The Problems "Sexual Boredom" Is Actually Masking & What To Do
If you've been feeling like sex is boring lately, or like you or your partner are sexually bored in the relationship, there may actually be something deeper at play here than just "sexual boredom."
Sexual boredom might be a mask for discomfort.
The truth is, there's no such thing as sexual boredom. When people complain that they're bored, it’s usually because uncomfortable feelings are coming up. The brain does this nifty trick of bypassing uncomfortable feelings and going straight to “boredom.” We tell ourselves we're bored so we don’t have to feel.
Boredom isn’t pleasant, but it’s better than the alternative. When couples come to me complaining of sexual boredom, my antenna goes up. I know that boredom in the bedroom can be about a variety of things, but it’s generally not what they think.
“Sexual boredom” has become a catchall term for what ails those who have lost interest in sex with their regular partner. It can mask unresolved conflict, power struggles, laundry lists of resentments, physical aftereffects from childbirth, depression, complacency, unsatisfactory birth control, feeling unappreciated, fear of rejection, lack of confidence, or other such vulnerabilities.
Often, it is the result of stagnant energy. Sexual energy is part of life energy, and when it doesn’t move, listlessness sets in.
Embrace the discomfort in order to overcome it.
All this said, perception of sexual boredom is very real. It’s what people think is ailing them when they contact me, and it is a prevalent complaint in sex therapists’ offices.
If you’re experiencing what you can best describe as sexual boredom, it behooves you to examine the “boredom” more closely and try to hone in on the origin of the feeling. Don’t limit yourself to only a vague level of awareness. What are you really feeling? Something unpleasant? And how does that unpleasant or painful feeling sit with you? If you find yourself wanting to escape it, keep your feet to the fire. Expand and breathe into it. That is your threshold into erotic integrity.
A popular practice among folks having sex is to break emotional contact with their partner when the partner makes physical contact, because the recipient gets anxious, even though they’re not always aware that they are. They then endeavor to retreat into their physical sensations to enhance their sexual experience. Unfortunately, this effort is misguided and backfires, leading to alleged “boredom.” Tuning out your lover decreases eroticism and intimacy and increases dissatisfaction. In fact, lack of emotional connection can lead to sexless marriages.
“Boredom” is a cue to grow yourself emotionally and relationally, to step into the emotional unknown and take a risk, whatever that may look like. Look into your lover’s eyes during sex, have a “state of the union” conversation about your sex life together, and reveal more of yourself. Being able to settle your emotional discomfort facilitates expression, which in turn supports trust and commitment in your relationship.
Commit to continued emotional growth.
“Boredom” is the canary in the coal mine of intimate connection. It indicates that something is wrong, and you need to pay attention. When you show up for yourself and allow yourself to feel what you haven’t allowed yourself to feel, you automatically show up for your lover, too, making real contact and exchanging energy. People tend to settle for boring sex, even if they complain about it, because on some level, it’s more comfortable than more intense eroticism and intimacy. To have more intense sex, you have to be open to your own emotional development.
Sure, it would be easier if our lovers would do the personal growth work instead, but then we’d still have to rise to the occasion and catch up. What makes sex not boring is the quality of presence people bring to it. Eroticism is in the “being,” not the “doing,” of sex.
There’s no such thing as boredom. There is, however, the option of erotic integrity. And that's always infinitely better.
Claudia Six, Ph.D., is a clinical sexologist and sex therapist with over 25 years of experience. She has a master's degree in counseling psychology from the University for Humanistic Studies and a Ph.D. in clinical sexology from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and she has work as a professor of counseling psychology at the University of France. She has helped thousands of individuals and couples with relationship and sexual challenges, and coined the term Erotic Integrity® to describe her approach to her work with clients. Her private practice is near San Francisco in northern California.