#Sexual Health

How Can Partners Maintain Good Sexual Connection In A Long-Term Relationship?

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Sex in long-term relationships often goes down rocky paths. From bringing overt pleasure to inducing covert resentment for the partner, the nature of bedroom activities are variable to change with the changing length of a relationship.

Look at married couples in India. Added to the striking silence around the subject of sex and pleasure as a whole, our society notably churns out marriages where sex – if not love – has gone out the bedrooms.

As age progresses, as children join the family, as work schedules get busier, and of course, as the idea of sex as sin beyond procreation burdens, married couples limit sex. And ultimately, a day comes when they stop. This is not a marriage-only phenomenon. Partners in long-term live-ins, friendships, or other relationship dynamics can all fall prey to the lack of sexual connection.

Fall prey, I say, because, in a relationship founded on emotional, romantic or deeper grounds where sex was a way to express and bond, it remains an important factor in the health of the partners’ connection. If that light goes out between partners, experts say it robs the partners of something more than sex.

Friendship And Priority: Behind The Scenes Of Sex In Long-Term Relationships

Why do couples in long-term unions give up on sex, when they do?

Is it because sexual satisfaction has ceased to exist? Or because sex seems more a task than pleasurable activity? Is there shame attached to bringing up the topic of sex after a long time passes without it? Are there new inhibitions about the body? Is there some kind of internal conflict breeding inside? Does maintaining marriage appear to be a duty rather than willing participation?

There are a multitude of reasons, best pointed out individually by partners whose sexual connections have dimmed or altogether vanished. In a fascinating TEDx stage talk, sex educator Emily Nagoski reveals how she tells couples to overcome the physical and emotional hurdles – what she calls “sleepy hedgehogs in the way.”

Think of sex like a party she says. Not by its nature, but just as a metaphor for something you have to do/go to. Even if you don’t want to attend last minute, dress up and go, Nagoski says. “When it comes to a sexual connection, it’s the same thing. You put on your party clothes, set up childcare, put your body in the bed and let your skin touch your partner’s skin and allow your body to wake up and remember, ‘I like this’.”

Watch Emily Nagoski’s talk on sexual connections here: 

Friendship, she says, is one way to ensure sexual connection in a long-term relationship. Prioritising sex is the other, she mentions, but the friendship bit resonates deeper. How many long-term couples or marriages can one think of and be assured of the partners’ friendship?

It always catches my heart when the Obamas – in their respective memoirs, birthday wishes, love notes – refer to each other first as best friends and then as spouses. It was one thing Bollywood too got right when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘s Rahul said, “pyaar dosti hai.

Friendship, I find, is the most pervading relationship in the world. On the foundations of friendship, anything can be built. Love, devotion, adulation, respect, trust – any kind of connections between two or more people can consolidate. Why then do so many couples let go of their early friendships, the first brainsparks of what pulled them together?

Nagoski quotes Sue Johnson, couples therapist and clinical psychologist, and says it boils down to one question when it comes to sexual connections: “Are you there for me? Are you emotionally present and available for me? Friends are there for each other.” 

If you are, the sleepy hedgehogs will slowly find their way out.