5 Essential Truths About Sex and the State of Your Relationship

5 Essential Truths About Sex and the State of Your Relationship

The healthy relationship relishes the power struggle as each partner succumbs to the whims and passions of their equally eager partner.

+++ scene from a marriage coming apart +++

And I thought, getting a vasectomy, during the marriage to the mother of my kids, was going to be a great and liberating thing. And it’s true we had some of the most enjoyable sex ever within the first 90 days after getting my vasectomy. But the sexual energy did not last. And our sexual renaissance was ultimately unsuccessful. While I got my body in a position to enjoy my wife sexually without the chance for procreation, she decided that there were greener pastures elsewhere in her future.


What’s all this about sex?

Sex is an amazingly powerful indicator about the state of a relationship. If you aren’t having sex, well… What’s wrong? If you are having sex but it’s not fulfilling and you’re thinking of straying or have the need to “spice things up a bit,” what are you saying about the state of the relationship? Yes, the bedroom is important, but it’s not everything.

What it is, as we grow in a relationship over time, is a challenge. Can we remain connected sexually? Can we commit to monogamy and make that our joy and spice? Can we look at other beautiful people on the running trail and desire them without imagining an exit from our primary relationship? Can we use the sexual energy to deepen and strengthen the overall relationship? Or, as in the case with my marriage, is sex an indicator that things are not going well, that the other person is looking to make a change and their first step along this solo-trajectory is slowing or stopping sex altogether?

Let’s look at the 5 Essential Truths About Sex and the State of Your Relationship. (Alternatively, “Is your sex life telling you something is out of balance in your relationship?”)

Sex is a basic need. It’s right there in Maslow’s hierarchy as part of survival. As animals, we crave touch, the warmth of a partner, and sexual connection, build up and release. While the basics of anatomy and physiology can be handled solo, the bonding and connecting that we “animals” crave is only possible with another person.

Sex is a challenge. Staying close and open with your partner (before, during, and after sex) is an active process. If during sex, your partner is constantly checking out, daydreaming, fantasizing about another person, there are issues that need to be dealt with. A connected sexual partner is as interested in your pleasure as theirs. And giving is also pleasurable them. Sex is a joy, not a chore. When sex is closed down or disconnected it’s more like masturbation. It’s nice for the release, but the “animal hunger” is not satiated.

Sex is a power struggle. In a healthy relationship sex is a negotiation between two willing and eager partners. “I’m too tired,” is an excuse and an exit from maintaining a close relationship. Yes, you may be tired, but it’s your part of the obligation to be fully alive and take responsibility for your own energy and joie de vivre. If the power is imbalanced, sex is used as a reward or punishment system between a couple. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. The healthy relationship relishes the power struggle as each partner succumbs to the whims and passions of their equally eager partner.

Sex should be fun. Sometimes sex is not fun. What does that indicate about the state of the relationship? Is sex a mutually enjoyable activity? Do both partners share in the process of making love together: foreplay, contact, ecstasy, and recovery? How can you communicate what would make sex better for you, BEFORE you begin seeking a different thrill/partner/connection?

Sex is a spiritual practice. Thomas Moore in his great book, The Soul of Sex, says this about the “spiritual connection” possible through sex with another person.

We have a habit of talking about sex as merely physical, and yet nothing has more soul. Sex takes us into a world of intense passions, sensual touch, exciting fantasies, many levels of meaning, and subtle emotions. It makes the imagination come alive with fantasy, reverie, and memory. Even if the sex is loveless, empty, or manipulative, still it has strong repercussions in the soul, and even bad sexual experiences leave lasting, haunting impressions. – Thomas Moore, The Soul of Sex.

If you are not connecting with your partner sexually on a regular basis, and if those connections are less than joyful, listen to what your soul, your heart, and your “needs” are telling you. Sex is a mirror on the status of the connection between two people. Fundamentally, when the sex goes south, so goes the relationship.

Are you sexually fulfilled in your relationship? Can you make a request of your partner, to help get you closer, more excited about sex?Are there compromises are you willing to accept about sex as you move forward in the relationship? Do you have sexual needs that are essential for your happiness? Can you get those needs met with this partner alone? Any wavering in your answers to these questions may indicate trouble ahead for the relationship.

Sex is like the centering active of a relationship. You balance the power, you meet each other’s needs, you both experience a soulful bliss together, and you rest in the loving arms of your mate.

Is there something missing for you? Can you ask for and receive what you want from your partner?

John McElhenney
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image: still from The Boy Next Door starring J.Lo, creative commons usage

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