| A sexual encounter between two people within a relationship is a two-way street. Both partners are responsible for setting limits and asking for what they need during the encounter. With regard to sex, during individual therapy discussions about difficulty within a relationship, I often hear comments such as, “I really don’t like it when” or “I wish she (or he) would do more of…” When I ask if these issues were discussed with the partner, the answer is usually, “no”.
For those of us who have used sex as the only means of connecting with our partner, it’s important to begin exploring why this is and what needs to change to promote other avenues for connecting and communicating which will encourage healthy intimacy. I have heard, couples say, “We have a hard time talking with one another but our sex life makes up for all of that!’ or “We have a whole bunch of unresolved problems but we still have a great relationship because we have great sex.” Sex, though an important part of a relationship, is just that - only a part.
For most of us, while growing up, sex was not discussed in an open manner in the family. If we have a history of sexual abuse or grew up with parents who had affairs or were into addictive pornography usage, we will have difficulty discussing sex in a healthy, open, intimate manner. Sex is often confused with intimacy and in many instances, there is the myth that the more intense the sexual encounter is, the more “in love” are the partners and intimate the relationship.
In a sexual relationship it’s important to discuss likes and dislikes with regards to the physical, sexual aspect of the relationship. If the encounter brings feelings of aloneness, anger, emptiness, fear or shame for one or both partners, the sexual relationship is probably in need of help and based on sexual dysfunction. If you need help understanding how to talk about sex, read the books, “Is It Love or Is It Sex?” and “Beyond the Chase.”