It’s an excellent question. And I would love to give you a definite answer so that you can just exhale and move on with your life but it isn’t that simple.
I’ve been faced with some hard hitting questions in sessions this year. BIG questions that revolve around BIG life decisions like:
Will the relationship last if the sex is bad?
Can we have lots of intimacy but then next to zero sexual intimacy?
Can we stay together even if I am not sexually attracted to my partner?
After a lot of pondering, postulating, talking, intervening and wondering I have come to realise something about sex…
It’s not important until it’s the only thing that matters.
Sex matters. To nearly ALL of us - it’s more a matter of whether we are willing to admit it or not.
My clients – they share with me the qualities and the attributes that they love most about their partners. A resounding one is…they feel safe with them.
Good. Excellent. We need that safety to open up sexually but safety comes with an asterisk*.
Safety cannot equal boring.
You can be safe and feel excited.
You can be safe and feel interested.
But if safety and security are on par with boredom and disinterest then we could well have a sex problem on our hands.
Let’s talk about why sex can go bad in an otherwise really good relationship…
A common one is that sometimes everything being predictable and reliable means that sexual interest wanes. Even if you come to me saying “Lauren – I’m just not a sexual person” well, I will probably end up asking you a whole bunch of questions that go against all of that. Most women can recall a memory or a time in their life when something sexually good or exciting or thrilling happened.
All those times were made more enjoyable as we don’t know what was going to happen. We might have had an idea but really, that sense of positive anticipation was and is great for blood flow and arousal.
So if you sit in front of me and say: They ask if I wanna have sex then we go to the bedroom then this thing happens then they put it in and then it’s over…
Well, there isn’t a lot to positively anticipate about that.
And you may well be describing the sex as bad or crap. And I’ll agree with you.
What this says to me is that you’re possibly nurturing a lot of the other facets of your life and lifestyle but this one is under nourished.
You gotta feed it.
Nothing will get better with the same old dissatisfying sex playing out on a loop.
If I were working with you, I’d ask you some big questions like…
Big question #1 - Sex - what’s in it for you? There has to be something in it for you or we all may as well dust our hands off and walk away. Sex isn’t a selfless act – it’s a self-centred act and we aren’t psyched to do it if there is no motivation.
Does it – help you feel close? Bring you pleasure? Allow you to explore your fantasies? Feel like respite from the rest of your life?
Work out what is in it for you and what could possibly pull you in to it.
Big question #2 – how do you want sex to get started? This carries a lot of weight. Never underestimate how likely it is that crappy sex follows a crappy start.
Do you want them to ask you differently? Choose different timing? Do you need a new dialogue to get it started? Would you prefer them to suggest something like a gesture or an act that could transition into sex? This one is big and only you can answer it.
Big question #3 – how are you to talking to each other in sex? No, not dirty talk but what feedback are you giving each other? There must be a lot of silent bedrooms across Australia because from what I hear, so many women are worried about giving their partners feedback – they worry it will be interpreted as criticism. I assure you feedback and criticism are quite different and for as long as we say nothing….nothing can change. They probably won’t radically change how they approach you or their technique if they have no idea that you aren’t receiving it well/it isn’t doing anything for you.
Big question #4 - Are you staying the relationship for other people more than yourself? Never underestimate the weight of family and friends being in love with your partner. That’s great BUT they aren’t living with them or having sex with them. You also can’t stay with someone so you don’t hurt their feelings by ending the relationship. Isn’t long term dissatisfaction and being checked out of the relationship worse than breaking it off so they can move on? If you come to me wanting to stay together we will look at every angle available to stay together…yet if you are staying because you are scared to be independent or to make sure others are happy then we’ll be limited with how much we can do to improve your sex life.
In my book Permission, I talk a bit about active vs passive libido. It isn’t often that I lump things into 2 categories but this one is important. I need to ask you right now:
Are you being passive about your sex life?
Are you so unsure of how to intercept that you are doing nothing?
Yes your relationship is wonderful in all the other ways but is being passive about your sex life and sweeping it under the rug starting to effect all the other forms of intimacy?
And I assure you, even if you don’t think you are a sexual person or that sex really matters or you could live without it, you may be sitting there one day and a romantic scene or a sex scene comes up in a film or show and your body remembers – this is what I don’t have. This is what is missing from my life.
And that makes me sad for you.
It’s not that we strive for amazing, firework-creating, full body orgasm sex if nothing is really working – that would be unrealistic to set the goalpost there but I do think if you are two mature people that are choosing to come and be together that we can do something rather than nothing at all.
I’m not a fan of wondering what if? so if there is curiosity there for me then I’ll go on the hunt to try and rectify the problem or at least find some answers to diminish the pain.
When I started becoming an active participant in my libido and sex life, the habit kind of stuck. And I want the same for you - to not be so scared or trying and to not feel silly for trying. Silly for me is now not trying rather than doing something new that feels unfamiliar.
Honestly, the old people pleaser in me would love to say:
I’m sure it’ll be OK and
You two will outlast an apocalypse
But human experience tells me otherwise. I don’t have a crystal ball. And not all relationships will survive this conundrum no matter what the level of intervention.
Perhaps you’ll make an arrangement in your relationship where sex just isn’t important – but that’s gotta be a mutual thing.
Perhaps you both realise that sex is really important and you either nurture it between each other or you seek it somewhere else. Strict monogamy is not our only option these days.
Perhaps you already feel like you’ve given it everything and you don’t feel anything else is possible between the two of you – there’s been so much hurt. You never know, this could re-direct you to the relationship that will have you sexually satisfied - my clients have sent me emails letting me know that this is how it played out and they have carried the skills they learnt with them.
I don’t have the answer as to whether your relationship will last if the sex is bad but I love a ‘let’s throw everything at it’ approach if you have some fight left in you.
Relationships need investment – we can’t be abundant and wealthy in all the other areas of our life and then starve our relationship. We’ve gotta invest – it’s so normal to need to give your sex life attention and TLC. I’m not sure where we got the idea that sex is ‘natural’ so we all just know what to do. Cos I’m telling you right now - we don’t!
I’ll put it this way: bad sex might not be a reflection of the rest of your relationship – just a reflection of bad habits. Whatever the future for your relationship/s – I don’t want bad habits to follow you into the future.
If this is your big question and it’s creating a lot of confusion then I’d encourage you to come see me for an introductory session. Let’s look at the untapped potential and how we can get you two into a more enjoyable sexual dynamic and if you are a woman reading this – we are going to keep the focus on you owning what you need and would like and what really isn’t working.
You are 50% of your sexual relationship.