When it comes to being human, there are few things we are more obsessed with than sex. We talk about it. We think about it. We write about it. No matter what part of the world you live in, sex plays a very important role when it comes to relationships and the way we bond and connect with our partners. Sex doesn’t always impact our lives in a good way, though. Especially when we adopt unhealthy attitudes or sexual patterns of behavior that undermine our ultimate happiness.
Sex can bring us together with our partners in explosive ways. It can help us to heal hurts and recover a sense of self-confidence we never knew we had. It can also make us horribly insecure, though, and it can destroy our relationships and alienate us from true growth and transformation within this life. In order to build happier, healthier attitudes toward sex (while building better partnerships) we have to commit to understanding the negative attitudes and beliefs that are holding us back. This requires a deep dive, as well as some serious introspection.
Sex is a double-edged sword.
Physical intimacy is a powerful thing, and it’s especially important to most romantic couples. Being vulnerable in this way allows us to let down walls and see one another for who and what we truly are. It’s a beautiful way to build trust and commitment, but it can be a serious hardship too. When we build or broken perspectives around sex and intimacy, it creates toxic ideas and patterns that erode our connectivity in a number of ways.
Just as sex can bring us closer together — it can tear our relationships apart. When we rely too heavily on the sexual element, or we use it to exert power and influence within our partnerships, we end up with conflict, imbalance and insecurity.
In order to build healthier and more fulfilling relationships, we have to change the way we see sex and the attitudes we have around it. Sex isn’t about power. It isn’t about getting an edge on someone, or getting what you want. On a strictly scientific level, it’s about reproduction. Beyond that, it’s about vulnerability, honesty, trust and compatibility. Rather than seeing sex as the end-all and be-all, you need to start seeing it as one more tool in your journey to ultimate connection and self-realization.
Signs you have an unhealthy relationship with sex.
Many of us have unhealthy attitudes or beliefs when it comes to sex, which limit the ways in which we are able to connect with one another. When you see the signs for what they are, you can address these issues and get back on track to a healthier sexual approach to partnerships.
Ultimate deal breaker
While sex is certainly an important component in our romantic partnerships, considering it to be the ultimate deal breaker is a major mistake. Sexual compatibility — while not always workable — is something which can get better with time and communication. Completely shutting the door on someone because they weren’t a good lay the first couple of times? That’s shutting out a potentially transformative relationship, all for the sake of something which might be very superficial upon greater exploration.
Do you see other people as sexual objects which are only meant to give or provide pleasure for you, at will? This serious imbalance indicates that you don’t care what their needs are, and you don’t care about their fantasies either. For you, the other person’s pleasure matters little. Narcissistic abusers are notorious for this type of intimate pattern, and they regularly use sex to control and degrade their victims. The longer these imbalances go unaddressed, the deeper the contempt and resentment can run.
Giving in as a standard
In addressing our sexual behaviors, it’s important to remember that these toxic sexual patterns aren’t always aggressive or dominant in nature. Submissive patterns too can be highly toxic and leave us in relationships that cause us to feel heartbroken and unseen. This might look like having sex even when you don’t want to. Or, seeing it as the only way to get the approval, validation or love from the other person that you’re seeking. You might also regularly fake your sexual pleasure and go out of your way to make the other person feel as though their needs are met.
It’s good to be open to new sexual vistas, but always pushing the bar is a little different. When you are someone who is always looking for a riskier endeavor, a hotter experience, you’re engaged in what is known as risk-taking behavior. This constant chasing of “greener pastures” won’t only lead you to some serious disappointments — it can lead you into serious danger too. While we should all explore our boundaries in a safe, healthy way, constantly finding yourself with a need to push yourself (or your partner) further and further can be a sign of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
Becoming a means to control
A lot of people out there use sex as a means of control. Whether you use the act of sex to force someone to give in, or you withhold sex in order to get an agreement — you are using it as a tool of manipulation, and that’s unhealthy. Sexual intimacy should be a bonding and connectivity tool, not a games piece meant to help you get an extra edge. If you’re using sex to coerce someone into your desired behavior, you’re abusing the act and eroding the trust that you and your partner share with one another.
Inability to talk it out
Though you might love sex, you might also find that discussing it is an impossible task. While this can be a sign of immaturity, it can also be a sign of deep-seated issues with sex that need to be dealt with. By addressing these issues in your past, you can unlock healthier views on sexual intimacy, which then allow you to delve deeper in your romantic partnerships. When you can talk freely about your sexual desires and needs, you can better identify a partner who will align with you both in passion and in purpose.
The ways in which sex is ruining your relationships.
Think sex might be ruining your relationships? These are some basic warning signs which can indicate deeper intimacy issues which must be addressed before committing to someone in any serious way.
When you see sex as the end-all, be-all in a relationship, you deny yourself a lot of special opportunities to connect with someone on a meaningful level. More than that, you also diminish the opportunities you have to meet someone who could truly love and support you in this life. We have to learn to see our partnerships as multi-dimensional organisms, which require both physical and emotional intimacy in order to thrive.
Causing a distraction
Allowing sexual intimacy to hold too much power in a relationship can cause a major distraction that makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.Too much sex can cause a failure in the more authentic “knowing” that all couples requiring. Believing you have it all figured in out in the bedroom, you fail to align things like future goals and central values. When adversity comes knocking on the door and communication (not sex) is the answer, you find that you’re standing next to a stranger you didn’t vet very well.
Preventing real connection
Thousands (if not millions) of couples out there rely on sex as their main means of expressing their fathomless passion and longing for one another.The problem here, though, is that it is a very superficial and changeable way in which to express your love to someone. Rather than saying “I love you and value you” only through sex, we have to learn to display it too in the way we listen to one another, support one another, and communicate with one another outside of the bedroom.
We often invest in casual sex over real connection because we think it helps to safeguard our emotions. The more we keep it “just about sex” the fewer expectations there are to give or receive anything of value within the partnership. The problem here, however, is that this is a total cop-out. You are a living, breathing human with emotions, and those feelings are going to have their day in the sun — whether you like them too or not. The longer you restrict things to this intimate realm, the longer you are forced to bury your real feelings. Which only comes with more resentment and contempt.
Though sex is a major distraction when it comes to the other person, it can also be a major distraction when it comes to our own journey through growth. Those who spend their time chasing the thrill of sexual connection often find themselves with little energy or direction when it comes to improving their own sense of self. This is often tied into their sense of outward worth and validation, as well as their conflicted sense of self-esteem. With all of their efforts focused in the bedroom, they rarely take any time to honestly analyze their sense of self.
The best ways to build a healthier relationship with sex.
Don’t allow your festering resentment toward sex control your life or relationships forever. Start cultivating healthier attitudes towards this act of enjoyment and connectivity, and use these to create healthier, stable and more fulfilling intimate partnerships.
1. Reshape your perspective
Before you can engage in healthier sexual patterns and behaviors, you need to reshape the way you see sex. Sex is a healthy and natural part of life. It allows us to bond with one another, create fun and exciting memories — and it can be the tool that allows you to build the family of your dreams. All of that gets lost, though, when you insist in seeing sex as an object of power, or a means to an end. Reshape the way you see sex, and you’ll reshape your relationships for the rest of your life.
Start seeing relationships as more than just a physical plane of your life. While sex is certainly a part of enjoying our physical bodies, there is always an emotional aspect to it (even if that emotion is just excitement or happiness). Accept this emotional element and embrace that. After you do, it will be easier to accept vulnerability as an aspect of the act.
The softer you can come to see sex, the broader your view of it will become. When we hold on to the idea, that sex is just the here and now — that it is just a rushed and brutal act of quick gratification — the more thin, unsatisfying and superficial it becomes. You don’t have to see every act of sex as a marriage of the souls, but you do need to see it as an act of serious vulnerability. And those acts are acts which should always be treated with respect.
2. Educate yourself
There is not enough that can be said when it comes to educating yourself sexually. The more you know about sex, the more your own sexuality will reveal itself. Likewise, you’ll begin to see sex as a far more expansive part of physical intimacy than you previously imagined. Educating ourselves empowers us to be better sexual partners, and to connect more meaningfully and authentically with the people who matter most to us.
Learn everything you can about sex, and delve into your own sexual issues, hangups, concerns, or past traumas that might be making it harder for you to be an equitable partner in the bedroom. There’s no shortage of literature across the web, and relationship and intimacy experts too can help pinpoint specific points to work on.
Explore the limits of your body and explore the limits too of what you want from your partnerships and your future. Delve into the many philosophies and theories behind human intimacy, and how we play out our own subconscious beliefs through our intimate relationships. The more you educate yourself, the more aware you will become of your own sexual tendencies, but you will also become more aware of how you impact others.
3. Get to the root of the fear
Very often, our toxic intimacy patterns stem from fears that lied buried deep in our subconscious and deep in our pasts. Troubled childhoods plagued by a rotating door of characters can lead to the idea that sexual intimacy is always casual, or even that it is a means to power or acceptance. When we wind back the less-desirable aspect, we can get to the root of our shadows and find better ways to connect intimately with our partners and spouses. Take some time to question where the fear is coming from.
What makes you run from deeper, truer intimacy? What is it that has you so focused on the superficial and the physical? Are you deflecting from a deeper truth? Are you hiding who you are, or avoiding getting close enough to be hurt by someone? There are so many reasons we rely on the physical rather than opening the door on lasting, meaningful partnerships that add to our lives.
Once we have the answers to core questions like these, we can start to see past our fears and into the endless heart of reason. This new sense of courage to hand, we can move forward into healthier, more stable partnerships that allow us to bloom even while we bolster and support one another. When it comes to sex, the only fear we should fear is…well, our fear. It shuts us down and shuts us out. Forcing us to turn away from healthier intimacy patterns that can provide both joy and fulfillment within our partnerships.
4. Settle into a dry spell
A practical step you can take to break the hold your sexual hangups have over you is to give yourself a little downtime. This doesn’t mean you have to take an oath of celibacy, and it doesn’t mean that you have to become someone you aren’t. Think of it more like an extended physical meditation. Set yourself a time limit — say 1 or 2 weeks — and withhold from sex during that time. Use it to notice your body, your thoughts and your feelings. Are there deeper issues you’re using sex to mask?
We often turn to sex when there are things we don’t want to face within ourselves. We can also turn toward it when there are critical divides in our partnerships, though. Sex can be a bandaid and a crutch, but it is never a cure-all for the ills of the soul, or the ills of our relationships.
Keep a record of your feelings during this short-term celibacy. Note how much you thought about sex and when you thought about it. Make sure to take special note of any times in which negative thoughts, feelings, or experiences inspired the urge to get physical. At the end of your celibacy-stint, go back into whatever behaviors you feel comfortable with, but not before looking back at the patterns of the previous two weeks. Notice when sex isn’t just sex anymore.
5. Pinpoint your ideal balance
When it comes right down to it, healthy sexual relationships with our partners are really about communicating and making sure that we’re all having our needs met and enjoying ourselves. This means finding the balance between what we want and what they want, but also reconciling those nastier aspects of self that might injure the other person. Before getting intimate, we should find the balance for ourselves and ensure it’s always for the right reason.
Figure out who you are in the bedroom and figure out what you want from an intimate relationship. Don’t rely on someone else to provide you with the answers. Though you can explore your sexual boundaries with a partner, you cannot allow someone else to define them. You alone have the power to decide what you need and want.
Communicate your needs and fantasies, but allow them to communicate theirs as well. Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all way in which to approach sex or the way you build your sexual relationships. You do have to be honest, however, with both yourself and those you share a sexual relationship with. See sex as the positive, life-bolstering activity it is and then decide where you want to fit it into your life. Whether casual fling or long-term shuffle, create a sex life you enjoy.
Putting it all together…
Sex is a beautiful and powerful way to spice up our relationships and bond on a deeply intimate level. It can also be a tool, however, that is used to manipulate and control us. Physical intimacy of this nature can be a double-edged sword, so it’s up to us to understand our sexual patterns and correct them accordingly. The way we bond through sex says a lot about us on a personal level. When we overcome our fear and our hangups, we become better partners.
Reshape your perspective when it comes to sexual intimacy and get squared on the unhealthy habits that are holding you back from being a love, supportive partner. Educate yourself, and learn everything can about sex and the ways in which we use sexual habits to bond, but also to cover up and re-enact the pain and heartbreak of the past. The sexual hangups we experience often stem from a place of fear and misunderstanding. Overcome that fear by getting to the root of the experiences that cause you to hold back, or warp the reality of what’s going on in the bedroom. Respect yourself and take a break of celibacy to clear your head and gain a little perspective on how you use sex to connect. With this bird’s-eye-view to hand, you’ll be better equipped to find the balance and build healthier and more equitable views of your sexual relationships and experiences — no matter where they fall.