Sexual health problems within a relationship are very complex to sort out. It helps to have a sort of matrix or template you can overlay on any particular issue. This may help you pinpoint the real issue of concern more accurately. The six principles of a healthy sexual relationships I offer here are meant to serve in that capacity. They are taken from Doug Braun-Harvey’s work from the Harvey Institute in San Diego, California (see resources below).
Six Principles Of A Sexual Health Approach
Healthy sexuality means living in congruence with these six principles. It is a balance between safety and pleasure. Safety means having good boundaries, and pleasure is the existential enjoyment of our own sexual pleasure while ensuring the rights of others.
- Protection against HIV/STI’s/Unwanted pregnancy
- Shared values
- Pleasure—shared and/or singular
The Backbone Of All Six Principles
Each of these principals involves the overarching and crucial backbone of successful self differentiation. Healthy self differentiation means you have a clear understanding of your own values, wishes, desires, preferences—and their opposites—and that you can clearly communicate those to your partner, while holding steady if and when you experience their possible emotional blowback. This is not easy, but again, it is crucial in healthy relationships. The concept of self differentiation cuts across every aspect of your relationship: sex, parenting, religion, financial, family relationships and their many presentations including holidays, in-laws, blended families, visits with, gift giving, etc. It is always a work in progress requiring awareness and courage. Putting this into practice will deepen your relationships, and make them more meaningful.
A Word On Consent
Consent is the principle that is universally found in every culture as a marker of good sexual health. The definitions of consent based on culture may vary wildly, but every government, every culture, and every religion consider it important. The World Health Organization, the National Institute Of Health, the Surgeon General, and AASECT (American Association Of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists) all recognize the value and importance of consent. The #metoo movement is further evidence of the importance of consent.
When you are in a values conflict with your partner, sometimes if you jump to label it a problem, you are both “rescued” from resolving the true conflict. Let’s say for example, there is an erotic conflict is that one partner believes the other watches too much por – nography. At first, the watcher may emotionally injure the other, get called out for it, and then have it labeled a problem. This avoids the original conflict—a difference in values. Perhaps the real issue is a desire differential between the partners, the single most common sexual issue between couples. But now one partner has been labeled “the problem” and worse, has accepted this label, which does nothing to move the relationship towards a healthier resolution.
Your Sexual Health Is Intertwined
Your sexual health is inextricably intertwined with your physical, mental and spiritual health. If one aspect is suffering, all will. Avoidance will result in short term gain only, with a high long-term cost to your relationship. If you would like some help with sorting out any concerns about your sexual health, call me or contact me here. You may also schedule online by clicking on the blue button on my homepage at www.pagerutledge.com.
Intimacy & Desire by Dr. David Schnarch, 2009
The Harvey Institute, San Diego, CA.
Treating Out Of Control Sexual Behavior by Doug Braun-Harvey, 2015
Coping With Premature Ejaculation by Metz and McCarthy, 2003
Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel, 2006