How to Cope With Sexual Frustration

How to cope with sexual frustration

Verywell / Laura Porter

What Is Sexual Frustration?

Sexual frustration occurs when your needs aren't being met in the way that you want in regards to the amount and the quality of the sex that you're having. It can also come as a result of your personal feelings about your life or your body image.

Candice Cooper-Lovett, LMFT, a licensed sex therapist based in Atlanta, spoke with Verywell Mind about how she advises couples and individuals who are sexually frustrated.

While working through the emotions behind your frustrations, or even initiating the conversation with your partner about your sexual frustration may be difficult, it can certainly lead to a rewarding outcome.

Below, you can learn more about the causes of sexual frustration, and how you can talk to your partner about what you're experiencing. You'll also learn how to recognize the negative impacts of being sexually frustrated in relationships, and we'll even drop in some tips on finding a sex therapist.

Causes of Sexual Frustration

While you might immediately think of sexual frustration in the context of a relationship, it's actually been shown that sexual frustration can directly correlate with what one study called "general existential frustration." This can result from any or all of the following factors:

  • A sense of a lack of control: Essentially, sexual frustration can be a reaction to something that's not at all related to sex but rather the feeling of being out of control elsewhere in life.
  • Sexual frequency: One study even found that the amount of sex that people were having was directly correlated with their levels of sexual frustration. That said, in the context of a relationship, being sexually frustrated can be a result of one partner feeling like their needs aren't prioritized in terms of the frequency of sex and even in terms of how their partner behaves during sex.

Cooper-Lovett explained how she approaches sessions when one member of the couple is sexually frustrated.

"When speaking to someone about sexual frustration in their relationship, I start by asking them if they have disclosed their feelings to their partner," says Cooper-Lovett. "Transparency in relationships is important even if it’s hard to discuss. It’s important that their partner is aware of their frustration, which could lead to conversations that could be helpful and effective."

She also encourages the person that has expressed sexual frustration to ask their partner about how their shared sexual experiences have been for them.

How to Talk With Your Partner About Sexual Frustrations

Cooper-Lovett begins with an old adage that still rings very true: "Say what you mean, but don't say it mean."

By this, she explains that it's good for partners to feel open enough to share what's going on. However, they need to make sure that they aren't being accusatory or just plain mean in how they describe what they're feeling.

Candice Cooper-Lovett, LMFT

What’s helpful is to share from a space of wanting to be close and connecting with their partner. What are they needing from their partner and what does it do for them when they are sexually intimate?

— Candice Cooper-Lovett, LMFT

Again, she encourages people to be thoughtful and curious about what is going on with their partners. Ask genuine questions about their feelings and concerns. It may lead to you learning how you can help them out as well.

Ways Sexual Frustration Can Show Up in Relationships

Cooper-Lovett explains that couples with unexpressed sexual frustrations can start to exhibit resentment and bitterness toward their partner, which will lead to a sense of disconnection.

She advises people to look out for The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are negative communication styles that couples should be aware of. They were identified by Dr. John Gottman, a psychological researcher world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction. It's important to note if you resort to these communication tactics when talking to your partner about sex.

The Four Horsemen

  1. Criticism: Instead of expressing a complaint by explaining what's happening that you don't like, criticism is when you jump to attack mode by blaming the person's character.
  2. Contempt: This step adds to criticism by taking it a step further. If criticism attacks their character, contempt assumes moral superiority.
  3. Defensiveness: This is when you react by blaming your partner when they're asking seemingly harmless questions. This is a way of placing blame.
  4. Stonewalling: This is the typical response to contempt, and it's when one partner responds to their partner's moral superiority by shutting down completely and not responding.

If you identify with one of the above, it could be helpful to talk to a therapist to work on your communication style and how you respond to certain situations with your partner.

How to Deal With Sexual Frustration If You're Single

Sexual frustration for single people can result from feeling out of control. To help with this, Cooper-Lovett suggests that people work to find routines that help them develop a "sense of control and discipline."

"Sexual frustration can cause a lot of sexual energy buildup," says Cooper-Lovett. "Exercise, for example, can be an energy release or doing other things that can bring you pleasure outside of sexual pleasure. Meditate, and keep yourself grounded to help in dealing with sexual frustration and energy." She also notes that there's nothing wrong with self-pleasure.

How to Find a Sex Therapist

Whether you're single or in a relationship, you can seek out a sex therapist to help you work through your ideas about sex, body image, and intimacy.

  • Sort by specialty: Make sure you're looking for a therapist that specializes in these areas. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and the American College of Sexologists both offer lists of certified sex therapists.
  • Prioritize compatibility: From there, you can search for a sex therapist in the same way that you would search for a regular therapist in terms of prioritizing someone that you are compatible with.
  • Sync up on key offerings: If you're seeking a sex therapist for yourself and a partner, make sure you talk to them about factors that they find important. Also, consider basic factors like whether or not they accept your insurance or offer a sliding scale.
  • See if it's a good fit: Finally, don't feel like you have to go with the first person you meet with. Make a list of questions that focus on how they treat their patients and see how you feel when you're speaking with them.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling sexually frustrated can seem mentally all-encompassing at times, but it is something that you can get through. Never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help, whether it's from a partner or a therapist. Remember, it's important to advocate for yourself and your mental well-being—and taking control of your sex life is an essential component.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sallee, D. T., & Casciani, J. M. (1976). Relationship between sex drive and sexual frustration and purpose in lifeJournal of Clinical Psychology, 32(2), 273–275.

  2. Wright BL. The downside of sexual restraint : sexual frequency, frustration, and stressPresented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin.

  3. Lisitsa E. The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. The Gottman Institute.

By Brittany Loggins
Brittany is a health and lifestyle writer and former staffer at TODAY on NBC and CBS News. She's also contributed to dozens of magazines.