When we talk about finding happiness, topics that come to mind may include personal fulfilment, self-care, positive thinking, embracing chaos and living in the present. However, there is something that is often left out of the discussion – sex.
Psychotherapist Jean Chen, director at Relationship Matters, has seen first-hand how a reluctance to talk about sex can lead to issues in the bedroom. According to her, sex issues are so often at the core of unhappy marriages, heartbreak, and overall unhappiness in general.
Problems in this realm are incredibly common. However, bringing up topics like body shame, inability to climax, poor performance or total lack of sex isn’t exactly fitting for any casual conversation. So, people shy away from such topics and assume that everyone else’s sex lives are just fine.
Sex is a normal part of being human. An enjoyable sex life is said to be strongly correlated to a good relationship, and good relationships make us happy. Sex also has the ability to release hormones that increase intimacy and bonding, and improve mood, immunity and overall health.
At the same time, it can help decrease feelings of loneliness and depression, and boost confidence and enhance quality of life. The calorie burn can even make it a great form of exercise. Asian attitudes towards sex tend to be more conservative, and that can make us ill-informed when making choices about sexuality and relationships. Nonetheless, Jean explains that the situation isn’t as dire as it seems.
“I would think that, in general, it’s harder to talk about sex in Asia but truth be told, it’s just socially more difficult to talk about sex in public over here. Privately, I believe that couples are much more open about the state of their sex life and talk about it as much as Westerners do.”Jean Chen, Psychotherapist, Relationship Matters
That doesn’t mean that everyone in Singapore has a thriving and healthy sex life. “It’s equally as common to fight about sex as it is about money,” reveals Jean. “Different couples have different preferences, and some couples just naturally place more emphasis on sex while others do not.
“A dwindling sex life only becomes a problem when there isn’t a mutual desire for sex between husband and wife. That’s when cracks in a relationship start to show. It is a good thing if they can talk about their issues in a non-aggressive way as problems in the bedroom could cause couples to grow apart. They can become frustrated, resentful or even angry, and that can lead to divorce. If you can’t resolve a conflict, seeking therapy could be beneficial.”
It’s natural for the maintenance of a good sex life to require more effort and planning as we grow older.
In the early stages of a marriage, couples tend to have spontaneous sex frequently. Still, amidst busy work schedules, chores and family commitments, sex can end up being the last thing on the priority list.
An increasingly stressful lifestyle among men is also said to be contributing to more incidences of performance anxiety, which could be adding to a diminished sex life. “Around 35 per cent of my patients – from as young as 24 years old – come to see me for erectile dysfunction (ED),” says Dr Muhd Taufiq, a resident doctor at DTAP Clinic Somerset.
“ED can be very damaging to a marriage. It can cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction for both parties. For the man, his confidence levels will be deeply affected. He may feel ashamed. For his wife, she may start to question her perceived value, her attractiveness, or it may even make her suspicious of her husband. These are all real concerns, and I’ve seen them happen to my patients.
“The problem is compounded when the couple refuses to talk about their problems. A man affected by erectile dysfunction may refuse to admit that he’s facing dysfunction. And if the issue is not communicated between husband and wife, a break-up could occur.”Dr Muhd Taufiq, Resident Doctor, DTAP Clinic
Start The Conversation
In Dr Taufiq’s view, open communication when it comes to sexual dysfunction is vital to improving a lacklustre marriage that has lost its spark. As embarrassing as it is, talking to each other could make or break a long-term relationship.
Jean agrees. “Have a genuine conversation with your husband where you can both air your concerns. Check in with each other,” she advises.
“Ask questions like ‘are you happy?’, ‘do you feel emotionally connected to me?’, and ‘do you enjoy having sex with me?’ Even couples who have a good relationship on the surface may still be facing sexual issues. If things are getting stale, the earlier you see an accredited therapist, the more helpful it’ll be.”
Ready to head to turn on territory? These easy intimacy tips can lead to a sexy boost in the bedroom: