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The paradox of Intimacy and sex

The paradox of Intimacy and sex for couples in long-term relationships
August 23,2023 by

It is not uncommon for loving relationships to have infrequent or no sex. The paradox leaves couples perplexed. They say, “we love each other, we do everything together”. Yet, one or both partners are frustrated by the lack of sex in their lives.

It is too easy to assume that the difficulties with sex are the consequence of a lack of closeness. Frequently the way we construct closeness reduces the sense of freedom and autonomy needed for sexual attraction and arousal. When relationships collapse into fusion, where couples do almost everything together, the friendship created is contradictory; it is both wonderfully intimate and simultaneously sexually distancing.

Couples who spend almost all their time together often have less sex. Paradoxically, it is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that is impeding sexual stimulation and desire. The two elements of love and romance are autonomy and surrender. Our need for the intimacy, togetherness and closeness exists alongside our wish for autonomy. Both conditions are essential. Too much distance eludes interdependence and emotional intimacy. However, constant togetherness produces a fusion which undermines the distinctiveness of each person.

When couples are merged— when two become, sort of speak, one— sexual tension is reduced; they'll often believe they know the other all to well, thus they stop being curious of their partner. They'll see them in a fixed manner that precludes seeing their partner's growth, the way they continue to change. Thus, they don't "see" the "other". Then there is little to transcend, no novel path to walk, no one to visit on the other side, no other to interact with, no reciprocity, because they believe there's nothing new to discover. There is no other to connect with. Consequently, a certain amount of separateness, independence, autonomy helps create the social emotional conditions required to produce sexual attraction and desire; the wanting that previously existed. When the relationship was new both were autonomous and the arousal seemed spontaneous. Because you didn't know the other, you were attracted to discover them. You have to stop assuming that you know the other; what they feel, desire and long for. This is the paradox of intimacy and sex.

The resolution is simple. Each partner is responsible for the other feeling loved, wanted, cared for and desired. Being open to having sex "when you don’t feel like it” can often provoke desire. Everyone has days when they don’t feel a desire for sex nor desirable– we’re tired, we’ve had a really busy day, and there’s a lot of other things on our minds. However, sexual desire is responsive in quality, not solely spontaneous. So, while you are not initially feeling sexual, you can choose to perform sexual, be emotionally giving to your partner and accessible to the experience. Play sexually with your partner and gradually you will feel your desire for partner. Regularity of sexual play produces the foundational intimacy that supports long term relationships.


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