Marilyn Monroe once said “Sex is a part of nature and I go along with nature”. It is funny how honest she was and yet why do so many of us often try to fight with nature?
Have you ever wondered why we only talk about embracing “marriage”, “parenthood”, “work”, “home” but rarely about embracing Sex?
In a relationship, sex and physical intimacy play an important role and over the years, it has come to a place where both men and women desire sex. However, many of us still feel uncomfortable exploring sex in relationships or even talking about it; we tend to put it on the backburner.
Why do We not give Importance to Sex in Relationships?
Even though India is the birthplace of Kama Sutra, due to various religious and cultural influences, we consider sex as “dirty” and as a “taboo”. From a young age, we have been shushed about asking questions about sex or sexuality. Some of us learn to see it as a weakness, some as just a means of procreation and some hold it very close to their morals. So, when we enter relationships, we do find it difficult to acknowledge and accept this basic need. We find it tough to let go of inhibitions and enjoy sex.
In a relationship, we tend to tiptoe around sex as compared to exploring sex with our partners in a healthy manner. People usually give various reasons or excuses or for not having sex or “enough” sex. It can vary from work pressure, to having no time due to a busy schedule, children taking priority or fatigue. However, when we ignore sex, we begin to ignore our physical and emotional needs, and in some way, the needs of the relationships as well. We forget to view sex as something that is capable of making us feel a range of emotions from pleasure to warmth to a sense of being connected with our partner.
The Importance of Sex in Relationships:
Besides procreation and the various health benefits of sex that we are aware of, sex is also integral to the emotional space in a relationship. Studies have repeatedly shown that couples who report higher levels of relationship satisfaction also report having good sex lives. Not having sex when one wants to or not being able to communicate about needs makes people unhappy- causing feelings of frustration, anger, hurt, guilt, cynicism, insecurity and low self-esteem. This sense of unhappiness or low satisfaction can seep into other aspects of your relationship and life as well.
It is understandable that there is a lot of pressure and very little room for individuality. Hence, a lot of our physical and emotional needs tend to get shut down. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not there. If not addressed, they will find unhealthy ways of surfacing.
Can we be honest and open with our partners about our likes and dislikes? Will we feel ashamed and guilty on the basis of sexual needs and curiosities? Will we feel comfortable to discuss these elements with our partners?
If two people can communicate honestly about their needs (their most intimate ones) then, they can trust each other to honour these thoughts/fantasies. Problems arise when partners are afraid to talk to each other honestly which leads to secrecy, lying and fulfilling our very natural needs “elsewhere”. Over a period of time, not only does the frequency of intercourse decline but so does the kissing, hugging and touching. It affects how close and connected we feel to our partners.
“Even though we rarely view it in this way, sex is also a form of communication with our partners; physical and emotional intimacy are deeply interlinked. And thus essential in the growth and nourishment of the relationship.”
How can we Embrace Sex in Relationships?
Connecting: As a couple, here are certain things that you can do to embrace and explore sex in your relationship:
Make Sex a Priority –
Firstly, prioritize physical intimacy. Speak to each other, discuss where you feel neglected and decide to make time for sex (or to even talk about sex). Also, a very crucial element to keep in mind is that sexual satisfaction is not about the frequency.
Make a Date Night for Sex –
Sex provides an important time-out from the pressures of our daily humdrum routine and allows us to experience a different level of affection, vulnerability and involvement with our partners. Pick a specific day in the week or fortnight and spend some time with each other. It always helps to make this date night a little interesting depending on what your partner and you like and want.
Break one of your Prohibitions –
Rules are good but sometimes breaking them might give you a different feeling of freedom. Be spontaneous and challenge a mental block.
Stay Connected –
To keep a relationship from becoming stagnant, you have to communicate. This sounds obvious and many of us believe that it is the most important thing but yet we seem to de-value it. Share your thoughts, feelings, inhibitions and fantasies with each other. Try and be honest and caring in your approach.
Making Small Gestures of Affection-
Touching, hugging, holding hands and any other kinds of physical comfort are as much a part of a fulfilling sex life and help to build closeness.
Remember, there is No “Right Way” for someone to love you-
Your partner might express their love differently from you. Try and be open to their way of expressing, keeping in mind that their feelings are as real and genuine as yours.
Reflecting: Sometimes, the reason why you are not able to connect with your partner through sex might be deeper. It might help to reflect on the following areas:
Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?-
Accepting and embracing the joy of sex starts with us being comfortable in our own skin. We must feel comfortable with the way we look, with our bodies and with our intimate needs. Once we feel at ease in our skin, we will not be as afraid of being judged, and will be able to let our guard down. It will become easier to be honest with each other and this will in turn enhance both emotional and physical intimacy.
Do you and your partner tend to blame each other?-
Sometimes, in a relationship, you can have many conflicting needs. Frustration and feelings of hurt can build up if you feel that your partner does not understand your sexual needs. At this point, it becomes easy to blame each other. Try to avoid the blame game by either taking a time-out or by giving each other turns to talk and really listening. This reduces the pressure on the relationship.
Do you feel that other unresolved emotions or issues are interfering with your sex life?-
You could be feeling fearful, guilty, angry or anxious about other conflicts in the relationship. Stress and frustration from different areas of your life such as work or parenting might spill over, creating blocks and difficulties in your sex life. It is important to become aware of these emotions and how and why they are playing out in your sexual relationship. You might realize that these emotional concerns are long-standing and severe in nature. Then, it would help to first work on these areas keeping them from becoming enmeshed with sex.
Sex can provide a beautiful space to share, explore and connect with your partner. However, if you do find yourself overwhelmed and struggling to cope with certain issues, do not hesitate to consult a sex therapist. A sex therapist will help you and your partner work through these issues bringing into focus each of your needs in the relationship.
Moreover, remember to not feel guilty about this. Look at yourself kindly and ask yourself- how you really feel. These questions are worth exploring. Spend some time reflecting on them and decide how you would want to approach this.
Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and feedback about our blog. We would be glad to hear you out and answer any questions that you might have.
Image Credit: Emiliano Horcada
(This article has been authored by Nandita Sarma, a psychologist at Inner Space. She works with individual and relationship difficulties at the center. )