The importance of sex in a relationship can be gauged from the fact that good relationships are often linked to sexuality. The assumption is that happy couples have a thriving sex life, while those stuck in miserable relationships don’t.
However, given the wide spectrum of romantic relationships today, there can be a no-size-fits-all generalization of the importance of sex in a relationship. For instance, the meaning and importance of sex can for homosexual couples can be very different from that of their heterosexual counterparts.
Then, there are asexual and demisexual couples as well as those who choose to keep their relationships sexless. So, the answer to how important is sex for a thriving relationship varies according to the circumstances and life choices of the people involved.
That said, for couples who choose sex to be a part of their relationships, it becomes one of the central tenets of their romantic partnership. Let’s dive into the topic, with expert inputs from psychotherapist Dr Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., MBA, PGDTA), and sexologist Dr Rajan Bhonsle (M.D), a father-son duo who co-wrote “What The FUQ? – Frequently Unanswered Questions About Sex” among other personal projects in their respective illustrious careers.
Importance Of Sex In A Relationship
The importance of sex in a relationship has been widely discussed and debated. Speaking on the subject, Dr Aman tells us why sex is important in human life “Sex, in many ways, is the point of a relationship. Since it’s the main differentiator between a friendship and a relationship, the inclusion of sexual intercourse and romantic interludes is important to most people in a relationship.
“Plus, it’s a socio-cultural catalyst to push people into the next phase of life. Be it starting a family together or even taking up some kind of shared life project together. In many ways, sex acts as a catalyst to push people into the social project that relationships can often be.”.
If “does sex strengthen a relationship” has ever crossed your mind, based on what Dr Aman says, sexual intercourse in a relationship can quite literally push a couple together and act as a catalyst for a lifelong commitment.
It is now a well-accepted fact that sexually active people need intimacy to thrive in their relationships. New research based on the findings of four different studies has concluded that “sex seems not only beneficial because of its physiological or hedonic effects but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner.”
This essentially means that not just the act of sex itself but the affection that accompanies it is what promotes a sense of well-being and satisfaction between partners. These displays of affection extend far beyond sexual interactions, and include hugging, kissing and other forms of physical touch between partners.
The bottom line is that having sex but no love won’t do your relationship any good. The notion of the importance of sex in a relationship holds water only as long as it is linked to love and affection. Here’s why:
1. Sex brings an emotional rush
“The act of sex is designed to be fun. If it wasn’t fun, people wouldn’t be doing it. So, sex is one of the ways through which we seek companionship and mutual enjoyment,” says Dr Aman.
Thanks to the release of feel-good hormones followed by an orgasm, sex gives you an emotional rush. The release of endorphins helps reduce stress, testosterone helps in enhancing performance in all spheres of life, and dopamine drives up your feelings of happiness and go-getter attitude.
When combined, these hormones work as a glue that strengthens the bond between partners and keeps your relationship strong. The previously mentioned research on the benefits of sex also points out that these positive emotions last for at least 24 hours, resulting in a lingering sense of satisfaction.
This ‘hangover’ bolsters positive emotions toward your partner, making you value and cherish your relationship more. The ‘infatuation’ you feel at the beginning of a relationship can also be credited to the fact that most couples partake in lots of sex at the beginning of a relationship.
2. It’s a stress buster
Sex can play an important role in cutting down tension and stresses
Sex also releases oxytocin, which provides instant relief from stress and promotes a feeling of relaxation. It serves as an antidote to cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone.
Research on pleasurable behaviors that reduce stress indicates that sex activates the reward system in the brain, thus, helping in reducing tensions. To reap these benefits you don’t necessarily have to orgasm. Skin-to-skin contact lasting any longer than 20 seconds is enough to get the oxytocin flowing into your bloodstream.
Therefore, sex can play an important role in cutting down tension and stresses, whether relationship-specific or induced by external factors such as work, health issues or financial constraints. Hence, no sex in a relationship means what you think it means: the stresses of life will invariably take their toll.
3. Validation from sex can boost confidence
Body image and latent insecurities have a direct bearing on the quality of one’s sex life. Research on the issues of body image and sexual function indicates that it can impact every aspect of sexuality, right from sex drive and arousal to satisfaction.
Interestingly, the reverse is also true. The act of sex is also a form of validation from a loved one, which can be a huge boost for the sense of confidence. Add the dopamine rush to the mix, and you have all the necessary elements to feel good about yourself and more comfortable in your skin.
If you were to pin down the importance of sex to a woman or even a man, the validation they get from it could be one of the top reasons. Not only will a confidence boost increase their performance in bed, but it will increase their work-life satisfaction and may even provide some benefits in their social lives.
4. Sex improves intimacy
The importance of sex in a relationship extends beyond the bedroom. This phenomenon is described as the intimacy loop. The more intimate you are sexually, the more intimate you will be in other aspects of your relationship as well. Be it emotional intimacy or being more in sync with each other, the overall closeness between partners is elevated with healthy sex life. This once again reiterates the ‘affection begets sex and sex begets affection’ premise established by research.
“As a result of the shared intimacy, teamwork comes into order. When a man and a woman apply themselves to any social pursuits, be it starting a family, adopting a pet or buying a home, the intimacy they share will lead to better decisions,” Says Dr Aman, informing us how sex is important in human life and the benefits extend outside of the bedroom.
5. Post-sex cuddles bring you closer
Research carried out at the University of Toronto Mississauga establishes that post-sex engagement in form of cuddles and kissing also promotes happier and more satisfying bonds between partners. This is also attributed to oxytocin release due to physical contact. Of course, to leverage this benefit, you need to have sex first.
6. It makes partners feel indispensable
In most monogamous relationships, the act of sexual intercourse with the partner can often make them feel valued, trusted and loved by their partner. The reason why a physical relationship is important in love is due to the fact that an extra layer of compatibility is set into place during the act of sex.
Dr Aman says “A sexual relationship is a way of giving your partner the idea that they are indispensable, it’s a nonverbal way of saying ‘you are the only person I share this with’, which is what gives the partners the exclusive status. Usually, it’s a way of saying that we are now exclusively tied to each other and bound together by this loyalty toward each other’s minds and bodies.”
The importance of sex in building harmonious relationships is clear. Relationships thrive on fulfilling sexual interactions between partners and your life outside of the bedroom will be positively affected as well. So, when all is said and done, does sex strengthen a relationship? Our experts definitely think so.
What Is The Importance Of Sex To A Woman And A Man?
Is there a difference in the importance of sex to a woman, and the importance of sex to a man? Do they both perceive it differently? If so, how differently do they view it?
To answer some of our questions, Dr Aman weighs in on the subject “Even though the paradigms are always changing in our society, the broad generalizations are that women are more heart-oriented. For them, sex is about trust. For a man, sex is viewed as pleasure. It’s like an itch on the back that he needs to scratch from time to time.”
Dr Aman argues that although some tendencies do tend to exist, they often aren’t watertight. “One could argue that men have a technicality in the pleasure they derive from sex. Whereas women could see it as a passport to find validation and companionship. But then again, these definitions are broadening, they’re not written in stone. You can always find exceptions,” he adds.
“Although, the percentage of women who approach sex purely for its physical pleasure is slightly smaller than the men who approach it only for physical pleasure,” says Dr Aman, concluding that although the differences are ever-changing, some common tendencies do tend to exist.
How important is sex to a man in a relationship?
When push comes to shove, the male perspective on sex is markedly different from that of women. In any relationship, understanding your partner’s sexual feelings, expectations and fantasies is crucial for a fulfilling sex life. However, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, you cannot possibly relate to your partner’s views on the matter.
But you can always make an effort to understand how important is sex to a man in a relationship and why:
Sex is physical: For men, sex is physical. This means that their desire is fueled by the testosterone rush in the body, which drives their need for sexual expression. That’s why for some men, sexual urges can be hard to control
Sex is hunger: Sex is a biological need, and it is far more pronounced in the case of men. They crave it just the way people crave their favorite food or dessert. When that craving takes hold in their mind, they cannot shake it off unless they’ve satiated it
Sex is linked to relationship circumstances: It’s a misnomer that men are always ready for some action. On the contrary, their sexual urges are governed by and reflect the circumstances of the relationship. For instance, constant fighting or a strained relationship with his partner can kill a man’s sex drive
Sex is an expression of love: Sex is a man’s way of expressing love. In most cases, engaging in sex is not a self-serving desire. They want to pleasure their partners, see them turned on and enjoying the act. For them, it’s a way of giving love to a significant other
Sex is emotional connect: Men are often accused of wanting only sex in a relationship, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Men too crave an emotional connection. It’s just that for them sex is a manifestation of this connect
How important is sex to a woman in a relationship?
How important is sex to a woman in a relationship? This question is pertinent when discussing the importance of sex in a relationship because of the prevalent fallacy that women don’t attach much value to sex. The fact is that women too can be extremely sexually-oriented in their romantic relationships. The difference between men’s and women’s attitudes toward sex stems from how the two express and experience their sexualities.
Women too can be extremely sexually-oriented in their romantic relationships
While the answer to how important is sex to a woman in a relationship cannot be generalized, certain common themes indicate the significance of sex from a woman’s perspective:
Sex is emotional: For women, sex is the deepest form of the connection they share with their partners. Her sexual urges and desires stem from emotions, memories and fantasies rather than a rush of hormones
Sex makes her feel desired: Sex is important to women in a relationship because it makes them feel desired. Her partner trying to turn her on and making love to her is a reiteration of the fact that she is loved and appreciated
Sex is governed by physical and mental state: A woman’s sex drive can be erratic, as it is governed by external factors such as her physical health and state of mind. So, if there are problems in the relationship, she may not be interested in sex. Similarly, when she going through a hormonal flux – typically post-childbirth or around menopause – the importance of sex for her may decline
Sex is romance: Most women cannot orgasm through vaginal-penile intercourse alone. For them, the romance and seduction leading up to the final act are equally important.
Sex is a way of giving love: Much like men, women also view sex as a way of giving love. That’s why a lot of times women agree to sex even when they’re not feeling it. It’s not pity sex nor is she obligated to say yes when she doesn’t want it, but she does it out of goodwill and relational warmth.
Sex, more specifically expressing sexual needs and desires, can be a touchy topic. Particularly, when a couple lacks sexual harmony. That impedes conversations about desires and expectations, often causing solvable problems to snowball into colossal issues.
For the maintenance of a relationship, sex is invariably important, or at least communication about it. Here is how communication – or lack thereof – impacts a couple’s ability to deal with the effects of lack of sex in a relationship:
When couples don’t communicate about lack of sex
“First and foremost, couples need to establish what lack of sex means, and make sure that they are on the same page. It’s natural for partners to engage in lots of sex at the beginning of a relationship. A decline in frequency over time is also equally natural. Therefore, setting expectations mutually is vital. That requires dialogue.
“More often than not, couples don’t talk about these things honestly, especially if there are other relationship problems at play. As a result, dissatisfaction in the relationship mounts. Another common tendency is to expect one’s partner to understand one’s needs without spelling them out.
“But no one is a mind reader. Unsaid – and thus unmet – expectations can add to a person’s feeling of sexual frustration. So, when there is inadequate communication about lack of sex, it leads to fights, ultimatums and dirty linen being aired in public.
“In such cases, the intervention of an expert can be immensely beneficial. For instance, I had a case where the husband claimed that there wasn’t enough sex in the marriage whereas the wife said that they had had sex twice just last week. To which, he responded that it had happened after a lull of six months. So, both partners not only had different expectations but also divergent views on the situation.
“As a neutral party, a sexologist can help couples find common ground and work a way to revive their sexual chemistry in a way that is acceptable to both partners,” Dr Rajan Bhonsle says.
When couples communicate about lack of sex
On the other hand, when couples communicate with each other without placing blame, they become better equipped at dealing with less-than-satisfactory sex life. “I had a patient who was suffering from poor quality erection, which made him self-conscious of his performance in bed. His wife started viewing his reluctance to engage in sex as a sign of his diminishing interest in her.
“When he approached me, I told him the problem could be addressed with medication. He had no clue that it was possible. With the right treatment, he was able to reclaim his sex life. It was possible only because he chose to open up and communicate about it.
“Similarly, there was a case where the husband was dissatisfied with his sex life. When we explored the reasons behind it, it emerged that they didn’t have enough privacy to engage sexually. The wife said they were sharing the bedroom with their son since the mother-in-law also lived with them and the child was a light sleeper who woke up at the slightest movement.
“How is sex possible, she asked. Here too, by talking about their problem, the couple was able to find a middle ground to make things work,” Dr Rajan explains.
The importance of sex in a relationship cannot be overstated. However, lacking in intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship has no future. There are always underlying reasons at play, and the onus of discovering and addressing them falls on the couple. If you feel that you’re not equipped to do so on your own, seeking expert help is the best recourse.