In this Musings, my focus is on long-term love relationships. I’m aware that some relationships need very little sexual activity and some need little affection. If that works for the people who are in them, fine. But the vast majority of couples need affection and sex like a car engine needs lubrication, to avoid overheating from friction.
When couples come to my office for help, they are usually stuck in a bad place that almost invariably includes little or no affection and sex. The theme I hear is something like “we stopped having much sex a long time ago –or even stopped sleeping in the same bed– and can’t look at our sex life until we improve our communication.” Traditional marital therapy supports this belief. I have a different perspective.
In relationships that need affection and sex, living without these elements creates a bad roommate environment where hopes are sky high and rewards are low. That’s a formula for friction, endangering the relationship engine, similar to letting your car run low on lubricating oil. Improving communication is vital, but learning to put differences aside and cuddle, kiss, and make love regularly keeps a relationship well-oiled, with a positive effect on communication. I usually encourage couples to move back to the same bed and to have regular sex even though there are hot differences between them. Often a couple comes to the next session after following my counsel communicating somewhat better with stronger listening skills, more empathy, and some playfulness. The hot issues are still there and may take a long time to change, but, in the meantime, the relationship environment has become a more pleasant place to live.
Two economists calculated that moving from monthly to at least weekly sex in a marriage is the equivalent of having an extra $50,000, in terms of happiness. Earning that money is tough work, but somebody has to do it.