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The Role of Sex in a Relationship

This post has been sitting in my drafts for the past four and a half years, at first being meant to be based on three studies regarding the sexual behavior of people of various ages who are in long-term relationships. That never got written, so I meant to give it another shot some two years ago, trying to base it on four articles about the general benefits of sex and the reasons why people, whether or not in a committed relationship, report having it. That didn’t work either, so here I am now, trying once again, this time basing it solely on my own opinions and perceptions. As such, don’t expect too much from it, especially considering my state of mind.

Most people are drawn towards sex on all levels, whether we’re talking about the purely physical, the mental or the emotional. Some people may also be drawn towards sex for spiritual reasons, making for a total of four levels. One of these may be emphasized over the others, or one may be given far less importance than the others, but they’re all usually present to some extent. More exactly, each of these motivations is usually seen in a person to an extent roughly similar to the development of the corresponding levels or aspects of said person’s personality. For example, a person with a highly developed mental aspect and a poorly developed emotional one is likely to rationalize and justify their desire for sex while at the same time not caring much about their relationship with their sexual partner.
That said, it’s true that sexual desire originated as a very basic instinct, but the fact that humans are capable of developing these other aspects to such an extent provides a huge range of motivations, benefits and methods, many of them at least justifiable and sometimes even recommended in various scenarios. Yet this post isn’t about sex in general or about what can be determined about a person from their sexual desires and practices, but specifically about the role of sex in a relationship.
Admittedly, what sex means to a person who’s in a relationship largely depends on the reason why said person is in that relationship in the first place. For example, there are unfortunately still many people who enter relationships mainly in order to have and raise children, which makes it quite easy to determine the primary role sex has for them. At the same time, there are people who prize other aspects of their lives far more than relationships, which means that the role sex has for them has more to do with how it can help them outside the relationship, including by reducing stress, improving health or even obtaining certain more direct benefits. Yet the most complex and most important, not to mention most desirable, scenario is that in which people are in a relationship for each other and for the relationship itself. It’s probably also the only scenario that truly fits the purpose of this post, so this is what I’ll focus on.

In a relationship based on feelings and on the bonds between the people involved, sex is a way to give a physical form to those feelings and bonds, to act on them in a way that’s easier for our bodies and even our minds to understand. That’s the simplest way to explain the role of sex in most true relationships: A physical representation of the thoughts and feelings the people involved have about each other.
Unless certain health issues make sexual activity very difficult or even impossible, it’s very easy to notice this reflection. People who feel very close to each other emotionally will tend to prefer sexual activities and positions that favor close and prolonged physical contact, people who feel that their feelings and not enough and that they need to somehow make themselves interesting in order to stay together will also tend to keep trying to add new elements to their sex lives, and so on. However, one must keep in mind that this is a reflection of a person’s real thoughts and feelings, not necessarily of their general behavior, because there are far fewer things that can get in the way and influence the outcome. As such, a very important role of sex in a relationship is that of a communication and diagnostic tool.

Obviously, the above implies that sex is also a means of bringing the people involved closer together. One only needs to notice that many couples who otherwise still love each other tend to have sex shortly after an argument, whether or not they actually realize what this accomplishes. And even if it doesn’t follow an argument or any other outbursts, we’re talking about a way to relieve tension, express even negative thoughts and emotions in a way that the other person may at the very least not find entirely unpleasant, ensure each other of your continued commitment to the relationship and pave the way towards a more calm and constructive discussion afterwards, in case one is still needed. It’s really not hard to see the benefits of making full use of something like this.
However, while it’s hard to think that any relationship could remain completely devoid of stress, tension and negative emotions, sex certainly doesn’t require the presence of such elements in order to strengthen the bond between the people involved. Yes, it can eliminate negativity, but it can also enhance the positive thoughts and feelings that those involved have for each other, as long as it’s allowed to do so. All it takes is for people to let themselves go, allow themselves to trust each other, please and be pleased. As long as the feelings are there, it’s really as simple as that.

As I said in the beginning, you shouldn’t expect much from this post. There should probably be others on this topic in the future, because this only covered a few of the most important roles in the most general sense, but there you have it. On top of the benefits that sex can have on its own, its primary roles in a committed relationship are to give a physical form to thoughts and feelings, enhance communication, strengthen the bond between the people involved, help diagnose potential problems and release negativity in a way that may at least not be perceived as entirely unpleasant by the other person. It obviously can’t replace simply speaking to each other in all but the first of these scenarios, but it greatly aids any effort in that direction and is therefore not hard to see why it is, or at least why it should be, of paramount importance to anyone who is in such a relationship, regardless of its duration or of the age of the people involved.

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