I know you want to know this fact because I am asked it so frequently . The question posed is : “how important is sex in a relationship?” It is usually asked by a person who feels so guilty for not having more frequent sex with her/his partner. They are so desperate for release from their fear of being kicked out the relationship, traded in for a high desire person or infidelity , that they turn to an “expert” hoping to get a comforting answer, such as ” Its only one part of a relationship. Its not that big a deal.”
Truth is that when a couple is happy with their sexual relationship, it adds to positive well being and a feeling of connection and intimacy . Then sex accounts for 15-20% of a couple’s overall relationship satisfaction . Sex is not a big deal.
But when the sex is dysfunctional and causes distress , it is responsible for 50%-75% of the relationship satisfaction , or lack thereof. Many studies support the association between sexual satisfaction and overall relationship quality, suggesting that sexual dysfunction is both a contributor to and a consequence of relational conflict.
Let’s talk a little about sexual dysfunction. The most common one is low desire. 16% of men have it and 26% of women, with 27%-40% of women and 10%=20% of men expressing distress about it. Its like your common garden variety sexual complaint :”Im just not in the mood”. Or “If I never had sex again , I would be so happy”. It can be caused by medication, childhood trauma, sexual violence , mental illness such as depression or having a baby. At one time or another most everyone has felt that loss of sexual interest. Clinically we have tools to manage this so called dysfunction in individuals.
I am always so amused how these so called low desire women are either brought into “treatment” by a partner (usually a man ) , or bring themselves into “treatment” citing low sexual desire only to find out that she is having enviable anonymous cybersex or an In Real Life Infidelity . No lack of desire at all. I immediately have to reframe the problem as a Sexual Desire Discrepancy , rather than a clinical low arousal /desire disorder.
Sexual Desire Disorder (SDD) is a big deal. There is no clinical classification for it. This is a relationship killer. It is the number one cause of distress in a couple’s relationship. Simply , this is a mismatch between you and your partner’s level of sexual desire. One of you wants sex more frequently than the other. It hits you in the heart , where it really matters= your relationship. You feel unstable and insecure in your relationship, have more conflict and way less positive communication. You bark at each other. A lot. With low sexual desire , you can point a finger at the identified patient, pathologise him/her and send him /her for treatment.
With SDD , the low desire person, usually its the woman, calls herself the one with the problem, Why? Because she is probably using her partner’s sexual interest as a baseline of what is normal. Or is hooked into societal norms that state men are always horny and need sex frequently. Hell no!
She probably tells him he is a “sex addict” as he wants sex “all the time”. Well, compared to her level of desire it feels that way. This shaming label wounds him. But the more he nags, cajoles, coerces, criticises and sulks and threatens, the less likely it is that she will feel horny. Catch 22! The relationship suffers tremendously. No empathy is on offer here.
- Tell me what happens when your partner has lower interest in being sexual than you.
- How do you manage this discrepancy?
- What do you truly desire- intimacy and emotional closeness through sex, or a desire to please your partner ?
- Orgasm,cuddling , caressing, your partner’s touch?
- Does more frequent sex bring you more relationship happiness– or just more sexual satisfaction ?
GUIDE TO OVERCOME SDD:
- Communication, connection, closeness is what you seek – this is where you need to place your attention . Forget about trying to sex up the sexiness – the solution lies in improving your attachment to your partner.
- Anxiety, insecurity and anger lead to over possessive partnerships . This takes the sexy out of the relationship
- Create security, safety and trust in your relationship- this will ensure more intimacy hence more sexual desire for each other
- Create positive emotional experiences and interactions . Less screen time , more fun time together In Real Life
- If you anxiously seek affection and reassurance and pursue your partner for sex to gain this affection, you will stay stuck in SDD.
- If you flee conflict , you may seek connection primarily through sex – but it will have no emotional closeness.
- Blaming, punishing, withdrawing due to anger of SDD, feeling deeply hurt and rejected gets you to miss sexual cues of your partner.
- Directly ask for comfort, connection , and safety in the relationship creates powerful emotional intimate bonding.
- The high desire partner feels accepted and loved, regardless of the partner’s low sexual desire
- This emotional intimacy increases sexual desire in the lower desire partner.