The Neurobiology of Sex

Published on October 20, 2014

In Dr Pat Love’s latest article for Psychotherapy Networker, the researcher and couple’s specialist takes a look at how brain chemistry may lie at the heart of what makes or breaks sexual intimacy in relationships. In it, she highlights three significant points around the neurobiology of sex : (1) How understanding that passion is influenced by chemical releases in the brain is key in reducing shame and insecurity when sex isn’t working in a relationship . (2) That honesty about our sexual desires with our partners promotes satisfaction in the bedroom and (3) That you can , with the right tools and awareness, begin to revamp your sexual relationship with your partner if you want to.

What's uplifting here, especially for couples who find themselves in a rut when it comes to their sex life, is that you can access more hope in the knowledge that you do in fact have the power you have to transform this, if you look at the brain biology of behind sex. Beginning to understand how our brains become attuned to each other when we experience attraction, releasing chemicals which have amphetamine-like effects , holds clues for couples looking to create long-lasting sexual satisfaction in their relationship. Says Love : “The provocative core of new research is this: each of us approaches our erotic encounters already primed by a premixed neurochemical and hormonal “cocktail” that influences both the strength and staying power of sexual passion. ” On one level, this sequence of chemical reactions in the brain is connected with openness , a willingness to take risks and also novelty. All of which are the usual components of a new relationship, but become less common as the relationship progresses. Pat Love suggests that we can recreate the contexts for triggering the same chemical response in the brain by remaining open to listening to our partner’s preferences when it comes to their optimum emotional-sexual experience. While these may be different from our own, we can learn to to embrace them as being just as valid – and it is this that Love believes, lies at the heart of couples who successfully sustain their sexual desire for each other across time.

She suggests that through this mutual discovery, couples develop a ” budding sense of mutual intimacy and trust that begins to energize both erotic and emotional connection.” As part of this process, individuals are challenged to explore and express their deeper truths when it comes to sex and this can be a big ask for some. Therapy can be helpful in providing guidance and structure with this , helping couples to feel safe to communicate and be open to each other’s innermost desires in session.

In therapy , we ask our clients to go on a journey with us and at many points to take huge risks. Love points to the importance of creating a safe space for clients to do this – and more, the absolute essentiality of them being open and willing to take these risks if they want change to occur. To start healing couple’s sex lives, she advocates what she is fondly calling ‘Desire Education’ – She says ” If we’re serious about trying to stem the tide of marital and family misery in this culture, our clients’ most torturous questions about their intimate relationships will require arduous discussions about choice and responsibility, as well as about the proclivities of neurons and hormones. Our body chemistry counts—much more than we ever imagined.” For more on how to re-boot your sex-life and deepen intimacy in your relationship, contact Anoushka at 

References, by Dr Pat Love (2014) for Psychotherapy Networker Magazine.

Category(s):Marital Counseling, Relationships & Marriage, Sexual Problems / Sex Therapy

Written by:

Anoushka Beh

Anoushka Beh, MSc (MFT), BSc Hons)(UK), is a Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach.

In an integrated approach, she combines her clinical expertise with various techniques including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), IFS (Internal Family Systems) techniques , Guided Visualization, EET (Emotional Empowerment Technique) and Mindfulness-based techniques.

With over a decade of experience, Anoushka's current work with clients is informed by a number of fields, including marriage and family therapy, developmental psychology, brain-based approaches and energy psychology. She aims to help clients transform times of crisis and challenge into an opportunities for self growth and true empowerment. She believes in providing clients with effective healing, enduring change and in the importance of not just responding to symptoms, but treating the root cause.

Anoushka Beh belongs to Abehpsych Counselling Services in Singapore