How could you want to have sex when we aren’t getting along? Understanding using sex to reconnect.
We often look at sex as indicator of how our relationship is doing. Last post, we talked about how for many people, sexual desire is created when they feel emotionally close. However, for some men and women, sex is the opposite! Sex is also a way to reconnect.
This longing for a sexual connection can occur right in the middle of arguments or when there’s a lot of distance between you. Sometimes, when one partner wants sex when you aren’t getting along or feeling close can can cause distress in the other person, who wonders,
“How could you possibly want sex at a time like this?!”
Your partner’s desire for sex when you aren’t getting along may seem invalidating to what’s upsetting you. At its worst, you may feel like you are being used for sex.
“Here we are in the midst of a crisis and all you can think about is sex?!”
While for some this is puzzling, this difference in sexual desire patterns is very common, and may not mean what you think it means.
Well, sometimes, the person who is an emotional withdrawer can actually pursue for connection via sex!
For those pining for a deeper emotional interaction this may seem superficial. To them, it’s putting the cart before the horse. For many people, they want to feel close to their partner BEFORE they feel desire for sex.
However, to a sexual pursuer, they ARE asking to feel closer.
The Problem with (and Solution to) being a Sexual Pursuer
The problem with using sex to reconnect happens when you don’t say what you are feeling.
Action (sex) without voicing heartfelt intention (emotion), will lead your partner to fill in the blanks of your motive. We’ve talked before about mind-reading and how that can really get couples into trouble.
This can lead to thinking your partner only wants you for your body when they initiate sex or vice versa, that your partner does not want you at all when they withhold sex.
A pattern like this feels bad for both partners and can be detrimental to intimacy and secure connection.
The Truth Behind the Initiation of Sex:
For those who “ask” for closeness through physical intimacy, sex is a way to feel the feelings of connection with their partners. Connection through touch is often the pick-me-up and recharge your partner needs to fill up their attachment tank.
Having sex can feel like a predictable way to create closeness to some people. Others feel like sex is one of the ways they feel most comfortable using to create closeness.
What if I don’t like it when my partner pursues me for sex?
For those caught in conflict when one partner uses sex to reconnect, therapy can help.
Communicating the hurts for the one person, and clarifying this reach for the other, can lead to both of you feeling more secure.
By learning to express your concerns with your partner’s advances or lack of responsiveness, you give them the opportunity to correct the narrative and soothe your hurt feelings.
How do we fix this?
Both partners can help close this gap, by sharing their pain and letting their partner in on their intentions – for example, closeness and reassurance.
For Non-sexual Pursuers:
Voicing your hurt feelings and asking for clarification of what drives your partner’s interest in sex is crucial. Share what you perceive is happening.
For most, it’s not that your partner is horny and just wants sex. Usually, your partner is distressed and wants sex with you to feel better in your relationship.
In their biggest time of need, when you are so disconnected, they are reaching out to you for comfort.
By opening yourself to the possibility of an alternate reason why they want to have sex, you can more easily receive it as a reach out to you.
Take it as a personal compliment: You are the object of their comfort and security! You are their safe haven!
For Sexual Pursuers:
The growth involves voicing your reach and the feelings surrounding it. Lack of sex can feel like a painful and personal rejection to you. This can lead to frustration, anxiety, sadness and a whole range of other negative emotions.
A sexless partnership is this upsetting because you feel so painfully distant from this person who is so important to you. These underlying feelings are essential for you to share with your partner. Without sharing those feelings, your reach for sex is going to look very different.
Taking it to Another Level:
Part of the reason sex is so amazing is because it’s a special act that only you and your partner share. It’s what separates your relationship from that of best friends and other closer relationships.
Creating an emotional climate that supports this physical intimacy in a way that feels affirming to both partners is crucial to success.
Both emotional happiness and sexual satisfaction are necessary for relationship security, and discussion is first step to finding ways to safely team up against your disconnection.
For help starting this dialogue and working to improve your relationship, schedule an appointment with Denver sex and couples therapist, Haleigh Scherma, MS, NCC, LPCC, at 303-513-8975. Or, schedule online here: Schedule Appointment