Sex and Relationships - What Does Sex Really Mean in Building a Relationship?

Sex and RelationshipsSex is important in a relationship. Most people agree. Many studies have been done to show that. OK, it's important, but why? Relationships thrive and end because of sex. One of the top 3 arguments that couples have is over sex. What makes it such a powerful force in a relationship?

Sex is made up of several parts. The physical part is simple: touch, arousal, orgasm, oxytocin release, repeat as needed. If that's all we had to deal with, we could schedule our sexual activities on a calendar and be done with it in a few minutes a couple times a week. Actually, if there was no intention to make a baby, then we might not bother.

The other part is WAY more complicated. This is the part of sex that deals with vulnerability, trust and respect. These are all high-level emotions that are difficult to define and can look different in everybody. Both the low-level physical gratification and high-level emotional support from sex must be felt by both people in a relationship for it to be healthy.

Why is it so complicated and so important? Well, the physical part isn't, really. There are people who have a "friends with benefits" relationship that have sex to satisfy the physical craving, but nothing else. In a long-term relationship, the emotional aspects of sex must also be satisfied. If not, it can affect the relationship in many ways.

The Vulnerability of Sex

In intimate moments, people in a relationship "put down their guard" and become vulnerable to their partner. That's the way that we let the other person into our space to enjoy the moment. We become sensitive to comments and behaviors that may not bother us otherwise. The wrong thing said at the wrong moment during sex can cause a huge flair up from which it's difficult to recover.

Being vulnerable with your partner also means trusting that they will be emotionally gentle with you. It's like saying "I trust you enough to put down my barriers." The role of your partner is to respect your vulnerability.

Trust and Respect

The response to your vulnerability is respect for your emotions. When your partner knows you are vulnerable and respects that space, their goal is to live up to your expectations and not violate your trust. By respecting your space and emotions, they are saying "See, I can be trusted." That creates a feeling of safety, which is ultimately what the vulnerable person wants to feel -- safe.

Here's what makes this very complicated. Both people in this situation are playing both roles. They are both being vulnerable to the other and respectful of the other's emotions through actions or speech. Being the vulnerable one and being the respectful one cycles between the two people.  It can switch every few seconds. Or it can last several minutes in the case of a deep, difficult conversation initiated by one of the partners.

What Do We Really Get Out of Sex

When we have intimate moments with our partner, we are reaffirming our trust in them and it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their respect for us. These attitudes don't just show up during sex. They are part of our lives together.

Arguments that come out of a sexual encounter are usually the result of one of the people not feeling respected, feeling taken for granted, and  a loss of trust. Should this happen, the best thing to do is find a calm time to talk about what happened and why it triggered something. Rebuilding that sense of trust and respect is necessary to be able to function together as a couple.

Don't Underestimate The Power of a Healthy Sexual Relationship

People will sometimes reduce sex in the relationship as just something to do on date night. This callousness will eventually cause problems in the relationship that will show up in different areas.

Pay attention to how your sex life is with your partner. Talk with them and create intimacy that will develop a greater bond between you. Enjoy each other's vulnerability and build the trust and respect that makes relationships last a lifetime.

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