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Why sex is so important in a long term relationship

posted 2 Jan 2017, 19:08 by Suzi Wallis   [ updated 28 Nov 2019, 18:53 ]
Sex can be the glue that holds a relationship together, and when the relationship is exclusive, sex is a symbol representing/honouring who you have chosen to spend your life with. At the least, it is a point of difference that identifies your relationship with your partner as special.

If you are in an exclusive/monogamous relationship, sex is one of the few activities you can participate in only with your chosen partner. Most other needs can be met to some extent outside the relationship:
  • quality time spent with others
  • physical affection
  • kind words received and given
  • hobbies/activities with others
  • having your problems listened to
  • trouble shooting work/life/parenting/family challenges
So it automatically becomes a connecting experience for both of you - a physical and emotional demonstration of I choose you.

There is lots of research about the benefits of sex. This article from outlines just 11 of the physical benefits (there are explanations included):
  1. Improved immunity
  2. Heart health
  3. Lower blood pressure
  4. It's a form of exercise
  5. Pain relief
  6. May help reduce risk of prostate cancer
  7. Improve sleep
  8. Stress relief
  9. Boost your libido
  10. Improved bladder control in women
  11. Increase intimacy and improve your relationship
This article from has 21 reasons:
  1. Look younger 
  2. Boost your fertility 
  3. Fight colds and flu 
  4. Disease-proof your body 
  5. Lengthen your life 
  6. Shift your middle-age spread and keep fit 
  7. Ease those nasty period cramps 
  8. Helps lower your risk of incontinence 
  9. Prevent a heart attack 
  10. Increase your attractiveness to others 
  11. Smooth out your wrinkles 
  12. Give yourself an all-over healthy glow 
  13. Improve your self-esteem 
  14. Lower your blood pressure 
  15. Banish depression 
  16. Cure that headache (yes, really!) 
  17. Slash stress 
  18. Kick your insomnia into touch 
  19. Strengthen your bones 
  20. Cut your risk of prostate cancer 
  21. Feel better all day
In a long term relationship, sex isn't about feeling horny and acting on it. It's about wanting to feel close to your partner, and then making steps towards physical intimacy. Become aware of your inner talk about sex - if you have had an unhappy relationship in the past or traumatic sexual experiences, your mind may automatically reject the idea of intimacy. Listen to that voice in your head. Coach it to consider the possibility of some physical loving, and then take action to make it happen (or seek therapy if you can't resolve the resistance on your own).

Turn offs

It's important not to discount the non--physical turn offs. We can all imagine we're likely to be reluctant if our partner:
  • has bad breath
  • has unpleasant body odour
  • is dirty from some physical activity
  • you prefer genitals that are recently cleaned (can be particularly important for partners of non-circumcised men)
  • doesn't kiss us or touch us the way we like (it's very important to put some time aside to talk about this is if it's an issue)
  • has a physical condition that is unpleasant to us
  • has flatulence
  • eats foods we don't enjoy
  • is not looking after themselves (with a medical condition or generally in life)
There are lots of emotional turn offs that can interfere with your sex life:
  • contempt
  • disrespect
  • shouting
  • swearing
  • put downs
  • criticism
  • patronising behaviour
  • doesn't validate you or minimises your contributions to the relationship
  • spends a lot of time away from you when quality time is a love language
  • gambles, drinks heavily or uses drugs
  • emasculates you
  • says they're more important than you
  • doesn't help around the house
  • doesn't help with parenting
  • is controlling
  • puts down your faith/life choices/beliefs
and many others that may be unique to your situation. If these are occurring, I suggest getting yourself to couples therapy asap.

Getting what you want in your sex life

There's no point aiming towards having more sex if you don't enjoy it. You may have been with your partner for a long time, and not communicated what you like and don't like. One exercise that can reset your sex life uses the baseball/softball analogy (it can also used when recovering from sexual trauma). Each phase lasts for the agreed time frame - 2-4 weeks is a good minimum time period for each stage (there's no limit for the maximum time period; it depends on how patient the more impatient partner is feeling).
  1. First base: you agree with your partner that all you are going to do is kiss and touch with your clothes on. Tell your partner how you like to be kissed - where, how, how long for, and what you don't like (for example, they may have been sucking your earlobe your entire relationship, which actually turns you off).
  2. Second base: you agree that you will kiss and touch with only your top halves bare. Anything that is possible with this restriction is allowed.
  3. Third base: you agree that you will be naked, and oral sex is ok, but no intercourse as yet. Talk about all the ways you like to be touched, scratched, tickled, nibbled and licked, and with which body parts of your partner. 
  4. Home run: intercourse is now ok (hopefully with lots of foreplay from what you've learned in the first three stages).
Take your time in each phase, talking gently about what you want more of, and what you want less of. This can be a precious opportunity to really educate each other about your body and how you want it treated. Have a signal that says pause, I need to breathe/think/process so that you don't end up engaging in any activities that are turn offs or traumatising.

Don't worry if you end up having intercourse before you have reached the fourth phase, as long as you both consent. 


Another important conversation to have as a sexually active couple is to identify your individual signals. Some couples may have a code word, others may use an arse grab, others may deepen their usual kiss - if you don't know what your partner's signals are, you may miss many opportunities to be intimate. Sex usually needs to work around women's menstrual cycles, so communication about timing of these is important too.

Libidos vary between genders and individuals - talk about what your normal is versus your partner's. There's no right or wrong number, as such, however I am encouraging you to have sex at least monthly if possible. If you connect physically less frequently than this, you're more likely to feel like friends with occasional benefits than a couple. Couple relationships are more resilient when we feel loved, appreciated and connected, both physically and emotionally.

Suzi Wallis | Jan 2017