What Part Does Sex Play in Maintaining a Healthy Relationship?

The few who choose the holy bond of matrimony in today’s society still struggle with the simple act of living well.  Those who denounce marriage as simply a piece of paper, go from attraction to sexual intimacy quickly, then wonder why they can’t have a long-lasting relationship.  

Couples or partners with shaky, argumentative relationships, dwell on what’s wrong with the other person, instead of looking inward to see what part they are playing.  For most couples,  arguments are over trivial matters, like “why didn’t you put the cap back on the toothpaste” which in the grand scheme of things will not matter in a few days, weeks, or months. Think about the trivia you argue about and will it really matter a few days in the future? And if not, forget it and move on.   

Focus on “Simply Living”

In some conflictual relationships, couples dwell on the problem, constantly bringing up the past, and not allowing for open discussion where each party feels listened to. 

What is wrong with marriage today is couples don’t spend enough time simply living, enjoying each other’s company, talking, and sharing fun moments together. Instead, they become mired in what is wrong with their marriage instead of the simple act of living well, in peace, harmony and serenity. Or bury themselves in endless hours of social media to avoid being vulnerable with their partner.  

Even when there is infidelity, there is time to share experiences, games, hobbies, and playful moments where fixing the problem is not the center of attention.  There has to be time to question and explain how you both got to this point, but it doesn’t have to be the center of your universe for the rest of your life.  

Study instead how to enjoy life.  

  • Don’t take the simple wonders of nature for granted. 
  • Discover what makes you happy and do it.  
  • Become a giver rather than expecting others to fulfill all your needs. 
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt instead of judging and comparing yourself to others.   
  • Discover the art of completion; finding a project, hobby, course  or volunteer opportunity you can  do together, complete and feel good about your mutual  accomplishments.  
  • Put down your cell phone and stay off your computer and spend time with your spouse and children. How did you feel growing up when your parents ignored you or gave you no emotional support?  

Intimacy Blockers

There are eight stages of intimacy, (sex is #7), all of which are important in establishing a long-term relationship.  They include having similar interests, goals, and dreams.

Being able to talk to each other and at the same time, enjoy being apart from each other without jealousy and mistrust. Having similar beliefs, ethics, morals and values. Being able to trust one another and feel safe in your own home.  

The problem is dating today has taken on a new meaning.  Meet someone and immediately have sex with a stranger. Then wonder why you can’t keep a long-term relationship. Your partnership is rooted in only one form of intimacy.   

In my practice I see couples who have a great sex life, but the other 23 hours of the day they are fighting with each other over mundane, petty, unimportant matters.  

What blocks intimacy for couples is lack of trust, need for control, and low self-esteem. When you can provide trust for your spouse, give up having to control every situation, and boost your self-esteem, you’re ready to live a life with peace of mind and serenity, even amidst the chaos and uncertainty about the future surrounding us all.  

There is a distinct difference between healthy sex and sexual abuse and addiction. Many people think of sexual addiction as something obsessive and compulsive which happens online or outside the bedroom with other people.  But there is a common thread within the household that rears the ugly head of addiction and that is sex as an obligation. “I did this for you, you owe me sex.”  

According to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “healthy sexuality is positive and enriches our lives.  Healthy sexuality allows us to enjoy and control our sexual behavior without guilt, fear, or shame.”   

Wendy Maltz developed the CERTS model for healthy sex. It includes consent, equality, respect, trust, and safety.  Healthy sex is a natural drive of choice, an expression of love, private, respectful, mutual, safe, and enhancing of who you are. Unhealthy sex in the form of abuse or addiction is an obligation, hurtful, manipulative, exploitive, emotionally distant, and benefits only one person.  

A man comes home from work, tired, depressed, angry, and stressed out. He wants to have sex to feel better.  But his wife looks at him and says, “You’re tired, depressed, angry, and stressed out, why would I want to have sex with you?”   It can’t be a one-way street.  

It’s the difference between intensity and intimacy.  Sex addicts have an intimacy disorder. It’s easier for them to fantasize about an erotic picture online than be vulnerable enough to be intimate with their partner.  

Keeping score with sex as the “prize” is not intimacy, it’s manipulative and unsafe for the partner and simply feeds the egocentric narcissism of the addict.  

Sex plays an essential part in any marriage or relationship.  Like any other behavior, it can turn from healthy to unhealthy quickly and partners need to be prepared by setting boundaries and guidelines of what they enjoy and don’t enjoy.  

If you are experiencing intimacy issues the GoodTherapy Registry might be helpful to you. We have thousands of therapists listed with us who would love to walk with you on your journey. Find the support you need today.

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