Sexual Dynamics in Relationships

sexual dynamics bedroom

Every relationship has its own unique nuances, especially when it comes to sexual dynamics.

While it can be natural to think about sex as separate from other parts of a relationship, research tells us the they are actually all connected. When couples are satisfied with sex, that satisfaction accounts for up to 20% of their overall relationship satisfaction.

However, when couples are not satisfied with sex, that factor accounts for 50-70% of relationship dissatisfaction. Unhealthy sexual dynamics can take a toll on the relationship and on the wellbeing of the individuals.

Studies have also shown that high rates of couples seeking support in couples or preventative therapy are facing a lack of emotional or sexual intimacy as their primary issue. Often, the two become intertwined.

The need for sexual intimacy and connection is a basic human need that we all have. Additionally, facing difficulty in sex is normal (46% of couples in the general population!) But for many couples, figuring out how to talk about these dynamics is scary or awkward.

Awareness of these sexual dynamics can help couples keep their relationship healthy. So, I’m going to share some tips on what sexual dynamics are and how you can heal them.

sexual dynamics bed

sexual dynamics definition

Sexual dynamics encompass more than physical aspects of sex. Sexual dynamics include the emotional and relational impacts of the way sex plays out in a relationship.

Sexual desire discrepancies are typically the most stressful dynamic. This happens when there is a mismatch between the desires of partners. In heterosexual relationships, this can be quite common because of the relationship between desire and intimacy for men and women:

  • Women desire emotional closeness as a catalyst for sex
  • Men feel emotional intimacy and closeness because of sex

Sexual satisfaction, emotional satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction are intertwined. As easy as it may seem to separate them and work on one at a time, ignoring the more challenging parts, this approach will keep you stuck.

Sexual Dynamics in Relationships

healing sexual power dynamics in a relationship

A good place to begin creating any change is to clarify the aspects that are currently causing distress. From there, see whether you can identify the thought patterns or beliefs that drive your emotions and satisfaction levels.

Many couples consist of two individuals operating in their own unspoken belief systems that they never make explicit with each other. When couples can identify their beliefs and share them, they can work together toward a solution that works for each of them.

For example, maybe you start thinking and you realize you have sex too infrequently. Or that whenever you try new things in the bedroom it feels awkward. These thoughts could reveal beliefs about how frequently you think you should have sex and how it should feel.

From there, see if these beliefs seem reasonable. For instance, expecting perfection, especially when trying new things, is not realistic! Likewise, expectations regarding frequency may or may not align with your lifestyle.

Once you clarify your belief system and share with your partner, you can work together to create realistic goals.

A lot of us have unreasonable beliefs about how sex “should” look or feel based on media portrayals. Because the sad reality is that for many of us, the media is the main or only source of sexual education.

However, this can lead to faulty thinking. For instance, it can lead to the idea that sex should always be seamless and spontaneous. That partners should just know what the others want without asking one another.

These kinds of thoughts are simply untrue and will not help you have better sexual dynamics. In long-term relationships, hormones like dopamine, vasopressin, serotonin and oxytocin naturally start to fade away.

Sex will not always be spontaneous- you may find you have to schedule it in to your busy life. Plus, early in relationships, while it may have felt spontaneous, it really wasn’t. You knew the days you were going on dates to see each other and prepared accordingly.

Likewise, trying new positions will sometimes be clunky or awkward until you explore and get more comfortable.

Be open to considering where your expectations came from and to modifying them so that you and your partner can enjoy each other more. Take off the pressure!

Qualities of a health relationship include the ability to talk about difficult topics. However, avoiding talking about sex will not make dynamics change or get better.

As you communicate about sex, remember that sexual dynamics are a vulnerable topic. Instead of expressing your dissatisfaction, focus on what you do want or ways that you would like to enjoy your partner.

Communicating with blame will only lead to shame and shutting down, which will close off communication.

Working with a couples therapist is the best place to start healing sexual dynamics. A therapist can help you work through all the tips above.

Additionally, a therapist can guide you to learn about your own “sexual cycle.” The cycle is the pattern that occurs that leads to the sexual dynamic you are in. By understanding that pattern, couples can heal their own blocks and create safety for new experiences.

Marriage counseling can also create more emotional intimacy that leads to more sexual intimacy, and vice versa.

If you are noticing physiological or biological challenges that are preventing you from having any or having pleasurable sex, a medical check is always a good idea.

Be careful not to put the blame on either partner, but to work with any medical realities together as a team to create enjoyable sex that will work for you both.

healing sexual power dynamics in a relationship

thank you for reading!

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