Can You Have Bad Sex and a Great Relationship?
I’ve heard it from hundreds of couples: “Our relationship is amazing. But the sex sucks.”
But can you have a great relationship if the sex is bad?
It is possible. But if sex is important to you and the sex stays bad for a prolonged period of time, you might be headed down a slippery slope.
Nina, 43, believes sex is elemental to a happy relationship and took matters into her own hands when the sexual component of her marriage took a turn for the worse:
“We just stopped having sex. I think more than a year passed before we got help and starting building things back up. And even though we still loved each other, I knew we had to fix this if we really wanted to stay together for the long haul.”
Her husband Stuart was reluctant to see a counsellor at first, but admits that four months of structured support may have saved their marriage. “I didn’t even think we had a problem. I assumed the problem was hers since she was the one that never seemed to be in the mood. But all that talking helped us to uncover some of the other relationship issues we hadn’t addressed that were ultimately killing our sex life.”
This is a common pattern: many of us view sex in a vacuum and dismiss the range of relationship factors that interact with our intimate lives. From communication breakdowns and resentment to the division of household labour and stress levels, our sex lives are significantly impacted by our day-to-day interaction with our partners as part of the family system.
What constitutes bad sex varies from person to person and couple to couple. For some, sex may be entirely non-existent and for others, the sex itself is unsatisfying or one-sided. Some couples get so hung up on the pressure to perform that pleasure takes a back seat and others face compatibility issues that hinder a hot sex life. However, most people recognize that sex can’t blow your mind each and every time -- it’s generally a pattern of sustained bad sex that constitutes a problem.
More importantly, only you and your partner decide what constitutes good or bad sex. Cultural norms and perceived standards of hot sex are often irrelevant to individual circumstances, so don’t use quizzes or arbitrary buckets lists to determine if your sex life is hot or not. If you’re generally satisfied, then relish in the pleasure and if you feel you’re slipping into a rut, talk to your partner about your concerns.
I suggest that couples use the eighty-twenty rule as a relationship metric. Achieving one hundred percent satisfaction with any element of your relationship may not be realistic, but if you feel generally content approximately eighty percent of the time, you’re probably on the right track. If, however, your personal satisfaction levels are dwindling and you want to improve your sex life, consider these approaches:
Talk to your lover. Begin by highlighting some of the positive components of your relationship and/or sex life (e.g. I love how we work as a team with the kids. I appreciate the way your take care of yourself). Once you’ve shared some of your positive thoughts, address one area/issue you’d like to work on together (e.g. We’re so busy, but I’d like us both to make more time for intimacy. I’d love to invest more time/money into spending time along without the kids).
Talk about hotter/happier times. Reminisce and recall memories that uplift your spirits. If possible, pull out mementos (e.g. the shirt you wore on your first date or an old song you used to dance to) to enhance the mood.
Be playful. Sometimes our sex lives take a nose dive when we stop flirting with our partners, so brush up against them a little closer when you pass one another in the kitchen and enjoy a few giggles whenever you have a spare moment.
Masturbate. Take care of yourself first without guilt, resentment or obligation. Reconnecting with your own body in a sexual way can kick-start your sex drive and help to address differentials in desire.
Plan something fun together. Research shows that participating in new, exciting activities with your lover can help to recall the early emotions of being passionately in love.
Identify some of the obstacles to a hot sex life. Whether you’re simply too exhausted at the end of the night or you’re managing body image issues, small lifestyle changes can result in significant improvements in and out of the bedroom.
Seek professional support. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship and every single one of us can benefit from professional support. If you’re looking for a counsellor or therapist with specific training in sexuality issues, check out the American Association of Sex Educators, Counsellors and Therapists whose directory includes worldwide contacts.
Dr. Jessica O'Reilly is a sought-after sexologist with a PhD in human sexuality. She maintains a private practice in Toronto and travels the world to teach workshops that promote healthy and deliciously pleasurable sex. From regular appearances on Cosmopolitan TV to hosting retreats in the sunny Caribbean, she relishes in every moment! Check out her work at jessicaoreilly.com and Follow her on Twitter @SexWithDrJess
Read More by Dr. Jess:
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