Hello again, dear friend Anonymous. Welcome back to our sex talk column where readers submit questions, then we do our research and craft a story to answer as many questions as we can. We tapped Dr. Kate Balestrieri—licensed psychologist, certified sex and PACT couples therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy in Los Angeles, California—to provide her (s)expert knowledge on steamy topics (like how to teach yourself to squirt, everything you need to know about edging and rocking, if nipple orgasms are real, ways to increase your libido, sex stage fright, and more). Today she’s taking the mic in our Ask Us Anything: The Sex Edition, to answer the latest submission. The topic? How to know if it’s time for a sex detox.
I'm considering a sex detox ... how can I make the right decision? And what are the ways to get through it?
“Sex can be amazing, enriching, pleasurable, connecting, and even spiritual. It can also be confusing, annoying, distracting, disappointing, scary, or painful. When the latter is true, more often than not, sometimes the sexiest thing a person can do for themselves is to take a break from sex. Staying attuned to your own experience of sex, and to yourself in relation to the sex you’re having, can help you decide if a sex detox is right for you.”
Some Reasons to Consider a Sex Detox:
“Whether it was a toxic relationship, a breakup, an experience of trauma, an unwanted pregnancy or STI, infidelity, pain during intercourse, boredom, or something else, being sexual now feels triggering or underwhelming. Giving yourself some space to heal is imperative, and if that means not being sexual for a while, trust yourself to take a break.”
“There is nothing bad or wrong with having a big appetite for sex, no matter your gender identity. However, some people can sometimes find themselves in a situation where their libido is taking control of their life. Despite leaving a path of unwanted or unintended consequences, they have a hard time saying no to sex and may find themselves in a compulsive loop. Or, they just need to focus on other areas of life without distraction.”
To Change Their Relationship with Sex
“Over the span of a person’s life, their relationship with sex is likely to change. They may seek a period of reexamination or redefinition, and taking a break helps to clear their mind and gives them the space necessary to reflect and reenter into a new chapter with more clarity.”
This is not an inclusive list, so if you have another reason that makes sense to you, that is all the reason you need.
How to Make the Most of Your Sex Detox:
If you decide to take a break from sex for a while, there are many ways you can maximize your choice to ensure it’s meaningful.
“Give yourself an intention for the duration of your break. Perhaps a different form of self-care, to catch up on that stack of books by your nightstand, to understand yourself on a deeper level, or heal. This may be a good time to unpack your relationship to sex, and explore the values that guide your erotic truth.”
“While you don’t have to have all the answers before you start your detox, you may want to think about how much time you want or need to take. If it doesn’t feel right to set those limits, it’s OK to be more organic and trust your gut, or other parts of your body, about when you’re ready to be sexual again. Think about how you’ll know you are ready to be sexual again, so you can enter the erotic with conviction. It may be helpful to decide if your sex detox includes taking a break from partnered sex and solo sex, or only one aspect of sex.”
“Not everyone needs to know your plan, but for the people you would like to let in (maybe a partner, dating prospects, or trusted family/friends), what will you tell them? What will you say when you don’t want to share? You don’t need to justify your plan to anyone, but if you’re choosing to discuss any parts of your journey, think about what, how, and with whom you will share.”
“Taking a break from sex can open up space mentally, emotionally, and physically in your life for other things. Take up a new hobby, or dive deep into one you already have. Nurture community, and the relationships in your life. Work on that manuscript, pick up a sport, or find other ways to add pleasure, depth, focus, spontaneity, or joy to your life. Sex is a form of play for adults, so if you’re taking a break be sure to cultivate other kinds of activities that add room for texture and dimension to your life. Pro tip: keep doing those things even after you bring sex back into your life.”
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