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February 23, 2018

Sex & Depression

Episode 47

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Jess is joined by licensed psychotherapist Miyume McKinley who answers listener questions about sex and depression. Tune in for insights on how to talk to your partner, show support and prioritize self-care when dealing with depression.

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Here’s a summary of the advice offered in this podcast:

If you’re managing depression:

  1. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. Your sex life and your partner can wait. I suggest you address the depression first with your mental health professional and then work on the sex itself.
  2. But if sex is going to take a backseat and you have a partner, you need to communicate this to them so that they understand why perhaps you’re not in the mood for sex. It may seem obvious to you that it’s the depression that’s getting in the way, but it may not be obvious to them. So tell them — in no uncertain terms that you’re taking care of yourself and it’s not personal. It doesn’t mean you’re not attracted to them and it doesn’t mean that sex isn’t a priority or won’t be moving forward, but right now you’re working on something else. And this isn’t a one-time conversation; you do have to keep checking in so that sex or the absence thereof doesn’t become an elephant in the room.
  3. Cut sex into pieces. Figure out what you like about sex most or perhaps that requires the least effort and do that — maybe you just want a quick orgasm and not the whole production. That’s fine. Do that and if you have a partner let them know. Or maybe you don’t want sex, but you’re up for making out, that’s cool too. Just because you’re not having “the sex” that you’re used to having doesn’t mean you can’t have some form of sex and all of the related benefits.
  4. Be a little more selfish. I find that my clients tend to be givers. And though it may sound like a good thing, learning to be a taker is just as important as being a giver. As a taker, you learn to show appreciation. And as a taker, you learn to be more present and experience sex as opposed to just going through the motions as a performer. If there is one piece of sex advice I’d like to spread throughout 2018, it’s to be more selfish in bed. We’ve shifted from a culture of sexual gratification to a culture of sexual performance and it’s making sex less exciting and pleasurable in many cases. So, if you’re depressed and exhausted, sleep deprived, anxious, stressed or otherwise not in the mood, you can still ask your partner to help put you in the mood. You can ask them to service you. You can ask them to grab a toy or use their hands with lube or use their mouth and let them take care of you. You’re not a burden and you deserve a lover who helps to reinforce this reality.

If your partner is dealing with depression:

  • Tell them when you’re available for support and tell them when you’re not. If you’re going to be busy, away or distracted, let your partner know so that if you’re not available they won’t take it personally and feel rejected and uncared for. A simple, I love you and I want to support you, but I’m studying for a big exam this week so I won’t be around as much
  • Don’t give advice. Ask them what they need. And don’t wait until they’re at their lowest point to ask. It can be more helpful to chat on a good day about what they might need when they’re at a lower point. So wait for that good day and initiate the conversation. It can be hard to tell someone else what you need when you’re feeling down, unworthy, helpless and hopeless, so look for the moments when they’re not feeling like this to ask them for specific strategies you can employ when they do feel down.
  • Express your support in multiple ways — with words, actions, physical affection. It’s helpful to know their love language but if you can be trilingual it’s even better.
  • When it comes to sex, offer reassurance. Sasha asks about her boyfriend and I think it would help to express your attraction and desire and also express an understanding that he may not always be in the mood. And when the gender roles contradict cultural convention, it can add another layer of complexity. Norms of toxic masculinity suggest that men should want sex, when in fact, they don’t always want it and when they say no or want to say no, it can feel emasculating, so you can be a part of the process of making him feel sexy and confident and desired regardless of whether or not you’re having sex on any given day — or week.

This podcast episode is brought to you by Desire Resorts