Question submitted by CS.
Firstly, I want to say kudos to CS for even asking this question. Sex is everywhere. It is in the shows we watch and the books we read. It is in the conversations with our friends and in the day to day expectations of anyone who is in a romantic relationship. It is normal, required and necessary in order to have a good, and happy relationship. Right?
There are a variety of reasons that someone may not engage in sex. They may have an injury, or low libido or identify as asexual. They may be taking medications that cut all sexual desires. They may have experienced a sexual assault and it is too triggering for them. Or, maybe they just don’t want to. And the big part of all of this, is that it is okay! It is okay if someone, or a couple, are not engaging in a regular sex life. Society has created this expectation that every couple should be having sex all the time and if you are not being or feeling sexy, there is something wrong with you. It is created a pressure that if sex is not happening in your relationship, then you are inadequate or not attractive. Yet, this is not true.
As mentioned before, Husband and I have had a ton of struggles over the years following his mental health diagnoses. And having a regular sex life was one of them. Now, I am not going to get into the finer details of what happens in our bedroom, but I will tell you that for a long time, we both felt unattractive and not desired by our partner because we weren’t having sex. That was not the case. Rather, it was a variety of outside factors impacting both of our desire to have sex. Husband was struggling, hard, and I had fallen into the caregiver role and did not feel attractive anymore. I felt that he did not see me as a wife or a partner, but rather as a warden or sheriff. At the time, it was necessary for survival, but when we moved out of that survival mode, the lack of sex was still an issue. So, what did we do?
We went to therapy as a couple. We were validated that sex is not everything and that we needed to start looking at ways to develop intimacy instead. We were told that doing things together and spending quality time is WAY more impactful that a quick roll in the hay. And, we were told that this was common. That we were not the only couple who feels this way. That was the best part of all. It was nice to be told that although mainstream society tells us sex is everything, this person was confirming for a lot of us that this is not the case. Intimacy is more important.
So, what the hell does intimacy even mean?
Well, I did research. I looked into different options and I tailored it for the things that would work for Husband and I. I tried to be patient (and at times I was not). And I found that intimacy is something that does not happen right away. It built up over time, and the more things Husband and I did to create intimacy, instead of just sex, was helpful in getting us reconnected and back to being a solid couple. So, it worked for us, but going back to CS’s question, is sex required for every relationship? That I cannot confirm. What I can tell you is what I found in my research and what worked for us…
- Time. We took time with each other. Even simple things like going to the grocery store together or going for a drive on a Sunday afternoon and listening to music helped. We made a point to try and eat supper twice a week at the table instead of in front of the TV. And we took time doing things that the other person enjoyed instead of just what we wanted.
- Communication. We talked about it. We talked about the way we felt disconnected and the ways in which we could start to be more open in our feelings. We talked about the things that made us feel loved and the ways in which we could show each other attention that was right for us. We also talked about the good things we had. Instead of focusing solely on the negative or challenges, we spoke about why and how we love each other too.
- Acceptance. We accepted that it was okay. It was okay that we were struggling and that we were feeling disconnected from each other. We accepted that every relationship has highs and lows and if a couple is telling you they don’t, then they are lying. We accepted that it was not forever. It is natural for people in general to have good and bad times, so why wouldn’t a couple have the same issue.
- Trust. We acknowledged that we needed to trust each other. To be vulnerable and honest in how we were truly feeling. Trust that we would be able to have those hard conversations and that it may take a bit of time to get back to where we wanted to be. Trust in each other and our desire to continue to have our life together.
And as I said, it worked. We were able to reconnect in our relationship, and for us, in the bedroom as well. However, that is us. I am not naïve enough to think that Husband and I won’t continue to have ups and downs and may have to go back to these steps at times, but for us, it was enough. It was enough, but it may not be for everyone.
Do you need sex to be successful? No. But you do need intimacy. You need an ability to talk to each other, trust each other and know that at the end of the day, you both want the same for your relationship. The ability to be real with each other. This is one of those situations where you can’t fake it until you make it. You have to be invested. If you don’t have that, then maybe, just maybe, you may not be successful.
“Let come what comes, let go what goes. See what remains.”
– Ramana Maharshi