Why *not* having sex can be good for your relationship, says experts
It’s a common belief that sex is a vital part of a relationship. But in fact, hitting pause on the deed can actually do you and your partner wonders, like it did Brett and Sarah. Here’s how.
Let’s talk about sex…Or in this case, let’s talk about not having sex and all the ways it can be positive for your relationship. Yes, positive.
While many couples view sex as a fundamental part of their relationship and perceive not having sex as ‘abnormal’ or a problem that needs to be fixed, there are others who don’t share this view; some of whom have found pressing pause on the sex is actually a positive move.
*Sarah and *Brett, who have been married for seven years found themselves taking a six-month-long break from sex last year. Although they confess that this absence wasn’t planned, the couple both agree that it was ultimately a game-changer for their relationship, having a “very positive effect.”
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“Our six-month sex hiatus was a result of the pandemic and the pressures associated with having our priorities shifting. For the first few months neither of us even noticed we weren’t having sex but once we did, we realised that it was actually having a really beneficial impact on us and our relationship,” Brett tells Body+Soul.
“From eliminating expectation, improving communication, spending quality time doing other activities together, not having sex actually created a closeness and a sense of connection, one that we never had before.”
CEO of Relationships Australia NSW, and a clinical and counselling psychologist, Elisabeth Shaw says: “Sex, romance and intimacy are the defining features of a couple relationship. You can love, commit to, live with, be emotionally intimate with a whole range of people in your life, but romance and sexual intimacy bring this chosen relationship into a category all of its own.”
But despite this, she says that regular sex doesn’t always equate to a healthy relationship and it is possible to have a healthy relationship without it.
“If the couple agrees with, and/or can make sense of the lack of sex and agree that their relationship is solid in other ways, then the relationships remains satisfying and healthy,” she explains.
“Being able to verbalise feelings in the relationship is just as important as the physical demonstration, so keeping intimacy alive through deeper and more personal conversation and disclosure will heighten the bond.”
Sarah agrees with this insight.
“While we weren’t having sex, we were always on the same page about it. We knew that for our situation there wasn’t a problem that needed to be fixed, rather an effect of our circumstance that we thought would be temporary but regardless wasn’t causing us issues,” she says.
“On the contrary, it was overly positive because we were talking to each other really openly, honestly and much more often than before. We felt really emotionally connected.”
The couple also says that not having sex also allowed them to take the pressure off and enjoy each other in a whole different way.
“Sarah and I actually started to become more romantic with one another, leaving little messages or giving each other massages, something we, or I at least, usually only did when it was leading up to sex,” says Brett.
“Not having the pressure or expectation that these gestures meant the follow through with sex I think really made Sarah more relaxed and made me realise all the other parts of our relationship that I had probably been overlooking.”
Dan Auerbach, a relationship counsellor, says these benefits of connectedness and bond can not only benefit the relationship, but it can spill over into sex when and if the couple decide to press ‘play’ again.
“Many couples I speak to find that spending more time together has improved their relationship. They have more time to finish conversations, they share the burden of the chores together, feel supported, they feel connected and possibly less lonely,” he says.
“For many couples that stronger bond means greater fondness for each other and that spills over into a better sex life than they had before. The warmth they feel allows them to want to be close.”
Shaw adds to this: “A period of not being able to engage in their usual sexual expression, such as penetrative sex, can enable a comfortable and creative couple to explore additional foreplay and in fact improve their sex lives by not rushing to what many might think is the ‘main event’.
“For some, the period of absence can lead to greater longing and eroticism. I have talked to couples who waited to have intercourse until they were married, who said that their sensual and erotic play before was more satisfying and fulfilling than when they added in intercourse as the goal.”
Sarah and Brett agree, describing the sex they had after their break as “better than before”.
“We were intimate in a much more passionate and personal way. It was as if we were aware of each other again which of course made it all the better,” Sarah says.
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram: @shonamarion.