Marriage (Or A Long-Term Partnership) Can Still Mean Great Sex
You can have great sex in marriage or in a long-term partnership (and after kids, and after you get older…). The belief that sex somehow naturally goes away after moving in together, after marriage, after a baby, or after you get older is just not true. Yes, sex changes, relationships change, bodies change and energy changes. Sexual attraction isn’t static because you’re not the same people to one another in so many ways. In couples therapy, we work to help couples reimagine what their sexual relationship can be–to discover one another anew, sexually, through a process that in many ways is not unlike getting to know one another as new partners.
In a relationship, couples wear many different hats. A partner may be a co-CEO, childcare partner, cook, nursemaid, furniture-mover, box-backer, bad day-comforter, etc. Sex in the context of these roles is different than sex in a new relationship that hasn’t constructed all these other responsibilities. Sex often has a lot to do with everything else that’s going on in the relationship and vice versa. While we do believe that a couple can have a great life together without a great sex life, it’s a lot harder and a lot less fun. Sex is a way to connect, play together and share joy together.
Sexual trauma comes in many forms
For many, their thinking about sex is informed by sexual abuse or assault or by relationships that had unsafe boundaries. As therapists, we often speak with individuals who have been sexually assaulted, but perhaps don’t understand the experience as an assault. Shame and secrecy are incredibly common. But, sexual trauma comes in many forms.
Couples can do meaningful work together in overcoming the challenges of building a caring, fun, sexual relationship when there’s been this sort of history. Sometimes, however, they need help from couples therapy in identifying how that sexual trauma from the past is present in their sex life. When we discover that that may be the case, we work thoughtfully to make a plan for how this trauma can get the attention it needs.
All Couples Have Sexual Baggage
Baggage by no means is limited to trauma. All couples have some sort of sexual baggage. This can come in the form of past sexual experiences and ideas about sex formed by parents and other people of influence. Cultural and parental influences are profound. We all have a sexual range or repertoire–how comfortable we are with certain kinds of sex, ways of playing together, getting lost together, talking about sex or being vulnerable around sex.
In particular, in many cultures, there exists a dichotomy between love and sex–perhaps in a new, less-serious relationship, or before marriage or children, there is an carefree attitude about sex. But as couples become closer and add new dimensions to their lives, the playfulness of sex can get lost. Part of how we help in couples therapy is in identifying these individual and cultural forces that reinforce notions that conservatize sex in the context of a long-term partnership. In so doing, we can examine together whether or not those assumptions are shared by both partners and offer new ways of thinking (and new performances in and out of the bedroom) that may bring new possibilities into being. As couple therapists, we help couples recognize that different moments in our lives and in our relationship, benefit from different performances.