In relationship counselling we talk about everything to do with relationships. That includes sexual intimacy. It is a topic that some couples are comfortable to talk about openly, but many feel awkward with. In terms of relationship counselling, it is completely normal, and we address this as any other part of relationship work.
For those who haven’t worked with me as part of a couple, the first session is very much an exploration of the relationship and every aspect that impacts the health of the relationship. I get an overall view of what is working well and what areas of the relationship require some attention to create a healthy relationship. I ask questions about communication, conflict, time spent, personal time, all sorts of things. Then I ask about sexual intimacy. Are you having sex? Is it good for you both? Is it meeting your needs? Occasionally couples will respond saying “yes”! This response is quite rare as sexual intimacy is usually one of the first things in a relationship that starts to decline when the relationship is neglected or has problems.
For most people, they answer that it either isn’t working at all or it isn’t meeting the needs of one person. Most often the male in a heterosexual relationship, but not always. In same sex relationships, usually one partner is also feeling that it isn’t meeting their needs whilst the other is happy enough.
When the sexual intimacy is not good for either, it tends to be more accepted as it isn’t playing a role in the dissatisfaction of the relationship. When it is just one partner, then the problem is magnified for both.
Typically, and I am generalising here, one person will feel that they are not loved, not good enough, not valued, not made a priority or some other negative emotion, if they feel the sex is either not enough, or not wanted by the other party. Duty sex if you will.
The other person tends to feel nagged, pressured, not good enough and not valued for what they do give to the relationship. Sometimes they will feel that everything is about sex.
The reality is that both people still love each other and the reasons underlying the loss of sexual intimacy usually have nothing to do with love, or the lack of. It is not about being not good enough, not attractive enough or not worth it.
Similarly, for the person not wanting sex, it isn’t that your only value is sex, it isn’t that your partner is obsessed, it isn’t that what you do elsewhere in the relationship is not of value.
A loss of sexual intimacy can be incredibly hurtful and very damaging in a relationship, unless both parties understand why and are working to a solution together.
There is no “right” sex. The quality, quantity, how, what, where, are up to each couple and for each person within that relationship to communicate to their partner exactly what their needs are.
And this for me, is the starting point of where this part of a relationship starts to come apart. Couples simply don’t talk about sex enough. There may be high level conversations.
“We need to have sex, it’s been ages”.
“I don’t like that stuff, I don’t want to do that”.
“I’d like to do something different”.
“We never have sex anymore”.
“All you ever think about is sex”.
These statements are thrown around and sometimes there is a minimal response, sometimes nothing. These statements though, are the start of what needs to be an important conversation.
Start talking about sex!
It is crucial for a healthy relationship to discuss what your needs are and how it makes you feel.
It is completely normal for couples to have mismatched libidos. It is also normal to go through periods where sex isn’t happening much and there is an obvious reason. It is also completely valid to have periods where the intimacy is not as it needs to be, but it needs to be understood and accepted by both people.
Every relationship goes through stages where the sexual intimacy declines, where the time simply isn’t there for the relationship, where both people can’t put into the relationship as they would like to and need to in many ways.
But, it needs to have a healthy conversation around it. It needs to have a plan and a solution discussed. Using an excuse such as health, lack of libido, stress, too busy, these are all valid, but they are not a reason to stop talking and looking for solutions. They are not a full stop.
In a healthy, loving relationship sexual intimacy plays a vital role. Make sure you are having healthy conversations about yours.
As always, here if you need.