Self Esteem and Sex

by Matthew
(Capitola, CA, USA)

My girlfriend has self esteem issues so strong that she is only comfortable having sex in the missionary position. When I try somthing as simple as having her on top, she refuses, saying it makes her uncomfortable & I lose the mood for sex. Can you make any suggestions for what we need to do to work on this?

Ben's Answer:

Sexual intimacy is where our personal issues become most obvious. Especially when it comes to feelings of shame, (low self-esteem), as well as many other issues, like power and control. Doing what is uncomfortable or unfamiliar, can be a way to grow and expand your sense of freedom and self-identity, but you have to respect your own boundaries, or it will just make things worse. Communication is the key to developing intimacy. And real intimacy is about much more than just physical sex. It's about emotional connection and trust. So I suggest you talk about "intimacy" between you, in terms of feelings and heart-to-heart connection (rather than focus on sex as the problem). The sexual rut you are in is only a symptom. So if you pressure her about that, or focus on your frustration about not getting what you want sexually, you may only cause your girlfriend to feel more shame and inadequacy - and perhaps resentment towards you. She'll just feel controlled and used.

If you both look at these limitations as a symbol of the intimacy (in the broadest sense) between you, and talk about that, then things may start to change. Communication is important both in and out of the bedroom. Going slowly and respecting each other's feelings and boundaries is a way to build trust. It's also healthy to challenge and confront one another. Just do it with love and respect, and without judgment.

If you hit a wall in your ability to communicate with each other about these things, then seeing a couple's therapist could be a great way to create a more comfortable space to have that kind of dialog.

Meridian Tapping/EFT can be another excellent way to quickly work through these sorts of self-esteem issues, fears, and any past traumas that may be unresolved (which is one of the most common reasons for intimacy and sexuality issues).

Best Wishes,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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