Margaret Paul, Ph.D.— Bestselling author and relationship expert
Sex means different things to different people, and what it means to you might be having a big effect on your relationship.
I’ve been counseling individuals and couples for many years. More than half the time, when couples are having problems or the relationship is dissolving, sex is one of the major issues. There are a number of common scenarios:
- Sex is essentially gone from the relationship. This frequently occurs in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. One partner may be more upset about this than the other.
- One partner has clearly stated that he or she is no longer available for sex. The partner states that he or she feels used, and is no longer willing to tolerate this. The other partner is angry and hurt by this.
- Sex is still a big part of the relationship, but one partner states that he or she is giving themselves up to have sex, and is very unhappy about the situation. But the complying partner fears the anger and withdrawal that ensues when he or she says no.
- Sex has become boring and routine with little or no passion, so one or both partners are unmotivated.
- One partner, generally the woman in a heterosexual relationship, says that she doesn’t feel anything during sex, so is unmotivated to have sex. Orgasm is non-existent or very rare.
- After a long marriage with regular sex, he comes home to discover that his wife has left. He is devastated, and has no idea why. Upon exploration, it turns out that he has expected sex at least three times a week. While his wife complied, he knew that she felt emotionally disconnected from him and needed to grit her teeth to have sex with him. Looking back, he realizes that she tried to express this to him and he had refused to listen. Now she is gone.
There are other scenarios, but these are the most common that I’ve encountered regarding sexual problems within the relationship. Sometimes, some of these issues have led to sexual or emotional affairs, and sometimes affairs are an underlying cause of some of these problems.
Invariably, as I’ve explored with one or both partners, I’ve discovered that the main underlying cause of many of these scenarios has to do with WHY one of the partners wants to have sex.
There are two basic reasons that people want to have sex:
- To get something
- To share love, passion, warmth and connection
Sex to Get Something
If you are in a relationship where you want sex and your partner doesn’t, think for a moment about WHY you want or need to have sex. See if you relate to any of these.
I need to have sex to:
- Release sexual tension.
- Feel that I’m adequate — not a loser.
- Feel happy.
- Feel loved and lovable.
- Feel connected with my partner.
- Release stress.
- Be able to sleep.
- Feel powerful and in control.
- Feel safe.
- Feel validated.
- Feel whole.
- Get filled up inside.
When you approach your partner from a place of wanting to get something, you are coming from a needy state. Your neediness is likely not attractive to your partner, nor erotic for your partner. Your neediness may result in your partner feeling used rather than aroused.
Sex to Share Love, Passion, Warmth and Connection
Wanting sex to share love comes from a completely different place inside than sex to get something. In order to have love and connection to share, you have to already be connected with yourself and feel filled with love. You cannot share something that you don’t already have.
You cannot share love and connection when you feel unhappy, empty, inadequate, unlovable, disconnected from yourself, stressed or agitated, angry or needing to feel in control of your partner.
If you and your partner are having sexual problems, you each may want to examine the system between you. These systems might be apparent within the sexual relationship, or they may be operating in others areas and are affecting the sexual relationship.
Is there a control-resist system, with one person demanding, blaming and angry and the other resisting? Is there a control-compliance system, with one person demanding and the other complying? Is there a compliance-compliance system, where each person is giving themselves up to avoid rejection? This system often leads to a lack of aliveness in the relationship. Is there a control-control system, where both people are angry, demanding or blaming of each other? Any of these systems may be bypassing the true sharing of love and joy that sexuality between loving, caring partners offers.
The way out is to learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings of worth, safety and lovability, and for filling yourself up with love from a spiritual source. Learning and practicing the Inner Bonding process is a powerful way to learn to love yourself, so that you can share your love with your partner in mutually satisfying ways.