lack of sexual desireCoaching the Person and Not the Lack of Sexual Desire

I recently had a question from a coach couple about their first couple whose presenting problem was a lack of sexual desire.  As we explored how to coach this issue, it struck me that the presenting issue wasn’t the real issue and that coaching the person and not the problem would lead to better outcomes for the couple.  Before we get into how this concept translates into good coaching for this couple, let me explain what we mean by coaching the person and not the problem.  Coach Approach Ministries has identified three levels of coaching around this concept.

  1. Coach focuses on the problem via the coach’s perspective
  2. The coach coaches the problem via the client
  3. Coach coaches the client using the problem as the starting point (Transformational coaching)

At the First Level

The coach is trying to solve the problem by asking questions that enable the coach to solve the problem.  For example, the coach may ask to have the problem described so that he can think through what needs to be done instead of allowing the client to process the problem. This kind of coaching looks a lot like consulting. The questions the coach asks show that the coach is focusing on the problem.  For example, let’s look at a problem with a boss.  Questions might look like:

  • Describe the problem with your boss.
  • What solutions have your tried? Have you thought about . . . .?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • What are the situations that make the problem worse?
  • What do you think about xyz solution?

At the Second Level

The second level represents a better coaching approach where the coach coaches the problem via the client by focusing the client on the problem.  In the case of couple coaching, the coach has the couple share their feelings and thoughts about the problem with one another, not the coach. The coach ensures active listening so speaker feels “totally understood” before the listener shares their perspective and feelings.  The coach invites the couple to see the problem more clearly and to process it in a fresh way.  This creates a safe space for the couple to come with options for action and then helps them make agreements and figure out will happen if the agreements are not implemented.  In this approach, the coach is thinking about the coaching process and questions that help the couple explore their perspectives and thinking about the problem.  Looking at the “problem with the boss’ example, questions might be:

  • How significant is this problem for you?
  • What about this is most challenging for you?
  • How would you like things to be?
  • What options can you create?  How would your hero handle this?
  • What would you like to try?  What do you think will be your boss’s most likely response?  How will you handle that?

At the Third Level

The third level is transformational where the coach coaches the client via the problem.   The “problem” is the mirror for client self-awareness and growth. The coach helps the client focus on the client by inviting the client to let the problem reveal new insights.  This allows the client to see his role in the problem and experience internal shifts in thinking and feeling about the problem. This kind of coaching is not something you force; it is an invitation.  In the hour glass model, the upper half has room to coach the person and offers the biggest opportunities for client change.  Looking at our example from this third level might generate questions like:

  • What does this problem with your boss stir up in you?
  • How are you experiencing the problem emotionally?
  • How do you wish you could experience this?
  • What does this reveal about you?
  • What has to change to experience this the way you want?
  • What new belief (value, strength, assumption, or identity) is necessary?
  • How does this change the story [reality] you’re living?

So with these levels in mind, what kind of questions might be helpful to get transformational coaching around the issue of a lack of sexual desire?  The coaches in this case started by assuming the wife lacked sexual desire, but as the couple explained the problem it became very clear that it was the husband who was the reluctant partner.  So before reading another word, what questions would you ask to create transformational coaching around the issue of a lack of sexual desire?

Coaching the Person and the Lack of Sexual Desire

As you know, coaching is an art and not a science.  So we share the following as possibilities:

  • What do you feel or think about when your wife brings up the subject of a lack of sexual desire or making love?
    • What other situations cause you to have similar feelings or thoughts?
  • How are you experiencing the thought of making love emotionally?
  • What are you telling yourself about your interest in having sex with your wife?
  • How do you wish you could experience making love?
  • What does this reveal about you?
    • What do you think might be behind these feelings or thoughts?
  • How will this likely change making love in the future?
  • What new insights do you have so far?
  • What changes would you like to see on this?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to make these changes?
    • What needs to change to go one point higher?
    • How will you go about making these changes?
    • What are your barriers to making these changes?
  • Looking at this in light of what you understand now, what would you like to do?

Depending on the response to any of these questions, the follow-on questions might take on a different direction to help the husband explore what he has just said.  This is what we call being in the moment and following the lead of the Holy Spirit.  The goal is to help the husband better understand himself.  By doing this with the wife there, she is gaining insights and also hopefully some empathy for the situation that will help her to be part of the solution rather than inadvertently contributing to the problem. These questions are all in the upper half of the hour glass with the exception of the last question that transitions to the bottom half of exploring options.  Transitioning to the bottom half allows the couple to apply transformed thinking to develop options and agreements.