How Important Is Sex to A Relationship?


Do we as a society over emphasize the importance of sex to the detriment of our relationships?

By Freddy and Eddy

According to the latest government statistics, the top five reasons for divorce are as follows:

1. Infidelity
2. Communication breakdown
3. Physical, psychological, or emotional abuse
4. Financial stress
5. Sexual incompatibility

As you can see, two of the top five involve sex, with infidelity finally jumping ahead of financial stress after many years of holding the top trouble spot. Sex, it seems, occupies an immensely important role in the success of couples, despite the fact that, according to the Kinsey Institute, the average number of times per week that sexual intercourse takes place is less than twice and that figure drops as couples age (as an aside, married couples tend to have more sex than single individuals who date). Is it possible we simply put too much importance on having a hot sex life when in fact a merely tepid one will be just as rewarding?

The Media Driven Sex Hype

We’re certainly not going to argue that sex – in almost every form – isn’t one of the most pleasurable activities practically every living organism can experience. Discounting for drugs, maybe the most pleasurable. It’s biological function practically necessitates it being so outrageously great that sex will override hunger, poverty, and every impediment to its influence to keep us actively pursuing and partaking in orgasmic thrills. The world population continues to grow, after all, even in its poorest regions, when common sense would dictate showing sexual restraint. Hundreds of books per year are published around sex, talk shows never cease to insert a titillating segment with some “sexpert” into their programming, and there’s hardly a film, television show, radio program, billboard, magazine, or website that fails to cover sex in some form or another. We’re positively overloaded with sex, yet the national average doesn’t budge. Indeed, the frequency statistic cited previously in this article has barely changed over the 50 years the Kinsey survey has been conducted.

Modern Sex

Thousands of couples every year will either outright destroy their relationships or allow them to disintegrate due to sexual dysfunction, or at least perceived dysfunction. Modern technology can be partly to blame; easy access to sexual information, birth control and abortion availability has made the desire for sexual pleasure a higher (or at least easier) priority than the need for sex as procreation. Likewise, changing gender roles has allowed women to become more vocal and concerned with their own sexual needs, while internet porn has fueled young men with unrealistic expectations of what sex is or can be. We now have a healthy market in pleasure devices that allow an almost limitless variety of ways to trigger orgasms on demand and said internet porn is now so ubiquitous that it’s now just another facet of everyday web surfing, akin to checking our Facebook accounts and e-mail. Sex in our modern era, unfortunately, seems to have lost any semblance of meaning, instead being twisted into yet another quickie activity that needs to meet an impossible threshold to succeed.

Sex and Reality

In fact, sex in a committed, healthy relationship will not always reflect the weight its given in contrast to the wider context of everyday living. There will be times of intense connection (and accompanying breathless simultaneous climaxes) and sexual interludes that barely register as pleasurable, to downright awful. We’ve been at this since 1988 and can report mind-blowing highs and periods of activity bordering on ludicrous (3-4 times per day during our first couple of years together) to droughts lasting weeks where we’ve been so stressed that even the effort to initiate sex was too much of a chore for either of us. Through it all, though, we’ve maintained fidelity, communicated, tried to find intimacy in other ways, and kept our relationship healthy and happy. Deliriously happy. After 26 years of having – and not having – sexual intercourse (resulting in one precocious 14 year old son), we’ve learned that putting too much emphasis can almost be worse than too little.

So How Important Is Sex?

According to Isadora Allman, M.F.T., the answer to this question is, “It absolutely depends on the importance to each of the people in the relationship.” According to Isadora, and we agree, it’s important to distinguish the importance of sex from the question of what the normal frequency of sex is. In other words, just because you are having lots of sex does not indicate its level of importance or normality any more than lack of sex shows it to be less so. Statistics are simply a tool and don’t always apply, especially when it comes to questions of human nature. Besides, as we mentioned before, and continue to belabor, there will be periods of fluctuation that every couple will experience. The important point is to bring together each individual’s level of sexual importance and priority, find the right balance, and try your best to maintain sexual equilibrium. In our relationship, we often put off sex to stay up later to spend time with our son or catch up on our favorite television shows; this doesn’t mean that we don’t value or enjoy sex when it does happen, whenever that will be. We’re not suggesting other factors may not be in play that may result in a parting, but give sex it’s proper due; is it really worth blowing up your relationship over it?

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