Here's how your sex life affects your entire relationship
Relationships have a lot of moving parts. There’s your happiness as a couple, your fulfillment as individuals, there’s your schedules, your likes, your incompatibilities — and, of course, there’s your sex life. Even if you're someone who, like me, thinks that sex can be amazing and fulfilling when it’s totally outside of a relationship, it’s hard to deny that if you’re in a relationship — especially a serious one — the two are deeply connected.
Sex and the larger relationship can feed into and shape each other, sometimes in a way that’s difficult to put into words. While there are obvious connections — if you’re in the middle of a huge fight you may not be having sex, unless it’s angry and/or make-up sex — there are more subtle ones as well.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind about how sex affects the relationship as a whole, because it can be a complex and nuanced relationship.
1. Intimacy in one area can translate into intimacy in another
Sex can be a microcosm for your relationship as a whole, so what happens in the bedroom can end up affecting other areas. One of the best ways this manifests is through the intimacy gained during sex and seeing how that can bring the two of you closer together in other areas. There’s an automatic closeness to sex and, quite frankly, once you’ve seen all of each other’s bits and pranced around naked together, it’s hard to feel too self-conscious and sweat the small stuff. But this continues deep into a relationship. Even if you've been together a long time, sex can make you feel more in tune with each other, more understanding, and increase your empathy. When your sex life is good and strong, it often feels like the rest of your relationship is strong too.
2. Sex can be a vulnerable area, so watch out for ripples
Of course, that isn’t always the case. Sex is also a really vulnerable area — where we expose ourselves to one another. It’s also incredibly easy to feel sensitive about what happens in the bedroom. So if you have an awkward experience — if one of you can’t get in the mood or finish or does something the other doesn't like — that can ripple outward. Remember, there’s nothing to feel bad about — these things are totally natural and can happen all the time. It’s just a reminder that you should be empathetic and compassionate with one another — and maybe check in a little more if something has gone wrong in the bedroom. You don't want it to create distance, so don't shy away from addressing it head-on.
3. A sex drought can affect you without even realizing it
Sex droughts and dry spells can be tough. Of course, there are plenty of totally good reasons you may not be having as much sex as you normally do. There are so many things that can affect your sex drive — from work stress to mental health issues to certain medications and more. You should never feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if you find that you don't want or aren't able to have sex. There’s no shame in that. But what you might want to do is keep a keen eye out for how it may be affecting your relationship more generally. Often, a lack of sex in the bedroom can slowly drive a wedge between the two of you, even if you don’t realize it. You drift, somehow. What’s crucial is not to try to force yourself to have sex if it isn’t working, but to replace that intimacy in other ways. Whether it’s through cuddling, through deep talks, through finding more ways to laugh and spend time together, make sure that the intimacy you’re losing in the bedroom is made up somewhere else.
4. It can make you see your partner in a whole new light
One of the best things about sex is that it allows us to reveal parts of ourselves that don’t come out in other areas. When you’re in a long-term relationship, it can begin to feel like you know each other so well that nothing surprises you anymore. At worst, you can start to see each other as faded, lacklustre versions of your actual selves and you may even start to take each other for granted. But sex is an area where it’s so easy to mix things up. A new position, a new toy, even just a new routine can totally reinvigorate your sex life — and make you see your partner in a whole new way. Just a little change in the bedroom can reawaken you both.
5. Pillow talk never gets old
One of the ways that sex can affect your relationship isn’t about the sex itself at all — it’s the post-sex moment. That post-sex glow, fuelled with oxytocin and sweat, can be an incredible opportunity. Whether you’ve been together one month or 20-years, it’s a period to connect and somehow, all of those things that have been shunted to one side are allowed to surface. There’s something about pillow talk that makes tricky subjects less tricky and encourages you to stop feeling resentful and just get it off your chest. Luckily, that never goes away.
Sex and relationships is a complicated dynamic. A great sex life often means a strong relationship — but you can have an amazing relationship with no sex at all, as long as you’re finding intimacy in other places. The bottom line? Be aware of what’s happening in the bedroom and how it may be affecting or informing the rest of your relationship — and make sure you’re taking time to bond, no matter how that looks for you as a couple.