Sex Is The Most Important Part Of A Marriage
Time magazine recently published two articles discussing new studies regarding sexual satisfaction, marriage and infidelity. While Time played up the “groundbreaking” nature of the results, I was not surprised. Shortly after my wedding, I came to the conclusion that sex is probably the most important aspect of marriage.
That revelation wasn’t the result of any sexual dysfunction in my relationship, but simply the result of adjusting to being married and to the expectations we all subconsciously harbor about marital bliss and the reality of being committed to someone ’til death do us part.
When I woke up one day to find the new marriage smell worn off, I emerged from the newlywed cocoon so many of us get wrapped up in during the early days of forever. I found my way back to hobbies my husband doesn’t have an interest in and to the uncoupled friends I unintentionally overlooked, because inviting them out always seemed like making them the third wheel. I watched chick flicks by myself and ran errands without him. I started shopping with my mom again.
I wasn’t sad or mad or glad. I just rediscovered the fact that there is a world outside our coupledom that is fun and fulfilling. My emotional and intellectual needs could be met without him being the source of all my contentment.
But after all my girls’ nights out and mother-daughter adventures, I still had one need that could only be met at home, within my marriage: S-E-X.
Hitting me rather abruptly, I realized that out of all the relationship needs, sex is the only one that cannot be met by anyone else other than your spouse. At least not in a socially acceptable context, unless you are polyamorous (which is arguably not socially acceptable, but that’s beside the point).
Ultimately, we can–and should–find emotional fulfillment in ways separate and apart from our spouse. It’s not healthy to put all our eggs in one basket… except for that one egg…. The sex egg.
Of course, I’m not advocating that sex be the only focus of a marriage. What I am saying is that, in all other areas except for sex, we can make up for deficiencies in our relationship through friends, family, hobbies or even work. We all must decide for ourselves at what level we are personally comfortable with what our spouse provides in those other areas. But when they are less than our expectations, maybe sex is the answer.
Studies have shown that women need to feel an emotional connection with their partner to have a satisfying sexual relationship, but if we check out any one of the multitude of sex advice shows or columns, we’ll find the “experts” telling women to just do it! Sure, things in the bedroom might have cooled off, but the longer we go without, the less you’ll want it. Use it or lose it! If we still love each other, once we get going, that emotional connection will come flooding back as soon as we get to magical O-Land!
It sounds like the chicken-or-the-egg debate, but emotional intimacy breeds physical intimacy, which breeds more emotional intimacy, and so on. So if one or both of those wheels needs some grease, why not grease the one that’s easiest to reach first and see if we can get everything rolling again? Makes sense to me.
We also frequently hear that sex itself isn’t the root of most affairs, but that’s where the studies mentioned in Time come into play. After evaluating data collected by the Kinsey Institute, researchers found that sexual incompatibility, poor sexual function, and performance anxiety were the top reasons men cheated. We’re told that it’s men who don’t feel appreciated by their wives–who suddenly get that appreciation from another woman–that are prone to cheat.
Knowing how important sex is to men and to their self-worth, is it not easy to conclude that men who are reporting poor sexual compatibility, poor sexual function, and performance anxiety with their wives might also feel under-appreciated, or less like a man than ones who are knocking those O’s out of the park night in and night out?
Backing up that claim was the second study, conducted on over one thousand married couples, in five countries, all of whom had been married for an average of 25 years. In this group, the men who reported being happy with their marriages stated the top two reasons for their happiness were 1) the duration of the relationship, and 2) their wives’ sexual satisfaction. So, the ability to please their spouse sexually was more important than pleasing themselves sexually.
In fact, for each point a man rated his wife’s orgasm, his own happiness in the marriage jumped 17%!
On the flip side, the women in this group reported relationship duration as the number one factor to their happiness, but the number two factor was… sexual satisfaction! And when asked in general, men were more likely to say they were happy with their marriage while women were more likely to say they were satisfied sexually. Hmmmmm…
The burning question the researchers asked, but were not able to answer with their data, was whether or not the length of the marriage was the contributing factor to the wives’ sexual satisfaction, or if satisfaction with their sex lives led to the marriage lasting that long. Either way, I think it’s clear that both partners’ sexual needs might be more important than we’re commonly led to believe.
Honestly, I feel a bit vindicated by these studies, since my belief that sex is critical to the success of a marriage is often met with hostility. More importantly, however, I think research into this area can give us all a better idea about how to make our own marriages last in a time when so many don’t.
We are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages from society and the media (not to mention our friends) about what is the most critical ingredient to a happy marriage, and more often than not sex doesn’t top the list. Sure, people admit it’s important, but they are loathe to say it’s the most important. It seems shallow and selfish. And dirty.
Bad sex can be agreed upon as a dealbreaker. But mediocre, vanilla sex? Well, maybe even that is more of an issue than we believe….
“I realized that out of all the relationship needs, sex is the only one that cannot be met by anyone else other than your spouse.”
I have to disagree – a healthy marriage cannot solely be based on sex. Personally, I feel that sex is an extremely important part of a marriage (or any relationship), but I certainly don’t believe that it is THE most important aspect. I also don’t believe that you can get “everything else” from others, except for sex. Sex will not save a marriage that lacks honesty, truthworthiness, mutual respect, personal responsibility, etc.
“Sure, people admit it’s important, but they are loathe to say it’s the most important. It seems shallow and selfish. And dirty.”
It’s not that people are “loathe to say” it – it’s because they recognize that sex alone not enough to sustain a healthy relationship. And, what would it mean to you and your view of your marriage if you or your husband was injured in a way that sex was no longer physically possible?
I’m not disagreeing that a satisfying sexual relationship with your spouse is important. I’m just disagreeing with your perceived lack of importance placed on the other fundamental parts of a marriage.
Oh come on, she didn’t say that sex should be the focus of a relationship, or the most important pillar of a healthy marriage! (though perhaps she should have stressed that more…)
The thing is that “honesty, truthworthiness, mutual respect, personal responsibility” are *characteristics* of a healthy relationship, while “sex” is an *activity* that happens within said relationship (and which, by the way, also depends greatly on “honesty, truthworthiness, mutual respect, personal responsibility”) – that’s why I think Jennifer didn’t refer to things like honesty – it’s outside the purpose of the article (though I admit the title is a bit misleading – then again, “Sex Is The Most Important Part Of A Marriage” does make for a more compelling article name then something like “My Opinion Is That Sex Is The Most Important Activity For A Married Couple” or something similar… 😉 )
“Oh come on, she didn’t say that sex should be… the most important pillar of a healthy marriage!”
That’s exactly what she’s saying.
Oops, that comment above was me – I didn’t realize I wasn’t logged in.
I admit I didn’t do a great job of isolating this point, but what I was trying to convey is that if, after time, your marriage/relationship has some areas that are a bit disappointing, work on the sex first. Of course we all want to have ALL of our needs met in our marriages/LTR’s but sometimes that isn’t the case. It ebbs and flows with other circumstances in our lives, but the “traditional” advice people are given is to spend more “quality time” together, communicate more, etc… but often, if things aren’t great, doing those things just makes it worse.
For example, if things with your honey’s work have been bad, chances are that making him talk about his work troubles more isn’t going to necessarily make him feel better and you have to avoid the minefileds in those convos that will make the situation worse. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about it at all, but sometimes hammering home a point turns into just a good old fashioned beating.
Why not go and have some great sex, and let the good feelings that flow from that carry over into the other areas of your relationship? He can talk it out with his friends, you can do other things to occupy your time while he broods over his troubles, but neither one of you can go have sex with someone else.
If your marriage is built on trust, mutual respect, common interests, etc…then it will come back around to those things. So many people, however, think “well, if he’s going to be such an ass then I’m not going to give up any sex until he comes around” and I think that’s a mistake. Like I said, the other aspects of your relationship will ebb and flow, but if you keep the sex white-hot through all of that, it’s likely (although not guaranteed) that the other areas will improve, as well.
Did you not read the entire article, because it sure sounds like you didnt, since she actually wrote “Of course, I’m not advocating that sex be the only focus of a marriage…”
Perhaps you’d care to actually read the entire article before making knee-jerk reactions and revise what you said.
@Mark: I did read the entire article, which wasn’t entirely consistent with those 14 words that you quoted.
@JenniferWitt: Dennis actually laughed at me that I took the position I did because he knows that a satisfying and active sex life is extremely important to me and my marriage.
As much as you or I or anyone else think that it shouldn’t be this way, sex is often a mirror for the state of the relationship. For most couples, unhappiness outside of the bedroom translates to unhappiness inside the bedroom. Most couples cannot force happiness gained from sex into the rest of the relationship, because sex is most satisfying in a happy and healthy relationship.
@PFG:” For most couples, unhappiness outside of the bedroom translates to unhappiness inside the bedroom.”
I totally agree although I suspect it applies a bit more to women.
@TheOtherMe: I agree that it’s generally more applicable to women. The reason that I didn’t is because it’s easy for guys (generally) to consider that to be “the root of all evil” in a relationship.
I’d say that ideally, sex is most satisfying in emotionally satisfying relationshps, but I also have plenty of personal experience that points to the contrary. I think others do, as well. If sex was ONLY good in good relationships, there wouldn’t be much to discuss here. I believe it is possible to have amazing sex in otherwise bad relationships, and sometimes that tricks us into staying in bad relationships longer than we should…and that was the trap I was attempting to avoid here. No one should stay in a bad relationship or marriage JUST for the good sex.
However, onthe flip side, I think we areoften led to believe we need to stay in sexually UN-staisfying relationships b/c everything else is great. I’m trying to posit my personal POV that is equally as bad as the first option. I think it’s ver hard to find an emotionally satisfying INTIMATE relationship, but it is easier to find emotionally satisfying friendships, familial relationships, and hobbies b/c the bar is lower. So, when in doubt in your intimate relationship, turn to those places for support until you can right the wrongs in your intimate relationship, but in the mean time, keep that sex life going, b/c you can’t turn anywhere else for that.
Jennifer Witt – I’m going to remember that name as being the name of the woman who finally got it right. All the other ingredients to a good relationship ARE available outside of the marriage. It would be a sad case if one had to actually meet ALL of them that way but I completely understand your point.
researchers found that sexual incompatibility, poor sexual function, and performance anxiety were the top reasons men cheated.
They are not the only reasons but again, that research coincides perfectly with my personal experience. Sexual incompatibility is a huge anxiety locker for women and men both but one that should be accepted for the truth of what it is. Finding that person who IS wildly sexually compatible with you AND is your bestest pal as well is the challenge of a life time – If (and it’s certainly not guaranteed) you find that person, all else can be managed and “cheating” is almost inconceivable. All the lying etc. mentioned in the previous comment is a result not a cause of this incompatibility. Kudos to you for a brilliant insight and I suspect you’ll be in for a long and very happy marriage.
“All the other ingredients to a good relationship ARE available outside of the marriage.”
How does that even make sense?
“Finding that person who IS wildly sexually compatible with you AND is your bestest pal as well is the challenge of a life time…”
This I absolutely agree with because it includes the “bestest pal”, but that’s not what I’m reading she is saying, nor does it seem consistent with everything else in your comment.
I’ve been married for over 15 years, and sex is still a huge focus for us. But the reasons that it is still that and still so satisfying is because of everything else that is going right in our relationship.
Or are the other things going right in your relationship a function of still having a great sex life? Again…chicken or the egg question. I think it can be hard for anyone in a good relationship to really say which is the cause of the other. But what I was trying to say, is that for people who find themselves in a relationship where some areas aren’t living up to their expectations 100%, focus on keeping the sex alive (and fun and satisfying) b/c you can at least temporarily have your other needs met elsewhere.
Agreed with everything Terry said. I recently got out of a relationship with someone I was jsut sexually incompatible with. Now, I cant say that it was the only reason the relationship didnt work, but I know it was a contributing factor.
I can honestly say that because now that I’m in a relationship with someone I’m 100% more sexually compatible with (well maybe not 100%, but compared to the last one, it sure feels like it) and it’s really made a much bigger difference than I thought it would.
PS – may I have your permission to reprint this post on my own site?
August 22, 2011 at 9:06 am
“All the other ingredients to a good relationship ARE available outside of the marriage.”
How does that even make sense?
It makes total sense. The fact that all these things are available outside of the primary relationship doesn’t mean none of those tings are included in your prime relationship – it just means you have a life outside of it BUT sex is off limits there. This includes having coffee with a friend, going shopping with mom, and generally having a normal life without being joined at the hip with your S.O. That does not mean you don’t have coffee with your one true love or go shopping together or any of the thousands of things we do together every single day, It just means that if we feel we’re lacking in one of those departments because our love is playing Bingo at the church with her sister, it’s ok to go to a car show with my cousin John. Sex doesn’t offer that option is all she’s saying.
What you’ve described is a healthy part of a relationship where a couple isn’t just “holed up” focusing on each other. I’m not disputing that.
This is the part that I was addressing: “What I am saying is that, in all other areas except for sex, we can make up for deficiencies in our relationship through friends, family, hobbies or even work.”
This view is too simplistic about what is important in a marriage.
Well, in a blog post rather than a book, we have to simplify t a point. What exactly do you mean? How is it too simplistic?
“my belief that sex is critical to the success of a marriage is often met with hostility” and “Sure, people admit it’s important, but they are loathe to say it’s the most important. It seems shallow and selfish. And dirty.”
Well, in most cultures sex is not (nor was) ahhh… encouraged, to put it mildly. Mainly because sex (as some of you may know) seems to be the leading cause of babies (even ahead age-old staples of baby-making such as the stork). This lead to a whole bunch of taboos and regulations regarding sex (which I won’t mention, mainly because I’m too lazy to do the research and this isn’t Wikipedia; also, it’s not like it’s a secret or anything). This, combined with the relatively modern STD fears, means the world we’re living in is still under the legacy of sexual repression. Of course, this also affects marital sex (somewhat ironically, since this is basically the ONLY type of sex ever encouraged by society or religion – alas, the Church still doesn’t have much love for interspecies erotica *sighs*…). This finally brings me to my points:
1. Most people still see acknowledging the importance of sex in public as something “shallow” or “dirty”, because sex itself has been (and in many cases still is) considered shallow and dirty. Besides the aforementioned sexual repression (and at the same time one of the major reasons for it) this view of sex was caused by (and persists because of) *drums roll*:
2. MOST PEOPLE AREN’T GETTING LAID PROPERLY!!!
There, I said it! Phew!*wipes sweat off brow*
No, seriously, this is an extremely strong conviction of mine, despite a glaring lack of professional evidence for it (at least I’m not aware of any such evidence). It’s just a personal conclusion I came to after enough time experiencing this weird species called humanity. Of course, it’s somewhat difficult to define the “proper” part, mainly because each individual has their own specific needs and preferences (so people should really stop talking about that time when someone posted online pictures of me with Betty the goat! Boy, that goat sure had some soft wool, and deep dark eyes, and just the cutest little tail… Ok, no more bestiality jokes, I promise 😉 ).
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that for many (I suspect most) people, sexual activity is lacking in both quality and quantity. And when something as important as your sex life is deficient, it’s normal to get a negative attitude towards it, and towards sex in general. Which leads to a dismissing or even despising view of it – thus, the quotes at the beginning.
Also, I’d like to point that while “in all other areas except for sex, we can make up for deficiencies in our relationship through friends, family, hobbies or even work”, this doesn’t mean we SHOULD! It doesn’t mean that sex on it’s own is enough for a healthy marriage, and can replace all the other activities a married couple can do together! It simply means that of all the activities humans can do together, sex is the most intimate one (both physically and emotionally) for two people in love, and thus, maybe, the most important one (even ahead of activities like talking or hugging – which, by the way, you can also do, quite satisfactory, with close friends or family members). I think that’s what Jennifer was trying to say…
What, no typos this time?! Hmm, I must be getting rusty… 😉
Yes!!! I think you pretty much got what I was trying to say. And I TOTALLY agree with you that most people aren’t getting laid “properly” and the saddest part is, so many don’t even realize it! 🙂
But I wasn’t saying sex is the ONLY thing…it’s just the only thing you can’t get outside your relationship. So, even if you never get the other areas up to par you need to make sure your sex life is satisfying. Even if the other areas are never exactly what you want them to be, if you can get them to a place that, at a minimum, are acceptable to you, you can make up for the deficiencies elsewhere…not so with sex.
For example, in my marriage, my husband HATES politics. My formal education and previous career are in politics, so on occasion I like a good, heated political debate. He’d rather jump off a cliff. I know I’ll never get him to engage me in a political debate. I know that if I succeeded in getting him to anyway, that we’d both walk away mad b/c he won’t enjoy it and we don’t agree 100% on politics and it seems we always veer off into areas that spark a fight, rather than healthy debate. And I know that his lack of interest means he doesn’t have the required info handy to create an in-depth discussion. So, I just talk politics with other people who are into it, and don’t expect him to ever meet that need of mine.
Would it be great if he did? Sure! But expecting him to (or worse, demanding he do it) is unfair to him, and only ends up with me disappointed and him angry.
@JenniferWitt: Your example of not having a political discussion with your spouse as being a “need” that can be met elsewhere indicates that you might not realize the way your marriage and sex life will change over the years. IIRC, you’ve only been married a few years and have no kids. If you and your husband decide to have a family, your marriage and your sex life will be drastically different in another 15 years. They will change in ways that you can’t even imagine.
When you’re new in a relationship and even for many years after that, the main focus is sex. You pretty much just do things together in between having sex. But that does change, and so those other aspects of your relationship become even more important than they were previously. And like I mentioned above, sex is most satisfying in a happy and healthy relationship when the connection and intimacy are most intense.
I’ve acknowledged in the comments that realtionships change over time, and there will be ebbs and flows in all areas. I’m not expecting that nothing will change, including our sex life. But what I DO expect, is that regardless of the changes, I want it to be satisfying.
My example was a little trivial, but politics was/is a big part of my life and my interests, so it’s not a small area of my life that doesn’t get addresed. But when we were dating I realized that if this person met 95 our of 100 things I “need” that’s pretty damned good, so I can figure out other ways to address the other 5 things. I think we all “settle” in that way, b/c it’s virtually impossible to find someone who is “perfect” for us in ALL of the ways we would wish for them to be.
And, FWIW, even though we’ve only been married a few years and don’t have any kids, we’ve been though enough to qualify for honorary status in at least the 10-year mark for our marriage experience-wise. Our relationship hasn’t been about “sex in between doing other things” for quite some time. We run a business together, which I’d argue is just as challenging (if not more so) than having a kid. It’s a entity outside of the two of us that requires 24-7 dedication and devotion, that we created of ourselves. It is the source of our livlihoods (as well as that of our employees). It succeeds or fails on our own efforts, and the sucess or failure of it affects many more people than just us. We suffer from sleep deprivation and an inability to take time off from it just like people do with a baby. It requires compromise daily, and that we revsit our preconcieved notions about many things frequently. It also involves money and finances–huge relationship minefield–on a daily basis, as well. The tpical ups and downs that other people experience in their relationships over weeks, months and even years, can be experienced by us in just one day, or week. It’s exceptionally difficult, but exceptionally rewarding.
All I’m saying is don’t judge my experience with marriage/relationships ONLY on the fact that our marriage is chronologically young and that we don’t have any kids. We have a unique experience that affords us a little more wisdom than the number of anniversaries we’ve celebrated would indicate.
“I think we all “settle” in that way…”
I completely agree. It can be a somewhat pessimistic view but I feel there will always be a woman out there who is more compatible with me than the woman I’ll be with. However, is it really worth my time to find the girl I’m 95% compatible with if I’m already with someone who I’m 93% compatible with? What are the chances I’d ever find her? What are the chances she is already married? What are the chances she is even emotionally available for a relationship when we accidentally reach for the same apple in the grocery store?
Eventually, to be in a fulfilling relationship, I believe everyone has to settle, it’s just up to them to decide how long they’re willing to wait and whether or not an A is as acceptable as an A+, so to speak.
“…b/c it’s virtually impossible to find someone who is “perfect” for us in ALL of the ways we would wish for them to be.”
Once again, I completely agree.
And even if you did find someone who fits all 100/100 of your criteria, people change and grow every single day, so those 100 items on your list WILL change over the course of time and your significant other’s list will as well.
Hey everyone, thanks for commenting!
I’d just like to relay a message from Jennifer: She’s on vacation right now, but will be back to post her responses in a few days. In the meantime, please carry on!
Oh Dennis, is there anything you don’t know ? 😉
Well, I’m still uncertain of the full value of pi…. 😉
He is all-knowing…
I don’t know the value of pi, but I do know the value of pie. 😉
Do you think sex before marriage might have anything to do with lack of sexual satisfaction in a marriage? I have often suspected that sex within marriage can suffer in comparison to the sex a person had outside of marriage. Similar to how we idealize high school boyfriends or first loves, you only remember the good of sex before your spouse. I’m interested in other people’s perspective on this theory, because I have no first-hand experience to draw from. I don’t have sex, but I look forward to having it with my husband.
Just to get this out of the way, I’m not making a judgment on other peoples decisions about when to have sex and with who, I’m just asking opinions on whether people think sexual satisfaction is difficult to reach in marriage because of past sexual relationships (or even if it’s vaguely related).
I’ve often thought about this myself, and I’m still undecided. I’m not one to judge either way how people choose to approach sex, but I think both sides have their pluses and minuses.
If you have sex before marriage, then you learn how to be, ahem, more “sexually competent.” At the same time, I agree that you run the risk of idealizing your past experiences.
If you choose to wait until marriage, then I think there’s something inherently fulfilling about learning about sex together with someone. On the other hand, I think you also run the risk of always wondering what sex with other people might be like, too.
Those are both really good points. I hadn’t thought about the curiosity factor if you wait. I guess that would vary person to person and why they made their particular choices.
Yeah, I guess that’s what it comes down to. Everyone’s different, so what works for one person may or may not work for another, ya know?
By the way, this is why we don’t post how-to articles on Musings. The whole point is to share our experiences and let people decide for themselves whether or not they relate, not tell people what to do. 🙂
I love your articles, reading about other people’s experiences is always enlightening. 🙂
Thanks! Glad you like our stuff! 🙂
Maybe I’m more cynical than most people out there (ha ha!), but I don’t tend to idealize my past sexual experiences. I’m pretty realistic with myself, I think, on what was good and what was bad. It’s easy right after the end of a realtionship to idealize it as a coping mechanism, but after the benefit of a few years and other “good” relationships, the truth has a way of bubbling to the surface for me.
I think what really helped me with this was that I had the opportunity to date my “high school sweetheart” who broke my heart at the tender age of 15, again as an adult. Needless to say, it didn’t end well the 2nd time, and so much of it was a complete replay of the first time around, despite all the changes in us personally and being more mature. It had deeply affected my dating behavior in high school after our 1st breakup, and due to timing and other circumstances, it had negative ripples through my dating life for 5+ years after our 2nd breakup. Since that experience, I’ve been much more truthful with myself about past relationships.
Looking back, I can count on one hand all of my previous partners who I’d rank as at least a 7 out of 10 (maybe saying that much alone tells too much about my total number, IDK!). Having that knowledge, though, allows me to say, without any doubts, that the man I married is probably the best person for me when it comes to sexual compatability.
So, while I don’t have any doubts about that fact and I feel confident sexually as an individual, I don’t have any questions about wanting to “see what’s out there” either. I guess, if you don’t have a good handle on your past sexual experiences and what they mean to you personally, it could hamper your sexual satisfation with our spouse. I think that allowing ANY past relationships to affect your marriage in that way is a bad thing, and the broader problem, that everyone needs to understand how to manage in order to have sucessful relationships…not limited to just the sexual aspects.
I do think there would be HUGE benefits of learning and exploring sex together, as well, but I would personally always be curious if it’s really good, or if it’s “all there is”…but I’m an overly curious person, too. If it works for you, and you’re happy with your sex life, then there’s really no point in wondering, though. If it’s not happy and satisfying, you just need to have good comunication and trust, where you can discuss those issues without hurt feelings. It’s extremely hard (no matter your past sexual history) to discuss sexaul dissatisfaction without huring someone’s feelings, because it is a very intaimate thing, but it CAN be done.
I wouldn’t say that you’re cynical, it sounds more like you’re realistic. It sounds like you have a really good relationship with your spouse on multiple levels. I agree that sexual satisfaction is a very touchy subject and I think the only way to get through discussing it, you need to have a solid emotional foundation. All in all, satisfaction in a relationship comes full circle in that sexual/physical satisfaction is affected by emotional satisfaction and vice versa.
I’m going to have to pass on the “Sex Is The Most Important Part Of A Marriage” theory.
A relationship should be 100% capable of existing happily and thriving if the factor of sex is removed. In my personal experience, having multiple partners who I was not in a committed relationship with and had little to no emotional ties with, sex was… well just that– sex. I mean physically, everything was there. They usually knew what they were doing, and so did I. Sometimes it was good sex; sometimes it was bad sex; sometimes it was okay sex; sometimes it was awesome sex. But it was still just sex.
Fast forward about two years to the amazing committed relationship I’m currently in with my boyfriend. Now, I know it’s not a “marriage” but there is no doubt in my mind that we are crazy in love and not just honey moon, puppy dog love. Before we dated we were each other’s best friend. We built an amazing relationship based on that friendship – an amazing relationship that for a year and a half was completely sex free. We kept our relationship strong, because we were always there for each other, through the good and the bad. We understood each other and when we didn’t, we took the time to listen, communicate and be understanding of each other as best we could. If we couldn’t always understand we accepted the fact that there will be differences and we will be different, but we could accept and support each other. If we fought, which we did, we talked it out. We didn’t ignore each other’s daily problems, we listened because sometimes you just need someone to vent to, and if you need to turn to someone to be there for you why not the person who cares and supports you in such an intimate way? If we were on the rocks, we tackled the issue.
Then, after the year and a half mark – it happened. And let me say, cut the KY, we made our own fireworks. It was the absolute best sex I had ever had. It was honestly just amazing. To me, it cleared up the “chicken or the egg first” theory. The theory being, does great sex lead to a great relationship, or does a great relationship lead to great sex? For me the amazing relationship lead to amazing sex.
Even now that we do have sex, we don’t take an easy route just because some areas in our relationship may not always live up to expectations we have. We don’t ignore the true cause of why our expectations aren’t being met though, and we definitely don’t throw all of our efforts into our sex life. Our relationship gets fueled by the warmth and happiness we build for each other in our hearts. Not because we go gallivanting about in sexually fueled –after sex- endorphin highs, for instant gratification.
As for traditional advice such as “spending more time together” and “communicating” if these aren’t working , or worse ruining a relationship, we may need to consider that maybe this particular relationship has an expiration date. It’s not about if sex is the most important or the least important factor in a relationship. It’s not about if it is the only factor or among others. It’s about what do you have left if you remove the sex? (No matter how amazing it may be!) and what is left in your relationship? Is there compassion, communication, understanding, bonding, etc. to help mend you and your partner’s bad days, fights or bad moods? If not what is there? Two people… without sex?
Well, ya know, who can argue against KY-free fireworks! 😉
I think that’s awesome that it worked out with someone you were friends first. For the record, I totally agree that we should be able to consider the person we’re with our best friend.
Thanks for sharing your story!
I’m going to limit my reply to just one aspect of your comment:
As for traditional advice such as “spending more time together” and “communicating” if these aren’t working , or worse ruining a relationship, we may need to consider that maybe this particular relationship has an expiration date.
I’m obviously not a relationship expert, but Dr. John Gottman is, and that is one of his leading theories. He’s conducted thousands of hours of intense marriage research and has come to the conclusion that “talking it out” is not always the best way to approach issues in a marriage, and that the inability to talk it out is NOT the end of a relationship nor does it mean that the relationship is bad or unhealthy.
Neither he, nor I, am saying that it’s not the *preferred* or best way to handle problems, but when it’s not possible, it’s not a sign that the relastionship is not salvagable. I just wanted to point out that bit of advice isn’t something I made up or pulled out of my bum, so to speak, but is actually a well-known and well-supported theory of one of the nation’s leading marriage experts.
I’m not gonna lie, I almost cried (tears of happiness and mild star-struck-dom) to see Dennis Hong reply to something I said. And I also wanted to add that while my personal experience draws my opinion away from your article’s point, I love the uniqueness and creativity of the ideas on this website. They intrigue me, even yours Jessica (:
Aww, thanks. That wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a girl cry though (shameless self-plug):
But seriously, that’s sort of the whole point of Musings. I don’t believe that there are hard-and-fast rules that apply to everyone. What works for one person may not work for another person at all, and that’s why I’ve always thought that dating and relationship “rules” are kinda lame. And that’s why we post our personal stories and leave it to our readers to agree or disagree as they see fit.
Glad you like our writings!
I don’t think that your experience necessarily contradicts what I’m saying, however.
You say you and your SO were excellent platonic friends before becoming involved sexually, and that’s great. I fully expect people to be able to build fulfilling platonic relationships without sex, thus the whole point of it being platonic. Just b/c you had that first doesn’t mean that you won’t have issues and disappointments (which you state you have had some). And just b/c you don’t put all your energy toward your sex life when you have issues doesn’t mean that you need to, either.
You only really discussed the emotional aspect of your relationship, which leads me to believe that even IF you and your SO have gone through periods of less frequent sex, or lackluster sex, it hasn’t been a huge issue yet. Overall, you sound pleased with your relationship and like you haven’t had any major bumps in the road to date.
My post is addressed at people who find themselves facing larger deficits in their marriages. And while it does apply to LTR’s to a point, for the most part it’s harder to get out of a marriage than non-marriage relationship, so when facing the decision to stay or go, there’s a bit more to consider and a bit more on the line. Most people don’t stay in relationships when faced with several months or several years worth of intractible issues, but in a marriage (especially after a long time, as with the people in the studies) you can stay together–happily I might add–even though you have long-term problems that may or may not be resolvable.
So, if anything, I’d say your experience in your current relationship is of something different rather than opposite what I was discussing.
“Great sex won’t save a bad relationship/marriage, but bad/no sex can ruin a great relationship/marriage.”
Great thoughts Jennifer! If more women thought somewhere in the ballpark of this there might be a lot more happy husbands out there. In support of your theory I offer the following: “Ladies/Gentlemen, think about how much happier you are waking up on Saturday morning after a SexFilledFriday night.”
Sometimes there are things that need to be talked about and its always easier to talk about them after sex.
Obviously it can’t all be about sex, but I know that the inbalance in desire between my wife and I has created a LOT of tension and difficulty for us.
I love her, I’m not leaving, I’m not cheating, but no amount of work on “our relationship” will solve the fact that our “timing” doesn’t match and that will always be a frustration for me.
“Great sex won’t save a bad relationship/mariage, but bad/no sex can ruin a geat relationship/marriage.”
That, my friend, was EXACTLY the point I was trying to make! Thank you for summarizing it so succinctly!!! 🙂
I’ll be totally honest and say that in my last relationship before my husband, which was almost 5 years, I can count on both hands how many times we had sex in the last 3 years or so of that relationship.
It gets to a point, really, where not having sex becomes the norm and having to do so feels more like a chore. I think too many people “rationalize” that (for lack of a better term) and have all these reasons why they aren’t having sex, or good sex, that seem totally OK. The truth for me was that I didn’t really want to be in that relationship anymore, and I let the habit of never having sex become a wedge between us.
Now, I’m not saying that if we’d had sex more often that we would have worked out, but it might have worked out better in those last years. I wasn’t emotionally unhappy in the relationship until the very end, but I wasn’t satisfied sexually, which is what first caused me to “put off” having sex until we just didn’t ever have sex anymore.
So, now, even when I don’t really feel like it I still try and “rally” if my husband wants to b/c I don’t want to let not having sex become the routine. And, oddly, in our relationship I’m usually the one who wants it more, so I appreciate that he “rallies” for me from time to time. Our biggest issue is the timing…we aren’t on the same sex schedule, as it were…so we both try and accomodate each other by sometimes having sex when we don’t really feel up to it. More often than not, that ends up working out for everyone involved!
SO what do you do from this point – Of no sex for over 2 years in a marriage? It is very emotionally draining. And if you have children in the mix you feel like you have no choices. Every day you think, I can live without sex, but you know it is important, but you need this to believe in to stay.Even if there are no fights, and everyone is doing their chores and you have hobbies, it just doesn’t feel right and something is missing. You don’t want to go separate ways because you love the other and do not want to hurt them.. What is the answer????
So yes – even if you have all the other factors in place but there is no sex, let me tell you it makes a major difference. And yes I also believe when one are both are not emotionally connected, sex is not a priority which causes a downhill spiral. And yes, in time, you may look to fill this need from outside.
I know this is 4 years later, but I have to say.. thank you for writing this. You’re spot on. A marriage is really by design supposed to be a uniquely sexual union. Most every other aspect (domestic partnership financial cooperation, emotional support, platonic love) can come from a host of other relationships. Without sex, a marriage isn’t a marriage. Without sex, there is little hope for marriage to be all is can be.
You have no idea how this helped me today 🙂 Thank you again