What Are The Top Sexual Problems In Relationships?

Almost everyone experiences sexual problems in relationships at least once in their life. It’s a unifying human experience as common as catching a cold.

But because of the nature of these sexual issues, no one wants to talk about them. The result? People experiencing them feel isolated, and even less likely to talk about the issues they’re experiencing.

This silence isn’t healthy, and can lead to problems worsening, or other problems developing, so to help break the wall, we want to talk about just how common these problems really are.

Is it Normal to Have Sexual Problems in Relationships?

Although sexual issues in relationships are indeed common, this doesn’t diminish the discomfort or emotional pain they can inflict on individuals who encounter such issues. If you consider the many potential sexual issues (below) that people might experience, it’s much more likely than not that any long-term couple will experience some kind of sexual problem.

Couple having sexual problems in their relationship
Couples having sexual issues in their relationship

11 Common Sexual Issues in Relationships

Sexual problems come in a wide range of types. Some are emotional, others are physical. Some can be dealt with using medication, while others may require therapy and time.

1. Desire Discrepancy

In some relationships, one person has a high sex drive and desires frequent intimacy, while their partner may be content with a lower frequency, leading to a disparity in sexual preferences and needs. While there is no right amount of sex that couples are supposed to have, desire discrepancies — especially big ones — can cause a lot of frustration and resentment to build up in the relationship.

Another problem with desire discrepancy is the person who wants sex less frequently might start having obligation sex and then get even more turned off or less desirous because they are having sex when they don’t really want to. This can create a vicious cycle where the discrepancy grows over time.

It’s also possible that there is a discrepancy in the kind of sex people want to have. A lack of sexual compatibility can make it difficult to satisfy both people simultaneously. This can cause people to shame each other or can result in sexless or low-sex relationships.

2. Sexless Marriage or Low-sex Relationship

Many people complain that they have “lost the spark” or want to “get the spark back” in their relationships. Either their sex lives feel routine, rare, and uninspired; or they have stopped having sex completely.

Couples might experience sexlessness in their relationship if they never really had a spark to begin with and got together for different reasons than sexual attraction. Sometimes a lack of emotional closeness can also lead couples to stop having sex.

3. Premature Ejaculation (PE)

Sometimes also referred to as early ejaculation, this is an issue that affects between 30% to 40% of men at some point in their lives. PE is when a man ejaculates sooner than he or his partner wants him to during sex. PE often makes men feel inadequate, and their partners may become frustrated if they enjoy longer experiences of intercourse.

4. Painful Intercourse

Up to 75% of women experience pain during sex at some point in their lifetime. Painful intercourse, also called dyspareunia, can happen because of infections, dryness, scarring from pregnancy, pelvic floor tightness or injury, or endometriosis.

Men can also experience painful intercourse when they have overly tight foreskin or Peyronie’s disease (a bend in the penis caused by fibrous scar tissue that develops on the penis).

5. Erectile dysfunction (ED)

Nearly half of all men will experience ED at some point in their lifetime. The definition of ED is an inability to get or keep an erection that’s hard enough for intercourse. It can be caused by many factors, both physical and psychological. They may include unarousing sexual situations, criticism, performance anxiety (see below), and some diseases or medications for heart disease and diabetes.

Man feeling overwhelmed and wondering how he can find empowerment for men

6. Not Knowing or Communicating Turn-ons

A lot of times one or both people in a couple either does not know what turns them on, or has difficulty asking for it. They may feel ashamed of their desires or fearful of hurting their partner’s feelings with feedback. If you don’t share openly with your partner, you may end up with misunderstandings and lower satisfaction, not to mention simply not getting what you want the most in bed.

7. Body Image Issues

When one or both people in a relationship feel bad about their whole body or specific body parts, they might not want to get naked in front of the other person.

If you have body image issues, you might feel like you don’t deserve pleasure. Some people fixate on the way their body looks or moves and end up spectating — watching themselves have sex instead of actually feeling the arousal or pleasure available to them. Negative body image can become a huge barrier to intimacy and satisfaction.

Woman looking at herself in mirror with body image issues

8. Performance Anxiety

This is the feeling that you will not be able to give your partner what they want. It may also be the belief that you will not be able to achieve something sexually that you feel is necessary during sex.

When you are focused on performance and fearing failure, it’s much less likely that you will be able to perform. The anxiety creates a self-fulfilling prophecy and you end up in a vicious cycle. The more you worry, the less you are able to perform, and the less you are able to perform, the more anxious you get. Examples of performance anxiety are the fear of not being able to get an erection or fear of taking too long to orgasm.

9. Delayed Ejaculation

This is defined by taking a long time for a man to have an orgasm or ejaculate. The causes are varied, but can include antidepressants, masturbating in ways that are difficult to replicate during sex, a pregnancy scare, or a betrayal that triggered a fear of orgasm or intimacy.

Infidelity can cause sexual problems in a relationship.

10. Infidelity

Also known as “cheating,” infidelity is when one or both partners in a relationship break shared agreements about what they will or will not do sexually with people outside of the relationship. Infidelity can happen in monogamous or open relationships, and can cause profound feelings of hurt, abandonment, and mistrust.

11. History of Sexual Trauma

Many people have experienced some type of sexual trauma in their lives that causes them to become triggered during sex. People with this type of history often avoid sex or shut down during a sexual experience, prompting challenges in the relationship.

These are just the problems that sex coaches and therapists see in their offices most often. However, this list is not meant to be exhaustive. Couples seek out help for all of the above issues and many more.

How Do You Fix Sexual Problems In a Relationship?

As you can see, you are not alone in dealing with sexual problems in relationships. Luckily, as common as they are, they are also rarely permanent. With the right treatment – whether that be through medication, talk or somatic therapy, or training – almost all issues can be overcome.

Even in those rare instances where conventional treatment doesn’t help (such as for ED that doesn’t respond to medication), couples can have a wonderful, satisfying sex life by working around their sexual issues. After all, sex is more than just penetration – and moving past that mindset can go a long way toward a rich and fulfilling sex life.

It’s imperative to discuss sexual issues in relationships, because talking about them is the first step toward gaining awareness and finding a solution. If you’re experiencing sexual problems in your relationship, find out how a Somatica coach can help you work through these challenges and return to a happy, loving, fulfilling sex life.