Although sexuality is one of the greatest pleasures in life and a special opportunity for gratification and fulfillment, it represents an aspect of life that can be complex and difficult, and sometimes even traumatic. Both men and women are often confused about themselves as sexual beings and are vulnerable to destructive internal thoughts and self-attacks that have been incorporated during their developmental years.
What is the definition of “healthy” sexuality?

Healthy sexuality is a natural extension of affection, tenderness, and companionship between two people. When both partners are fully present, in close emotional contact with each other, and enjoying giving and receiving affection and sexual pleasure, their lovemaking contributes a great deal to their emotional well-being and overall satisfaction in life.

Why does sexual passion often decline in a long-term relationship?

Disturbances in sexual relating arise primarily because at a certain point the defensive processes that both individuals bring to the relationship come into play and limit their ability to continue to enjoy sexual intimacy. Following an initial phase of falling in love usually characterized by exciting sex, emotional closeness, and genuine friendship, many couples develop a fantasy bond. This often takes place after the partners make a significant commitment – to living together, to marriage, or to starting a family. They may revert to a more routinized, mechanical style of lovemaking, experience a decrease in their feelings of attraction for each other, or find themselves making love less often.

What interferes with people enjoying a close, sexual experience with their partner?

Many people get distracted by negative thoughts (critical inner voices) during sex. They may have critical thoughts about their body, worry about their performance, or become concerned about satisfying their partner. These thoughts interfere with having a satisfying sexual experience.

Why do many people seem to have difficulty combining love and sex?

Although people feel especially gratified when a sexual experience is also emotionally satisfying, they often have a good deal of resistance to that combination. This resistance arises in part because being genuinely loving and sexually close, particularly in the context of a meaningful relationship, threatens a person’s psychological defenses. Often close sexual experiences will trigger painful memories from childhood of being unloved, and reawaken feelings of past rejections and fears of abandonment.

In addition, when partners feel especially close to each other during sex, they frequently feel uniquely vulnerable to the possibility of future loss or rejection. They are deeply touched to be gratified by another person, yet are painfully aware of how much they stand to lose.

How can people achieve more closeness and sexual intimacy in their relationship?

There are a number of things people can do to cultivate sexual passion and emotional intimacy in a relationship. The first involves communication. People can say something to their partner when they find themselves feeling distracted while making love. They can make it their goal to stay close.  Completing the sex act of having an orgasm does not have to be the ultimate goal of lovemaking. Staying close emotionally will leave a person feeling more satisfied.

For other suggestions on “becoming a better lover,” please download the Sex and Love brochure.

Sexuality Resources




For Mental Health Professionals Only:



  • The Continuum of Sexual Relating
  • Firestone Voice Scale for Sex