Sex On The Rocks

“Sex On The Rocks: When passion cools in long term relationships” with Anne Power on Saturday 23rd June 2018

What’s going on when one partner loses interest in sex?
What’s going on in infidelity – can it be mended?
How does the internet impact on relationships?

This day is designed for individual therapists who want to work with the couple in mind as well as for couple counsellors and therapists who would value a space to think more about these issues. The focus is specifically on the sexual relationship in a long term couple – gay or straight. There will be a chance to think about our own clients who are in established couple relationships and experiencing disappointment around sex.

Often the loss of desire is a factor of quite normal life events and the growth of the relationship out of an early idealising stage. Was the sex the couple were having worth having? It may be painful to reflect and own that there have been many years when sex was routine and had little meaning.

Clients may feel deskilled when we first help them speak about sex, they may feel they lack fluency and there may be wish to hold onto a myth – that everything was fine until just one thing went wrong. When a couple are able to build a meaningful sexual narrative it will often tell of initial amazing passionate sex, which sometimes gradually, but often quite abruptly, fell away. Having babies is one common hazard. When low sexual self-confidence, tension in the relationship and lack of fluency in speaking about sex, are added to this landscape, it becomes hard for the couple to repair. If a therapist can offer careful enquiry without being experienced as intrusive or shaming, this will help to foster the client’s own curiosity and capacity to reflect.

In other couples the sexual relationship founders following an infidelity. The immediate accessibility of sex on the internet can throw up challenges for a couple even if there is not a question of actual addiction which probably affects about one in ten of those who use the net for sex.

Anne will use some Powerpoint, discussion and focused exercises to help us address these questions:

What constitutes infidelity?
Which couples have most hope of repairing after an affair?
How might non-addictive use of the internet impact?
How might we appropriately explore porn use with a client?
How do we see gender impacting on these issues?

This will be a day to address these questions, recognising that clients often don’t speak readily about sex and that as therapists we often don’t feel well equipped to do so.

We will use attachment theory to explore the different strands in the couple bond, and psychodynamic theory to consider the unconscious fit which attracts two lovers in the first place.

Given that we are all meant to be ‘cool’ about sex, but few of us actually are, the subject can be difficult for therapists as well as clients. So we’ll take some time to reflect on how sex has been handled in our own family cultures and to think about how we approach these conversations with clients.

anne powerAnne Power is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and trained at The Bowlby Centre, WPF and Relate.

She is a visiting lecturer at Regents University London and has a private practice in central London, with couples, individuals and supervisees. Previously she worked at the Terrence Higgins Trust and in the NHS.

Her book, Forced Endings in Psychotherapy (Routledge, 2015), explores the process of closing a practice for retirement or other reasons. She is currently working on a book which will reflect on the stories of couples who met through romance, arranged marriage or a dating website.


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