Rekindling Desire

with Barry McCarthy, PhD


Bad sex can destroy a loving relationship, but good sex cannot save a bad relationship. In this episode, Joe Kort speaks with guest Barry McCarthy, PhD, a clinical psychologist, certified sex therapist and author of 14 books and 100 professional articles on sexuality. The topic: rekindling desire.

Although sex should be a positive experience for couples, it often is not, Barry finds. Conflict, avoidance, lack of spontaneity, and not knowing each other’s expectations or sexual style all contribute to a power struggle that can ruin the sexual experience and the relationship. Sex is not a pass or fail experience, he explains. Men feel they “pass” if they have an erection, and women feel they “pass” if they have an orgasm. If this doesn’t happen, they believe the sexual encounter “failed.”

Too often, they think it is intercourse or nothing. They need to talk openly about sex, what they like, what pleasures them, and learn their sexual style. Shame, embarrassment, resentment and blame should never be on the table. Couples should work together as a team to minimize guilt and maximize intimacy. Be a wise couple, not an emotional couple, he urges. Barry also finds men get too caught up in having an erection. They feel if they don’t have one, they are not good enough. They see sex as power and their penis is their power. They feel it is a measure of their skill as a lover to give a woman an orgasm during intercourse. If this doesn’t happen, they often experience erectile disappointment. This thought process can be destructive for men.

In this podcast, Barry also discusses good enough sex, which replaces the pass/fail perfect intercourse model. Good enough sex affirms the multiple roles, meanings and outcomes of couple sexuality. It emphasizes variable, flexible, positive and realistic sexual responses and expectations. If the encounter does not end in intercourse, instead of panic, anxiety, apology or avoidance, the couple should celebrate the pleasure they experienced.