What you need to know:
- Sexual satisfaction is a reflection of the quality of life and general wellbeing; it is a pointer to self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth.
- This implies that when circumstances of life change, like it did during Covid-19, sexual satisfaction is likely to change too
Jorum and his wife Rodah was the last couple I attended to in 2020 before breaking off for the festive season. The two had been married for nine years and had three children. They were both in their late thirties. They came to the Sexology Clinic with a complaint of loss of interest in sex.
"We are frustrated, nothing is exciting anymore," Jorum reported.
"I am tired, not sure exactly what I want, and bored," Rodah quipped.
After a detailed medical, social, and psychological assessment I concluded that the couple was suffering from the loss of sexual satisfaction. There are two aspects of sex that need to work well for satisfaction to be realised: physical and emotional aspects. The physical involves foreplay and penetrative sexual experiences. If one is unable to have satisfactory foreplay the rest of the process loses the flavour. Sometimes foreplay goes well but penetrative sex does not flow to the end and orgasm fails. All this may make the physical act unsatisfactory.
"I am not sure when I last got an orgasm," Rodah noted.
Emotional satisfaction, on the other hand, is an expression of comfort with your sex partner. If there are hard feelings and conflicts in the relationship sex fails to be exciting.
"I think the inability to enjoy sex is what is bringing emotional disconnection and conflict in our relationship," Rodah said. I agreed with her since sexual challenges do cause relationship tensions and vice versa.
The root cause
What this couple needed, however, was to get to the root cause of their dissatisfaction. I especially wanted to understand how life had been for them as a family. It is known that sexual satisfaction is a reflection of the quality of life and general wellbeing; it is a pointer to self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. This implies that when circumstances of life change, sexual satisfaction is likely to change too and changes at the family level are most important.
"Covid-19 has not made our lives easy," Jorum said, "I lost my job, Rodah has now become the breadwinner in the family and this makes me feel worthless and useless," he added.
"I am doing my best to support the family," Rodah said, "the money is not enough and I have to support my ailing mum too."
I realised that due to these life pressures, the duo was always on edge. They had one conflict after another on trivial issues. They no longer paid attention to the intimacy needs of each other. The relationship was on a knife-edge and emotional satisfaction was impossible.
"What you are going through may have changed your perception of each other and shaken the very foundation on which your marriage is founded: trust and belief in each other," I summed it all up.
"I do not know how to handle my husband anymore, everything ends in a harsh exchange of words, I feel he no longer cares!" she said, Jorum remained mum, his gaze fixed to the horizon.
And so we agreed: their sexual boredom was a reflection of the health of their relationship, waning self-acceptance, confidence and pride, and a distortion of perception of the partner.
Jorum and Rodah were exhibiting what has been experienced the world over with Covid-19. In one study done in Italy to find out how Covid-19 was impacting people's lives, it was found that sexual problems were on the rise and correlated with sexual quality. The root cause of the problem was stress arising from the pandemic restrictions. Similarly, Chinese men were found to have increased rates of erection failure due to the socio-economic stress of Covid-19.
"These difficult experiences have also impacted our sexuality in Kenya," I explained.
"So you mean I and Rodah are not alone in this?" Jorum asked to which I nodded and added that what couples needed in these unusual times is psychological support, couple counseling, and sex therapy.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 control measures and treatment have not extended to those deeply personal experiences at the family level and many marriages could be on the verge of disintegrating. The step that Jorum and Rodah took: seeking professional help to adapt to the new normal, is what every family needs to survive these unusual times.