There are all kinds of couples in the world — some goofy, others serious, and well, a few who are always in the mood for PDA. Whatever may be their story, there’s a certain glue that binds them all. But what is it? Flip through the pages of any relationship bible, and within minutes, you will know what makes a romance tick. It’s a no-brainer – communication features at the top of every list, and there’s no reason to contest this claim.
But here’s a puzzle for you to solve — what if you and your partner share a crackling camaraderie, but lack sexual chemistry? That is certainly a problem, we say. Because sex does make the world go round, baby!
Who doesn’t want to enjoy a steamy sesh with their significant other, right? Those nights of passionate lovemaking do not just build your bond in the bedroom, but outside it too!
Why is sex important?
Pallavi Barnwal, sex educator, intimacy coach, and TedX speaker equips people with the knowledge and tools to have a secure, stable, and sexually satisfying relationship. During her many encounters with her clients, she has come across several cases of sexless marriages, or those in which the sexual spark has disappeared into thin air. In a nutshell, we want to drive home a message: your sex life has a direct impact on the dynamic of your relationship.
“Sex is much more than physical pleasure. It is a feeling of getting close, intimate, and romantic with your partner. It is a feeling of being wanted. I think in a normal relationship, a couple can fight about anything, but then they can make love and soothe the hurt; it is somewhat like a rebirth. Sexual intimacy becomes a forgiving ritual. But when one is deprived of even that, bitterness and desperation pile up,” she explains.
Dr Niveditha Manokaran (also known as dr_nive_untaboos on Instagram), a venereologist and sexual health physician based in Sydney, believes that sex can be considered as one of the languages of expressing love, and love is key to building a healthy relationship.
“Sex plays an important role in bonding and enhancing intimacy in relationships. It releases hormones like serotonin and endorphins, which improve our mood and makes us happier. It is also an important element of one's mental health,” she adds.
Does sex benefit your physical health?
The benefits of physical intimacy are not just limited to increased bonding. Research reveals that having sex can also offer benefits like lower blood pressure, decreased stress, and increased intimacy.
1. Improves physical fitness: Those couples who have regular sex report better physical fitness. As per the American Heart Association, sexual activity can be equated with moderate physical activities like brisk walking or even climbing two flights of stairs.
2. Enhances cognitive function: A 2018 study that included 6,000 adults revealed that frequent sex helps to improve brain power, especially among the older generation.
3. Increases immunity: Watch your immunity improve with every hot sex sesh with your partner. Believe it or not, regular sex can also reduce your chances of getting a cold or flu.
4. Promotes weight loss: A study published in the journal PLoS One reveals that having sex for as little as 30 minutes can burn an average of 200 calories. Time to sexercise!
5. Boosts heart health: Did you know? Having sex can really make your heart swell with joy! No kidding. A study that has been published in Biol Psychol pointed out how sexual activity can help to lower systolic blood pressure. Sexual activity can help dilate blood vessels, and increase the circulation of oxygen.
Sex and mental health: An intrinsic connection
Tanya Percy Vasunia, a mental health practitioner, believes that mental and physical health are two sides of the same coin. A 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that there is a decline in sexual activity in society, which may be associated with mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression.
“In fact, arousal non-concordance is common for those experiencing anxiety. Alternately, lack of sex and touch have been linked to the development of mental health concerns. Therefore, while there is yet a large body of research to be conducted, there is no denying that sex/physical intimacy are linked,” she says.
Has Covid-19 impacted the sexual spark between couples?
We’ve been living through a pandemic for the last two years — and by now, every area of our lives has been impacted. How is it then possible that our sex life doesn’t take a hit?
Vasunia says that the biggest issue, in this case, has been touch deprivation (in case partners do not live together), which in turn, has been linked to low moods and depression. “Lack of physical contact can be extremely emotionally draining and adds to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In romantic relationships, lack of sexual activity can have a negative impact on the relationship, particularly when it is prolonged, unexpected and there is no end in sight. For some, long Covid has led to fatigue, which in turn, has impacted their sex-drive,” she explains.
Barnwal opens up about encountering a range of relationship dynamics, especially during these times. There are several couples who are facing severe issues in their marriage and long-term relationships today. Previously, they coped by spending time outside with friends, at work, or even traveling, but that channel is no longer available to them.
“Interestingly, there was a case where a husband reached out saying, he had been fulfilling physical intimacy from his girlfriend outside marriage, but now he cannot venture out. Also, desire needs space, especially when there is parenting energy in the house. The energy of eros (sexual desire) is very different than energy of parenting,” she explains.
According to Barnwal, it is critical to demarcate these two worlds, but most couples, in an unaware state, put so much energy into their kids, leaving little to none for their erotic life.
Can couples revive the lost spark in their sex lives?
Dr Niveditha believes there are multiple ways to improve the sexual spark in relationships. In case distance has turned into a barrier in their relationship, couples can lean on various communication and social media tools to solve their problem.
“These methods not only help to communicate about day-to-day activities, but also fosters intimacy through dialogue, exchange of photos, erotic voice notes, phone sex, and sexual arousal through video calls. But remember cybersafety is key in such scenarios,” she advises.
With regard to enhancing intimacy from a mental health perspective, it is imperative to focus on communication and active listening, says Vasunia. These elements help couples feel more connected, which in turn, inspires feelings of intimacy.
But what’s also essential in reigniting the lost spark is flexibility, feels Barnwal. It is important for couples to understand that there are vicissitudes in the course of a normal relationship. What matters is how sexuality can be integrated as part of life, and not be detached from it.
“Sex is not about the honeymoon, candlelight dinners, or having a kid either. It is a core part of who you are. If you are not experiencing any sexual desire, you are disconnected from your very being. Most couples suffer under the impression that their partner has to do something to spark their desire. In essence, they are outsourcing their desire. But you are the engine of your own desire. You need to know, "what turns me on?" rather than "what can they do to turn me on?”, she says.
The last word
If your marriage is sexless (or it isn’t as exciting), but you still believe it is your partner’s problem, here’s a reality check for you.
“Unless your spouse is a superhuman of morals made of steel, he/ she may not be able to resist the temptation of an extramarital affair. I have seen women cheating on their partners, even after 10 years of a sexless marriage or relationship That’s because eventually, they gave up. Having an unfaithful spouse is right there up on the list of life's most painful experiences and I am sure no one wants to go through the infidelity,” shares Barnwal.
So, how about having open communication with your partner, and working together on your sex life? Well, we think it’s a great plan. Let your bodies do the talking tonight!