The healthy relationship relishes the power struggle as each partner succumbs to the whims and passions of their equally eager partner.
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. But let’s try and get some clarity about our sexual needs as a couple, and try to expand our sexual connection and erotic communication with our partner. Sex can be a gateway to a deeper connection with your long-term partner.
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 sexual energy to deepen and strengthen our relationship? Or, as in the case with my marriage, is the lack of sex an indicator that things are not going well? Is your partner looking to make a change and their first tell 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?”)
1. 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.
2. 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 for them, not just receiving. 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 desire for a deeper emotional connection is not satiated.
3. Sex is a power struggle.
In a healthy relationship sex is a negotiation between two willing and eager partners. “I’m too tired,” can be an excuse or 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 you seem to be TTFS (too tired for sex) often, you might want to look at how you can simplify your life a bit, and make your sexual connection a priority in your relationship. Give yourself to the joy of sex. Good sex will give you more energy.
If the power is imbalanced, sex can be 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. The healthy power struggle is one of my desire for this vs. your desire for that. We can be flexible in our love life and give both partners a chance to lead (be dominant) and be led (submissive).
4. 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? Can you chat playfully after sex to go over the highs and near misses of the experience? If you are always listening to your partner you will always be learning what gets them excited as well as what gets them off in that crucial moment.
5. Sex is a spiritual practice.
Thomas Moore in his great book, The Soul of Sex, says this about the “spiritual connection” of having conscious 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 it might be time to have a discussion about what’s off in the rest of your relationship. Also, if your love 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 a couple’s love life goes south, the relationship is also in trouble.
Can you say what you want sexually?
- 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?
Wavering in your answers to these questions may indicate trouble ahead if you are afraid to bring them up and work together to resolve them. Monogamy is a journey. Make sure you are both working to sustain the sexual tension, sexual joy, and sexual anticipation in your relationship. If you’re not, why not? And what is it that you need to light the fire again?
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 each other’s loving arms.
Is there something missing for you? Can you ask for and receive what you want from your partner?
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image: still from The Boy Next Door starring J.Lo, creative commons usage