Typically, I would not subscribe to any magical potion for sex therapy, concrete or abstract, that claims to cure what ails you in sex. BUT, this particular medicine is a doozy! I use it in my sex therapy practice all the time. Are you ready? Here it is: acceptance.
First and foremost I want to be clear what acceptance is and what it is not. Acceptance is not a judgement call on whether or not something is right or wrong, good or bad. Acceptance does not mean we condone what is happening or are okay with it. Acceptance also does not mean we love what is happening or who we are.
When I use acceptance in my sex counselling in my practice, acceptance means we can see and acknowledge the truth without resistance. Again, this does not mean if we accept that we are experiencing racism when we seek sexual partners or are able to acknowledge internalized homophobia that we do not resist racism or homophobia. It means we do not resist the truth of the racism or homophobia we are experiencing. In other words, we are not in denial about it’s existence. We do not resist it by trying to explain it away or down play it, when we accept something we say, “I see you and I know you are there in no uncertain terms.”
What does this have to do with your sex life and sex therapy?
I witness people trying to wiggle away from their truth every single sex counselling session. If we did not resist our truth I don’t think therapy would exist. In terms of sex therapy, what I most often see is the weaving of stories to explain the absence of something we think should be happening. For example, if I think my partner should want to have sex with me because we are in a monogamous, romantic, sexual relationship I may devise all kinds of stories to explain why my partner does not want to have sex with me. My partner may even collude with me if they feel ashamed about their lack of sexual desire for me or if they are afraid to hurt my feelings should they tell the truth. But all this denial (which I suspect most of the time is very much not intentional) gets in the way of the sex we want (or do not want) to be having!
What happens if I don’t assume what my partner should want based on our agreed upon relationship structure? What if I got curious instead? And what if my partner was not worried about hurting my feelings, rather, knew that they had a right to say things that will hurt me if it upholds our shared values of honesty and truth? What if painful conversations were the precursor to transformational change for ourselves and our relationship? What if we could accept all this?
If we could do all that, then we could get to the heart of the matter, accept it for what it is, and decide together if anything needs to change. For example, if my partners lack of sexual desire with me is due to the fact I tend to rush through our sensual play, focus way too much on genitals, with my personal worth wrapped-up in whether or not I can make my partner orgasm… yes, I would need to hear that feedback! And I would benefit from the deeper internal work of accepting that my insecurities are leading me to objectify my partner who in turn is not interested in sex to satisfy my insecurities. Yes, ouch! That is going to feel uncomfortable. And also, what a relief! Because now that I know and accept this as part of the experience I can start to unravel the tangle and develop a skill of presence with my partner. I may even uncover the origins of this insecurity and offer myself some loving attention and perhaps a healing salve for the wounds created by a patriarchal sex negative world.
This is just a small example of how to use the medicine of acceptance in sex therapy. And perhaps next time we can talk about the medicine of resistance! As there is a time and place for all medicines.