#3: Shame kills sex
The third biggest mistake couples make with sex is that they don’t deal with their sexual shame. Shame is keeping one or both partners from connecting or being closer. Neither of them knows how to deal with that shame. It just festers and eats away inside, and gets in the way of sex in a big way.
Shame kills sex. It just kills it. I’ve seen people trapped and buried under so much shame, they couldn’t see a way out.
The Shame-Sex Connection
Some of the shame issues that might be coming up in your relationship include shame about how your body looks or performs. Men often have shame about lack of erections, the quality of their erections or the size of their penis. Many people have shame about being too “big” or round. Or about not having the perfect body, the right breasts/chest/abs and so on.
Many women can have shame about not being able to orgasm if they haven’t really figured out the path to their own pleasure. Anyone can have shame about not thinking they are good at sex. Or not knowing how to please their partner—or themselves. Many people have shame about aging—not accepting the changes in their body, desire, orgasms or pleasure.
Sometimes there is shame about sexual identity, where a part of one’s sexual identity hasn’t been acknowledged and there is a lot of fear about losing their partner over it—whether it’s being gay or bisexual, kinky, polyamorous, asexual, or something else. Maybe you just feel some shame about some freaky fantasies you have and you’re terrified to speak them aloud!
Sometimes people have shame about sex itself or about pleasure. They are not able to openly experience pleasure and desire because they’ve been taught it’s bad. They have a hard time orgasming or enjoying their partner because they feel shame about sex. A lot of times this is learned from family or a religious upbringing that doesn’t support them to have an open, healthy sexual life.
The Shame of Sexual Trauma
I’ve spoken to so many people who think they are broken, unfixable, unlovable, or used up. It’s a heavy weight to bear and when spoken and projected into one’s sex life, and it’s a huge turn-off for a partner if it becomes a pattern. Eventually, it becomes challenging to get beyond that shame and into sexy times and pleasure and joy.
Sometimes there is a lot of shame attached to having been sexually assaulted or abused. If those wounds haven’t been healed, the shame can rear its head over and over and make it really hard to experience healthy, fulfilling sex until you heal it. And you can heal it. I’ve healed mine and turned it into gold. I’ve watched and helped thousands of people heal their abuse. You have to decide that your healing and empowerment is more important than your victimization and sometimes it takes a lot of work to detangle the wires that have been rerouted away from consensual, desirable sex into thinking abusive patterns are “normal.”
It can take a lot of patience and love from the partner of someone who has a sexually traumatic background. It’s painful to know the things that may have happened to your partner, knowing you can’t change them. For someone with sexual trauma, having a partner who listens and is supportive of the healing process can be the thing that makes a decisive difference.
And it can take time. It doesn’t happen overnight and many couples can see the possibilities, and yet get mired in frustration over the process. If the person with the trauma is not doing the healing work, it can feel like a dead end.
How to heal from sexual shame
If you are not on the road to healing, and you’ve been sweeping the trauma away and not addressing it, it’s time. It just won’t go away by itself.
Shame is a deeper issue that really demands the support of a good therapist trained in sexual issues or a trauma-informed sex coach or healer. If you are at the beginning of your process with a shame that has been debilitating, I recommend therapy. If you are ready to release the shame and move forward, hire a coach or a healer who works with people who are further along in their process. But do not go to a therapist or coach who is untrained in sexual issues because that can just make it worse. And they are many.
Whatever your situation, if you are in a place of shame about your sexuality, your body, your sexual expression, your desires, your sex life or your sexual skills in any way, take some action right away to work on that shame. It will fester and grow if you leave it to tend itself. It will eat away at your sexual life, pleasure and joy.
That’s what shame does…and I don’t want that for you. We’ve got enough people and institutions shaming us about sexuality. Most of us have some kind of sexual shame to undo. Be bold and take a step to put an end to the way you have internalized that shame. It doesn’t serve you, your partners or your sex life in any way. It tends to isolate you and silence you.
Face the shame to heal
If there is some shame you see within your partner, or something getting in between you, be courageous enough to bring it up and address it. Talking about the shame can quickly neutralize it if you can do it with compassion and love. It can feel like a huge relief to not be holding onto it tight anymore.
When you decide to heal it and move through it, it will free you in so many ways…not just in the bedroom. Don’t let sexual shame steal one more glorious day from you and your beloved. You get to have the full experience of your sexual life, body and pleasure. That is the most healing part of all.
Shame is the #1 obstacle people tell me is holding them back from the sexual life they want. We all have a shame story related to sexuality that can negatively affect our relationships. But it’s difficult to discuss shame with your partner and that is why my 6-session virtual masterclass Bringing Sexy Back gives you the tools and safe space to heal what you need to heal in your relationship.