The importance of sex in a relationship can be gauged from the fact that good relationships are often linked to sexuality. The assumption is that happy couples have a thriving sex life, while those stuck in miserable relationships don’t.
However, given the wide spectrum of romantic relationships today, there can be a no-size-fits-all generalization of the importance of sex in a relationship. For instance, the meaning and importance of sex can for homosexual couples can be very different from that of their heterosexual counterparts.
Then, there are asexual and demisexual couples as well as those who choose to keep their relationships sexless. So, the answer to how important is sex for a thriving relationship varies according to the circumstances and life choices of the people involved.
That said, for couples who choose sex to be a part of their relationships, it becomes one of the central tenets of their romantic partnership.
Importance Of Sex In A Relationship
The importance of sex in a relationship has been widely discussed and debated. It is now a well-accepted fact that sexually active people need intimacy to thrive in their relationships. But have you ever wondered why that is the case?
A new research based on the findings of four different studies has concluded that “sex seems not only beneficial because of its physiological or hedonic effects…but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner.”
This essentially means that not just the act of sex itself but the affection that accompanies it is what promotes a sense of well-being and satisfaction between partners. These displays of affection extend far beyond sexual interactions, and include hugging, kissing and other forms of physical touch between partners.
The bottom line is that having sex but no love won’t do your relationship any good. The notion of the importance of sex in a relationship holds water only as long as it is linked to love and affection. Here’s why:
1. Sex brings an emotional rush
Thanks to the release of feel-good hormones followed by an orgasm, sex gives you an emotional rush. The release of endorphins helps reduce stress, testosterone helps in enhancing performance in all spheres of life, and dopamine drives up your feelings of happiness and go-getter attitude.
When combined, these hormones work as a glue that strengthens the bonding between partners and keeps your relationship strong. The previously mentioned research on the benefits of sex also points out that these positive emotions last for at least 24 hours, resulting in a lingering sense of satisfaction.
This ‘hangover’ bolsters positive emotions toward your partner, making you value and cherish your relationship more.
2. It’s a stress buster
Sex also releases oxytocin, which provides instant relief from stress and promotes a feeling of relaxation. It also serves as an antidote to cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone.
Research on pleasurable behaviors that reduce stress indicates that sex activates the reward system in the brain, thus, helping in reducing tensions. To reap these benefits you don’t necessarily have to orgasm. Skin-to-skin contact lasting any longer than 20 seconds is enough to get the oxytocin flowing into your bloodstream.
Therefore, sex can play an important role in cutting down tension and stresses, whether relationship-specific or induced by external factors such as work, health issues or financial constraints.
3. Validation from sex can boost confidence
Body image and latent insecurities have a direct bearing on the quality of one’s sex life. Research on the issues of body image and sexual function indicates that it can impact every aspect of sexuality, right from sex drive and arousal to satisfaction.
Interestingly, the reverse is also true. The act of sex is also a form of validation from a loved one, which can be a huge boost for the sense of confidence. Add the dopamine rush to the mix, and you have all the necessary elements to feel good about yourself and more comfortable in your skin.
4. Sex improves intimacy
The importance of sex in a relationship extends beyond the bedroom. This phenomenon is described as the intimacy loop. The more intimate you are sexually, the more intimate you will be in other aspects of your relationship as well.
Be it emotional intimacy or being more in sync with each other, the overall closeness between partners is elevated with healthy sex life. This once again reiterates the ‘affection begets sex and sex begets affection’ premise established by research.
Related Reading: Good Sex Can Kiss Your Worries Away – 5 True Stories
5. Post-sex cuddles bring you closer
Research carried out at the University of Toronto Mississauga establishes that post-sex engagement in form of cuddles and kissing also promotes happier and more satisfying bonds between partners.
This is also attributed to oxytocin release due to physical contact. Of course, to leverage this benefit, you need to have sex first.
How important is sex to a man in a relationship?
The male perspective on sex is markedly different from that of women. In any relationship, understanding your partner’s sexual feelings, expectations and fantasies is crucial for a fulfilling sex life. However, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, you cannot possibly relate to your partner’s views on the matter.
But you can always make an effort to understand how important is sex to a man in a relationship and why:
- Sex is physical: For men, sex is physical. This means that their desire is fueled by the testosterone rush in the body, which drives their need for sexual expression. That’s why for some men, sexual urges can be hard to control.
- Sex is hunger: Sex is a biological need, and it is far more pronounced in the case of men. They crave it just the way people crave their favorite food or dessert. When that craving takes hold in their mind, they cannot shake it off unless they’ve satiated it.
- Sex is linked to relationship circumstances: It’s a misnomer that men are always ready for some action. On the contrary, their sexual urges are governed by and reflect the circumstances of the relationship. For instance, constant fighting or a strained relationship with his partner can kill a man’s sex drive
- Sex is an expression of love: Sex is a man’s way of expressing love. In most cases, engaging in sex is not a self-serving desire. They want to pleasure their partners, see them turned on and enjoying the act. For them, it’s a way of giving love to a significant other
- Sex is emotional connect: Men are often accused of wanting only sex in a relationship, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Men too crave an emotional connection. It’s just that for them sex is a manifestation of this connect
How important is sex to a woman in a relationship?
How important is sex to a woman in a relationship? This question is pertinent when discussing the importance of sex in a relationship because of the prevalent fallacy that women don’t attach much value to sex.
The fact is that women too can be extremely sexually-oriented in their romantic relationships. The difference between men’s and women’s attitudes toward sex stems from how the two express and experience their sexualities.
While the answer to how important is sex to a woman in a relationship cannot be generalized, certain common themes indicate the significance of sex from a woman’s perspective:
- Sex is emotional: For women, sex is the deepest form of the connection they share with their partners. Her sexual urges and desires stem from emotions, memories and fantasies rather than a rush of hormones
- Sex makes her feel desired: Sex is important to women in a relationship because it makes them feel desired. Her partner trying to turn her on and making love to her is a reiteration of the fact that she is loved and appreciated
- Sex is governed by physical and mental state: A woman’s sex drive can be erratic, as it is governed by external factors such as her physical health and state of mind. So, if there are problems in the relationship, she may not be interested in sex. Similarly, when she going through a hormonal flux – typically post-childbirth or around menopause – the importance of sex for her may decline
- Sex is romance: Most women cannot orgasm through vaginal-penile intercourse alone. For them, the romance and seduction leading up to the final act are equally important.
- Sex is a way of giving love: Much like men, women also view sex as a way of giving love. That’s why a lot of times women agree to sex even when they’re not feeling it. It’s not pity sex nor is she obligated to say yes when she doesn’t want it, but she does it out of goodwill and relational warmth.
Related Reading: 10 Tips To Keep The Sex In Your Marriage Alive And Spice It Up
Effects Of Lack Of Sex In A Relationship
Given the importance of sex in a relationship, it is only natural to wonder if inadequacies on the intimacy front can take a toll on a couple’s equation. Does going from lots of sex at the beginning to virtually being a sexless couple mean your relationship is doomed? Or is diminishing sexual frequency the normal course?
We spoke to Dr Rajan Bhonsle, consultant in sexual medicine and counselor, to understand the effects of lack of sex in a relationship.
“There is no denying the importance of sex in a relationship. But should you have sex every day? Is that frequency of sex the only measure of a healthy sex life? The answer is no. The quality of an intimate relationship between two partners is not something that can be generalized, neither based on gender nor age,” he says.
Impact of lack of sex on a relationship is contextual
According to Dr Bhonsle, to understand the effects of lack of sex in a relationship, you need to factor in the specific circumstance of the couple. “If a couple has been married or together for 30 or 40 years and enjoyed a good sex life for the first decade or two, then a decline in sex drive doesn’t hamper the relationship.
“In such cases, typically the decline in frequency can be brought on by factors such as age, reduced libido, or menopause and perimenopause phase in women. There is an understanding and acceptance of the fact that this is biological change is inevitable.
“On the other hand, if the couple is still in their prime and the quality of their sex life is poor owing to relationship issues such as anger, resentment or passive-aggressive dynamics, that’s when the negative effects of lack of sex in a relationship begin to manifest. When you’re in a committed relationship, having sex but no love rarely works. One is linked to the other.
“Then, there is the third scenario – one of mismatched sex drives, where one partner may be entertaining thought of should you have sex every day and the other just may not feel any arousal. Here too, disconcerting effects of lack of sex in a relationship become apparent,” Dr Bhonsle says.
When most people understand the importance of sex in a relationship, why do these issues arise? And what can be done to handle them effectively? Dr Bhonsle says that it all boils down to communication between partners.
Sex, more specifically expressing sexual needs and desires, can be a touchy topic. Particularly, when a couple lacks sexual harmony. That impedes conversations about desires and expectations, often causing solvable problems to snowball into colossal issues.
Here is how communication – or lack thereof – impacts a couple’s ability to deal with the effects of lack of sex in a relationship:
Related Reading: 11 Confessions By Married People On Why They Stopped Having Sex
When couples don’t communicate about lack of sex
“First and foremost, couples need to establish what lack of sex means, and make sure that they are on the same page. It’s natural for partners to engage in lots of sex at the beginning of a relationship. A decline in frequency over time is also equally natural. Therefore, setting expectations mutually is vital. That requires dialogue.
“More often than not, couples don’t talk about these things honestly, especially if there are other relationship problems at play. As a result, dissatisfaction in the relationship mounts. Another common tendency is to expect one’s partner to understand one’s needs without spelling them out.
“But no one is a mind reader. Unsaid – and thus unmet – expectations can add to a person’s feeling of sexual frustration. So, when there is inadequate communication about lack of sex, it leads to fights, ultimatums and dirty linen being aired in public.
“In such cases, the intervention of an expert can be immensely beneficial. For instance, I had a case where the husband claimed that there wasn’t enough sex in the marriage whereas the wife said that they had had sex twice just last week. To which, he responded that it had happened after a lull of six months. So, both partners not only had different expectations but also divergent views on the situation.
“As a neutral party, a sexologist can help couples find common ground and work a way to revive their sexual chemistry in a way that is acceptable to both partners,” Dr Bhonsle says.
When couples communicate about lack of sex
On the other hand, when couples communicate with each other without placing blame, they become better equipped at dealing with less-than-satisfactory sex life.
“I had a patient who was suffering from poor quality erection, which made him self-conscious of his performance in bed. His wife started viewing his reluctance to engage in sex as a sign of his diminishing interest in her.
“When he approached me, I told him the problem could be addressed with medication. He had no clue that it was possible. With the right treatment, he was able to reclaim his sex life. It was possible only because he chose to open up and communicate about it.
“Similarly, there was a case where the husband was dissatisfied with his sex life. When we explored the reasons behind it, it emerged that they didn’t have enough privacy to engage sexually. The wife said they were sharing the bedroom with their son since the mother-in-law also lived with them and the child was a light sleeper who woke up at the slightest movement.
“How is sex possible, she asked. Here too, by talking about their problem, the couple was able to find a middle ground to make things work,” Dr Bhonsle explains.
The importance of sex in a relationship cannot be overstated. However, lacking in intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship has no future. There are always underlying reasons at play, and the onus of discovering and addressing them falls on the couple. If you feel that you’re not equipped to do so on your own, seeking expert help is the best recourse.
Sex is a biological need, just like eating or sleeping. Besides, it helps romantic partners connect on a more intimate level. That’s why sex plays a vital role in couple relationships.
Without a doubt, sex strengthens relationships. It is an expression of love – that’s why it is also called lovemaking – that helps you feel more connected with your partner as well as appreciated and loved.
Yes, relationships can last without sex, provided that a decline in your sex life is not triggered by existing issues. If you’re both asexual or the frequency of sexual engagement has decreased due to biological factors, you can continue to share a fulfilling and loving relationship with your partner.