (sometimes only penetration), and with little or no communication about sexuality and pleasure.
For this reason, the first and most important step is to start talking about sexuality, although it can be embarrassing at first. Talking about sexuality an important topic is "what I like what I don't" so you can understand how to make sexuality more varied and satisfying and decrease the erotic distance between partners.
In these conversations it is important to try not to be influenced by how your sex is represented by the media, which is often not real [7].
Another important point are the erotic fantasies. For this reason, in the couple could talk about "what I would like to do" and "what I just like to fantasize and talk about during intimacy".
Certainly it is not easy to build and keep intimacy and when you know only you can not succeed, you can ask for the support of a professional, able to follow the couple in this path.

Marco Silvaggi
Psychologist - Psychotherapist – ECPS

HFTHQ 20-38
ESSM
Content written by ESSM View all ESSM contents
Bibliographical references
1. DeLamater JD, Sill M. Sexual desire in later life. J Sex Res 2005;42:138–49.
2. Fileborn B, Thorpe R, Hawkes G, et al. Sex, desire and pleasure: considering the experiences of Australian women. Sex Relation Ther 2015;30(1):117–30.
3. Manne et al., Interpersonal Processes and Intimacy Among Men with Localized Prostate Cancer and Their Partners. J Fam Psychol. 2018 August ; 32(5): 664–675. doi:10.1037/fam0000404.
4. Orel NA, Watson WK. Addressing diversity in sexuality and aging: key considerations for healthcare providers. Available at: http://www.aginglifecarejournal.org/ addressing-diversity-in-sexuality-and-aging-key-considerations-for-healthcare- providers/. Accessed November 1, 2018.
5. Weeks DJ. Sex for the mature adult: health, self-esteem, and countering ageist stereotypes. Sex Relation Ther 2002;17:231–40.
6. Bancroft J. Promoting sexual health and responsible sexual behavior. J Sex Res assessment to determine the presence or absence of sexual intimacy concerns. Older women are not asexual beings; yet culturally induced embarrassment, fear, and anxiety are important factors in the decision to disclose problem or behaviors. 2002;39:15–21.
7. Brown JD, Halpern CT, L’Engle KL. Mass media as a sexual super peer for early maturing girls. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2005;36:420–427. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.06.003.

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