When partners maintain long-term unions, their sex life tends to represent other elements in their relationship. Sex signifies the amount of intimacy and mutuality in the couple so sex can serve as a powerful tool to symbolize individual and interpersonal factors of a relationship dynamic. 

Partners who find their sex lives satisfying and equally desirable have integrated sex into their basic routine. These partners communicate regarding their sexual expression and allow for their needs of security, connection, fulfillment, and soothing to be met during such encounters.  Sex functions to these couples at the same level of importance as other areas of their relationship.

There are also couples for whom sex serves as the only source of connection. In these cases, sex masks or helps to withstand the emptiness and lack of closeness within the relationship. When partners identify intercourse as the primary reason for remaining together, there lies an implicit message that little satisfaction exists in other aspects of their partnership.

Still other couples are mutually content with a sexless relationship. Sex may feel like an intrusive or unnecessary imposition, and it’s lack represents a needed boundary between partners. There are partners who maintain committed companionate relationships in which passion is not part of the equation.   

In non-sexual relationships where partners are collectively interested in repairing their sex lives, the meaning of sex for each partner and the barriers that have come to exist and interfere with sexual intimacy are worth exploring. Couples eager to reconnect will be able to align with the following ways sex functions in a sustained coupleship. Sex allows for an opportunity to:  

  • Provide and receive a pleasurable experience
  • Mend daily stresses and frustrations
  • Repair mental insecurities about oneself and one’s significant other
  • Create passion after periods of distance and separation
  • Restore balance after relationship conflict
  • Promote a sense of connectedness and attachment

Sex has the potential to be either constructive or destructive. The key is to identify if and where sex fits into the foundation of a relationship and whether or not it represents a repairable difficulty or a deeper relational struggle.   

Source: Scharff, D. (1998). The Power of Sex to Sustain or Disrupt Marriage. In Scharff, D. The Sexual Relationship: An Object Relations View of Sex and the Family  (pp.127-139). Northvale: Aronson.