Being able to consummate a relationship and have healthy, satisfying sex is vital to the health of an intimate relationship. Sex is for building wellbeing and connection as well as for procreation. When sex doesn’t work and you can't consummate it's is very painful emotionally and it can be very destructive to the relationship and to your own sense of self-worth.
Almost everyone has a fantasy at some stage of their lives about having a beautiful wedding. A wonderful celebration with everyone there just to honor their happiness and joy. A day in which they marry the person of their dreams and start a lifetime of endless happiness and love. This is such a beautiful fairy tale story filled with childhood hopefulness and optimism. Then the big day arrives and the whole thing unfolds very differently from the fantasy. This can be extremely heart wrenching and can create bitter disappointment. It's not that weddings aren’t wonderful or that marriage isn’t awesome, it's that when we have unrealistic expectations we often set ourselves up for terrible disappointment and sadness. Weddings are real and so is marriage and that means they have good parts and not so good parts. They have thorns as well as rose petals.
One of the most disappointing parts of a wedding can be the first night, especially if you are a virgin bride or groom and have waited for that perfect night to consummate your love and your relationship. This hope can be dashed horribly to the ground if one or other partner, or even both partners has put too much pressure on this being incredible, in their minds. Sometimes women’s and men’s bodies just won’t co-operate with the plan. The hope, the vision and the pressure can make the autonomic nervous system get ready for fight, flight and freeze. In this state, the sexual organs can't respond appropriately. You can easily understand this, if you understand that the brain’s job is to keep you alive . If the brain and therefore the body is prepared for an emergency, then it can't allow you to be having sex, which requires your focus and absolute relaxation, because then you would be unable to protect and defend yourself from whatever emergency was about to occur. You need to be able to relax to have sex and you need to feel safe to allow consummation to occur.
What lands up happening, sadly too often, is that the first sexual encounter is disappointing. Maybe even worse, consummation doesn’t happen. Either the man can’t get an erection, because he is putting too much pressure on himself to perform and is afraid, he may not get it quite right, his penis responds by going flaccid. Or, the woman finds she tightens up in her pelvic floor muscles and her vaginal opening becomes like a wall instead of an open entry point. She may experience pain and find that it is simply too painful to allow her husband to penetrate her, or she may feel pain and then retreat and shut down and start to dread sex instead of awakening to the wonder of it.
Sex is hard to talk about. Often, we feel ashamed or embarrassed when we need to talk about it and so we sweep it under the carpet and build a wall around the subject. Sometimes in addition to avoiding talking about it, we avoid thinking about it as well, driving it underground and placing it in the darkest places within ourselves. While this is so human and so easy to understand, it is what I call ‘fear avoidance behavior.’ Avoiding what we fear usually makes us get far more of what we fear, rather than helping us get less of it, in the long run. We avoid talking about our disappointing sexual experiences, because we feel afraid of feeling ashamed and embarrassed and in the end the shame and embarrassment get bigger and bigger.
When we sweep things like problems with sex under the carpet, we land up being unable to walk because there is so much under the carpet. Or if you prefer, there is a big elephant in the room and you can't move, because it lands up taking up all the space.