Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you would like to be interviewed or have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email email@example.com or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.
My fiancé and I are getting married in December, and we keep hearing people— especially the women— in our families say that our marriage would not be successful without fulfilling, intimate sex. Here’s the rub… my fiancé and I don’t see sex as the pinnacle of intimacy.
I was always told that sex was the end all, be all of intimate actions and that a relationship needed that intimacy to thrive. My family even goes so far as to say that sex after the ink is dry on the marriage certificate is on a whole new level.
My fiancé is amazing when it does come to sex, and we’re always well satisfied, but we don’t have this mythical sex drive in search for THE MOST INTIMATE SEX EVER.
When I’m in pain and he helps dress me, or when I run my hands through his hair and read him poetry is so much more intense and intimate than sex ever is. We’re incredibly happy, but all this bad talk from our families is making us doubt.
Here’s the question: are we somehow weird or wrong for not seeing sex as an intimate act, and not wanting it that often? Does putting a ring on my finger and saying “I do” suddenly unlock some third-eye level sex that we can’t see?
Thanks a ton,
A very confused fiancée
Congratulations on finding someone you seem very much in love with. The compatibility and happiness you’ve described is enviable. My guess is if there was nobody else discussing your relationship with you, you’d trust what you have implicitly. I think that’s key here: Trust you own experiences.
- Whatever you feel is valid.
- Relationships are all unique.
With these ideas in mind, let’s look at some of your questions and doubts.
Is Amazing Sex Needed For Long-Lasting Relationships?
Are long-lasting healthy relationships really dependent on good sex?
Researchers from the University of Guelph collected data from over 700 couples that had been together for over 20 years. In the majority of cases, over time a couple’s relationship satisfaction increased while their sexual satisfaction decreased.
Long-term couples are satisfied with their relationship even if they aren’t sexually satisfied. Per this study, that’s the norm and goes against what this idea that you need to find the most amazing sex ever for your relationship to thrive.
But of course decreased sexual satisfaction isn’t guaranteed. Part of what your family might be saying is that sex and other physical intimacy can get better over time for many reasons: A couple’s communication can improve; they can continue to learn what each other enjoys and try new things together; they can grow more physically comfortable with each other, as well as their own bodies. For some couples, this increased sexual intimacy may very well be the glue that holds them together.
What I personally take from this is that everyone’s life and relationship is different, and there’s no one solution for happy, successful relationships. There are commonalities among many people’s experiences, but what works for them won’t magically work for all people, and it can be oppressive to individuals who try and conform.
Your families seem to be important to you and your fiancé. If part of that closeness comes from listening to them and respecting their advice, perhaps you could ask them for different advice. If the sex lives of your family members is stellar, can they give you advice on how they’ve improved it? Besides sex, what has helped them remained satisfied with their partners?
Is Sex Inherently Intimate? And Is It Weird to Not Want Sex Very Often?
Researchers are finding that some individuals experience a disconnect between sexual acts and romantic feelings. For some this disconnect may be a mental disconnect while for others it’s physical. It may can come from past trauma or it could be biologically-based.
Many things impact how we experience and relate to sexuality, physical and emotional intimacy, like our religious and cultural upbringings, our past sexual experiences, and our unique genetic makeup. This is why I think the concept of intimacy is subjective. If you ask two people to describe what intimacy means, you’ll probably get two very different definitions. The same with love. The same with sex.
I think there are a lot of folks who carry around shame or embarrassment believing that what they experience as intimacy or love is different than others and therefore less valid. It’s simply not true. We’re just not talking about our unique experiences enough to break down the norms.
Speaking of which, have you heard of “grey asexuality?” Grey asexuality is a term that describes the spectrum between asexuality and sexuality. It can resonate for folks who experience infrequent sexual attraction or desire.
There are discussions about grey asexuality on the online forums of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) that might be useful to you. Specifically, if you’re worried about being “weird” for not wanting sex frequently, you might be comforted by others who share your experience.
Can Other Acts Be Just As—If Not More—Intimate Than Sex?
You are not alone in finding other acts to be just as or more intimate and fulfilling. In an earlier post on sexual scripts, I wrote about how our common definitions of sex are so limited and hetero-centric.
There are many reasons why people can be less interested or not interested in all in genital-based sexual acts but still want to share physical intimacy with others.
You two have found ways to share a deep connection that are fulfilling to the two of you. And I have no doubt that the longer you’re together, the deeper this intimacy will grow through acts like running your hands through his hair.
This is why I think it’s so important to remember to trust your own perspective. What you experience is valid. What you desire is valid.
It’s not that your family is “wrong.” They’re just not you. They’re speaking from their experiences. You can listen to them and consider what they have to say while still honoring your own opinion. Whenever you’re in doubt, find a quiet place, and listen to your own heart. You seem to be doing well for yourself.
Disclaimer: As always, there’s no perfect solution to any relationship issue and you may benefit from the help of a neutral, trained professional. Jera is not a licensed mental health professional, just a writer living as authentically as they can.