Is sex vital to a happy relationship?

The answer, as with anything to do with relationships, isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. A lot of a therapist’s time can be spent helping couples figure out what makes their individual relationship work. 

As with any relationship, be it gay or straight or a marriage or a committed bonding, it is what those in the relationship want and prioritise that is important. And communicating those needs to each other is key. So sex may be vital or it may not be.

Having said that there is a general belief that a satisfying sex life is important or, in fact, vital to a happy relationship. However a recent report from the relationship charities, Relate and Relationship Scotland, questions how right that assumption, or generally held belief, is.

Sex is a way to physically bond with someone. The act is an intense, physical intimacy which most humans crave. It is pleasurable and in some cases addictive. But still, unsurprisingly, a good sex life and compatible personality were only more highly prized by those in the earlier stages of a relationship than by those who’d been together for 25 years or more. 

These days, in Western culture at least, sex is highly publicised, talked about, used for selling and generally thought that if you are nothing getting lots of it then there is something wrong with you and, if you are in a relationship, your relationship. 

But maybe there is too much emphasis on sex as the glue to a mutually satisfying relationship? And exploring your attitudes towards sex with a counsellor may help you figure out what is important to you. You may like to be sexual but if you aren’t actively so at the moment it may not be the end of the world for you. Despite what your peers may be shouting.

The research, carried out by YouGov, suggests that for a significant number of the population honesty, commitment and good communications are more important than a good sex life. In fact only about a third of the 6,000 plus people interviewed felt that sex life/physical attraction ranked in their top three important factor in their relationship. That means that two thirds had other priorities. So why is there a generally held public belief that if a couple’s sex life diminishes they are more likely to split up?

Sex is enjoyable and most of us want to be physically intimate. Having said that just over half (51%) of people in the survey said that they have not had sex in the last month. Tied in with this could be the different sex drives people have or maybe a lack of opportunity.

Of course when a couple first meet the general focus is on being physically intimate. The body is driven to be sexual. With time, and the development of the intimacy side of the relationship, this over-consuming drive begins to lessen. Sometimes individuals can become embarrassed talking about being sexual with their partner. Especially when they put pressure on themselves to have ‘amazing’ sex. For some just touching and cuddling is all they need.

Perhaps it is time to re-look at how we view sex and to drop the ‘it must be great every time’ attitude. And perhaps we need to re-look at how we view sex publicly. A newspaper headline on the report screamed ‘Nearly Half of Brits Unhappy with Sex Lives”. The report itself actually showed that 24% were dissatisfied. So why didn’t the paper scream well over half are happy? Maybe this just doesn’t make good headline!

If you are worried about your sex life then why not talk to a counsellor?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Canary Wharf, E14 4AS
Written by Owen Redahan, MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)
Canary Wharf, E14 4AS

Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self-esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person focused therapies.

He holds a diploma in Counselling and is Vice Chair of ATSAC (the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf (E14).

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