How Important Is Sex in a Relationship?

Sex is a fundamental part of a relationship, but it's up to the partners to establish how important it really is.
How Important Is Sex in a Relationship?
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 01 January, 2023

Some people think that sex in a relationship is overrated while, for others, it’s essential. Indeed, while sex is usually an important part of a couple’s life, it’s not always the case. That said, many of the problems that arise in relationships have their origin in the importance that the partners give to sex or in the amount that each one needs.

It may seem obvious but, over time, people change and evolve, and start to value other things. Therefore, the views they have regarding sexuality can also change. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to take a back seat.

“Eroticism is one of the basis means of self-knowledge, as indispensable as poetry.”

-Anaïs Nin-

Sex and happiness

Studies show that couples who live together, regardless of their age, who report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship also have good sex lives. In addition, couples who talk and spend time together have also been found to have improved sex lives.

Happy couple wrapped in a savannah

Moreover, it’s more or less accepted among professionals who deal with relationship problems that couples who don’t have sex are unhappy. They experience feelings of frustration, depression, rejection, and insecurity. Furthermore, they have difficulty concentrating and suffer from low self-esteem.

A ‘sexless’ relationship is understood as one in which sexual intercourse occurs ten times or less a year. Interestingly, various studies have found that a large number of couples barely reach these figures. Other research has also revealed that couples who hardly have sex are more likely to consider divorce.

When it comes to sex there are no ‘normal’ parameters

When considering the importance of sex, it must be made clear that there’s no ‘normal’ measure in terms of sexual encounters. Every couple is different. Some studies have found that happy couples have an average of three to four sexual encounters per month. However, this depends on the couple and each partner. It also depends on how their sex drive has been maintained over the years, along with many other factors.

In addition, the importance of sex can change and fluctuate over time. Within relationships, the importance of sex is often transformed, as well as the way of practicing it, just like the other relational elements of a relationship.

For this reason, it must be considered that the most important thing is to continue exploring how, over time, sex continues to fit into a relationship. Also, what might have changed, and what the relationship itself is like. If things like communication or spending time together have altered, then the couple’s sex life has probably changed as well.

Getting to know each other is a never ending process. Consequently, important issues in a relationship such as sexuality shouldn’t be taken for granted. The bottom line is to keep listening and learning from each other.

The importance of not feeling guilty

Partners shouldn’t feel guilty for asking for what they want or for not wanting something that their partner asks for. Communication is essential. Many people may reject sex simply because it no longer satisfies them or because there’s something they don’t like about it. Talking about it is the best way to fix it.

For a relationship to work when it comes to sexuality, both partners need to understand each other and be able to speak without feeling guilty. Only then can the relationship be enjoyable. Then, the frequency of sex will increase, forming a feedback loop.

Hands of two people lying on the grass

Another approach to sex in the couple

In 2012, Natalia Tenorio, professor of sociology at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico, wrote about the changes that have occurred over time at the level of sexuality in the sphere of a relationship. She distinguished between the traditional couple and the modern couple. The traditional term refers to those couples who only have sex with each other. On the other hand, the modern couple has sexual freedom. In other words, either of them is free to have extramarital relations. We must stress that the concepts of traditional and modern are mere designations, and they don’t carry any pejorative nuances.

This author comments that sexuality has changed and has gone beyond something purely reproductive. “We see how sex for pleasure is an integral part of the modern relationship, but it is not only included in this research as part of life as a couple but is also part of the construction of the self, and in this way, it’s also exercised outside the love relationship” she claims.

Sex outside marriage

Natalia Tenorio also commented that “the practice of sexual relations outside of common law or marriage is not, however, a subject that is widely and openly discussed in relationships. […] It’s not something that’s present, neither in speech nor in practice, in most relationships“.

In the analysis made by Natalia Tenorio, she highlighted that, despite the existence of couples who have consensual extramarital sexual relations, these aren’t the most common kinds of dynamics. It seems that, at the end of the day, despite the changes that may have occurred in some areas, everyone likes to feel loved, cherished, and cared for. Furthermore, we all like to think that we have a little corner of privacy and exclusivity, one in which we’re the only participants.

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  • Tenorio Tovar, N. (2012). Repensando el amor y la sexualidad: una mirada desde la segunda modernidad. Sociológica (México)27(76), 07-52.
  • Sebastiani, A. (2014). Educación integral de la sexualidad: conceptos, enfoques y competencias.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.