When sex stops happening in your relationship
The secret to a healthy and evenly balanced relationship is not to need anything from your partner. Ask yourself - can you give without wanting anything in return and whether you are capable of standing on your own two feet without ‘needing’ something from your partner. ‘Need’ is often the breeding ground for any form of addiction and can be especially potent with unhealthy relationships.
A healthy relationship could be one defined as two relatively independent people coming together so that they can function better as a couple, than they would on their own. Perhaps the most sustaining and enduring relationships are where one person sees the other as their best friend as well as lover.
There are many reasons why relationships get into difficulty. Some start off in a dysfunctional manner from day one but healthy relationships can gradually become difficult too. When sex stops happening in relationships it may point to one person becoming overly parental. After all, who wants to have sex with their mother or father? The work in therapy would be to address the power imbalance and open up dialogue so that each other takes responsibility for their contribution. You can only be responsible for 50% of the partnership, but people acting as the parent want to assume more of that responsibility.
An effective communication exercise for couples having difficulty is to set aside some time in order to better relate to each other and to establish healthy boundaries. The exercise involves sitting with each other for 30 minutes each day. After all, what is 30 minutes if your relationship is not working? The exercise works by one person talking (without interruption) about their grievances with the other. When 10 minutes have elapsed the listener summarises what they have heard (without interruption) for five minutes and can be subject to correction by the other at the end. This is then repeated with the roles reversed.
In relationships we may unwittingly annoy our partners by our actions, but if we become aware of what we are doing, and the negative effect it is having on others, our unconscious mind can do most of the work in correcting areas of tension. Most people do not intentionally set out to upset others so open communication can clear away simmering areas of resentment, impatience and intolerance. There are, of course, real problems in your relationship if your partner is actually intent on causing emotional pain by their objectionable behaviour. That is when you may need to decide if you are better off not being in the relationship.
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About Noel Bell
Noel Bell is a psychotherapist in private practice based in London.