Psychosexual therapist, presenter and author Lohani Noor joins Happiful’s podcast to talk about sexual intimacy and the impact the past year has had on our closest relationships
Lohani Noor is one of Happiful’s favourite people to talk to when it comes to the subject of sexual intimacy. We recognise that it's not always an easy topic to start a discussion around, however we know that many people have been searching for support and ways to improve intimacy in their relationships over the past 12 months.
Lohani is a psychotherapist, a psychosexual therapist, presenter (most recently BBC’s Sex on the Couch) and the author of 12 Steps to Sexual Connection. On I am. I have - How it Helps she shares her thoughts on the impact of the pandemic, communication, relationships without penetrative sex and re-framing intimacy.
The lockdown lowdown
In 2020, during the first lockdown, Lohani wrote and released an audio book 12 Steps to Sexual Connection to help people address changes in their relationships.
“I wanted to open up the conversation about sex a little bit more,” Lohani shares. “I wanted to bring it away from sex in some ways because by the time a couple comes to therapy and the problem is in their sexual function, so much has already happened in the relationship. We need to look at that first.
“Sex is rarely just about sex,” she continues. “Sex is a product of many, many other dynamics in a relationship.”
Reflecting on the huge increase in people searching for support with sexual intimacy, Lohani notes that it's totally understandable the past year has had a detrimental impact on our personal relationships.
“It’s been very traumatic, and what we know is that our natural traumatic response is to split into different parts. We go to flight, fright, fight, submit or attach. If we think that we all did this when lockdown first happened, and then what that might mean in terms of our relationships its really significant.
“If you went to flight mode, you may want to get away and be on your own, if you moved to attach mode then you might have wanted to make a strong connection and be closer to someone.”
“This means that you might cling to your partner, or you might want to get away from them. So if there are any problems in the relationship already, or if we have different attachment styles then these feelings will all be heightened.”
The pressure in partnerships
Being isolated with your partner for any period of time can bring about issues regardless, Lohani explains.“We can't get everything we need from one person, it's impossible! That would put ourselves and our partners under extreme pressure.
We need something different, we need to feel fresh, alive and stimulated. We need our partner to go away and miss them.
“In terms of the sexual dynamics, in order to feel sexual, sometimes we need variety. We need something different, we need to feel fresh, alive and stimulated. We need our partner to go away and miss them. We need them to come home and have some interesting conversation. We need to see them with fresh eyes and not perpetually in their pyjamas!”
Lohani explains that the mundanity of lockdown can really impact the way we view each other, and that it's important to find different and creative ways to stimulate our partners.
Share don't compare
Answering some of the questions frequently asked on Counselling Directory, Lohani explains that there are many ways to consider intimacy and communication is key in all scenarios. If a couple are struggling with this, a therapist can help - and the therapist's client is the relationship, rather than any individual.
Penetration is not the final destination!
Lohani is emphatic about people living their lives and experiencing their relationships and intimacy in the way that they want to and are comfortable with. There is no 'right way', she says, to have sex and be intimate and penetration doesn't always have to be part of the equation.
You can have a relationship in anyway you want! The idea that it has to involve penetrative sex is ridiculous
“You can have a relationship in any way you want! The idea that it has to involve penetrative sex is ridiculous. Lots of couples don't have penetrative sex at all. Some employ mutual masturbation and they are quite happy with that.”
There's been an increase, Lohani shares, of young women coming to her to talk about vaginismus in which case taking penetration off the agenda altogether can be a great route to consider.“Someone experiencing vaginismus might still want to enjoy sex, but can't tolerate penetration and feels its too difficult to overcome, so the couple learns to have sexual excitement and experiences that don't involve penetration and that works well.”
More than anything, Lohani is keen to take the pressure and loaded expectation away when it comes to sexual intimacy, and helping couples to avoid the trap of believing that they need to be having performative 'exciting' sex for it to be a valid experience.
“We need to change the narrative. There's something incredibly beautiful about the ordinary, the average and the everyday. It's like going home.”
To find the right therapist for your needs, visit Counselling Directory