A sex therapist on our podcast made this distinction: It’s not sex if there’s no love.
Basically, she’s making the distinction between the mechanics of sex, and the emotion of sex. When sex is driven by love and appreciation of one another it deepens a relationship.
A couple that has mediocre sex can transform it into amazing sex using this principle by having more purpose-driven sex!
Let´s Talk About Sex
Sex is all over our media.
Love interests and sexuality seem to be at the heart of the written word, and screen time.
How real is this obsession?
Studies maintain that men think about sex at least 19 times a day. Women think about sex 18.6 times a day. This is staggering when you think about how much the average couple actually has sex which is .625 of their time.
Basically, we think about sex every 51 minutes, but we have sex an average of 45 minutes every 5 days. That means it’s on our minds all the time, but it actually takes up less than 1% of our lives.
Let’s be honest, we spend more time with screens on Netflix than we do having sex. We spend more time on social media, drinking coffee, defecating than we do on sex.
- I’ve had couples come to me really upset about the disparity in their sex life, and yet if they had sex as often as the most interested person wanted to it would still be less than 1% of their time.
- There are premarital couples who disagree about premarital sex be concerned about their sex life once they get married and yet it’s such a small percentage of their time together.
- I’ve had couples who want to get divorced because their sex life went flat…
So let’s put this in context!
1- The Purpose Of Sex (And What Purpose-Driven Sex is)
We all know that sex is a great way to have babies.
So duh, one of the purposes of sex is to have babies if you’re capable of that. Clearly in a same-sex marriage is this is going to be more of a challenge.
The other purpose of sex as our sex therapist put it is to express love. In fact the more adept we become at expressing love to one another, at being truly intimate, the better the sex becomes.
Granted we’re only talking about 1% of our time here 😉 but if you’re going to invest time in anything you might as well make the best of it right?
Let’s talk about sex without love for a moment.
Sex workers often do not kiss because they do not want to be emotionally connected to the people who are paying them to have sex with them. This backs up the sex therapist perspective that sex without love is not real sex. It’s an act.
We are hardwired to enjoy sex, to get pleasure from it. There’s physical pleasure, and there’s emotional pleasure.
Physical pleasure is the sense of release that comes with the act. Emotional pleasure can occur in relation to the person that we’re having sex with or simply between our own ears.
What Do I Mean By That?
Let’s go back to the sex worker example. The sex worker is having an emotionalist experience, they have surrendered their body for the use of another human being.
Their emotionally disconnected and not engaged, they are acting engaged for the sake of the other person, but there’s no real feeling or emotion for them.
The other person on the other hand is clearly deriving some kind of emotional satisfaction. If not they’d be masturbating. Why spend money on sex if you can get it for free after all?
So what is the person who’s paying the sex worker experiencing? Very often they’re enjoying a fantasy of their own.
Alternatively, they have pent-up emotion that they have not found another way to release and they’re doing it through the sexual act. They’re basically emoting at the sex worker.
How often have you been engaged in a sexual act and been emoting at the other person? How often have you been actually appreciating them, who they are, not just their body but who you know them to be?
This is the distinction that the sex therapist was making. When we’re having sex with another person and we are really loving and appreciating who they are, this is the most intimate and fulfilling form of sex. I’m proposing to you, that this is the true purpose of sex.
It’s a vehicle for cultivating a truly intimate relationship with another human being, one based on love, honor, respect, reverence, appreciation, and empathy.
2- Love-Based Sex
When we engage in love-based sex, we are expressing our feeling and appreciation for the other person.
Appearance becomes less important. When we’re expressing love-based sex, We are taking a risk and exposing ourselves in a way that is unparalleled.
We move from “chemistry” to something much deeper. Our bodies are vehicles for expressing our innermost selves. When we express our innermost cells through the sexual act with someone who we love deeply, expressing that love, and receiving theirs, we cultivate a unique connection that lasts far beyond the act of sex.
In this space, sex can be something that’s constantly improving and growing. In this space, we can help one another to please one another in a way that is unavailable in any other sexual exchange.
3- It´s About Intimacy
Sex founded in love is grounded in intimacy (partly, this is what makes the difference between purpose-driven sex and that which is not). Intimacy is an experience that we have with someone on many levels, not just through sexual expression.
We can have this experience in conversation, driving together, walking together, or just sitting together. The foundation for intimacy is a caring conversation, trust, and empathy. These three qualities build on each other in a circular fashion.
The more caring our conversations, the deeper our trust. The deeper our trust, the more empathy grows in the relationship. The more empathy grows in the relationship, the more caring the conversations become.
The language of touch is transformed by intimacy. The simplest gesture can be intimate. When we bring intimacy into a loving sexual relationship the results are explosive.
4- Sex Plus Intimacy Builds Emotional Closeness
When sex is combined with intimacy, emotional closeness grows. Why is that?
There’s a vulnerability that occurs on many levels when we’re engaged in love-driven sex. Let’s call it making love.
When we’re making love, It’s not necessarily all romance and wonder. There are going to be missteps. Even the most experienced couple will have a misstep.
A moment where you touch somewhere and it’s not where they want to be touched. Or perhaps you are touched in a way that actually hurts when it was meant to be pleasurable.
Vulnerability is about taking that risk first of all.
Second of all it’s about gently expressing what’s not working, and what you think will.
5- Developing Sexual Prowess
There is an art to lovemaking, just as there are skills that can enhance the physical experience of sex. The difference is the feeling behind it as we discussed earlier.
All of this can be learned. There are books, there are coaches. There is pornography. Pornography by definition is a less ideal place to learn. Pornography is idealized.
I’ve actually worked with young men who have trouble having loving sexual relationships because their expectation of the sex act is grounded in pornography which is an unrealistic expectation for lovemaking and this idealization just makes purpose-driven sex harder.
If you’re going to seek outside resources to help you become a better and more caring partner, be very careful where you turn. This is a journey best taken with your partner.
Begin with the technical journey.
The Kama Sutra which basically explores positions might be a good start. Be very careful about working with sex therapists. Make sure that they’re very qualified and professional.
Most important is that they won’t insert themselves into your intimate relationship with your partner. If you’re having trouble with intimacy, find someone who really understands it.
Learn to engage in caring communication, trust, and empathy.
Boundaries on Purpose-Driven Sex
Maintaining boundaries is part of what makes our marriages feel safe, even more, when it comes to purpose-driven sex.
When we are going for outside help or looking for education on sex and intimacy, we want to be super careful about not feeling we are being over-exposed, or feel like we are in forced intimacy in relationship to another person’s life and style.
Similarly, we will want clear lines about who we talk about in our own intimate lives. Conversations with others can feel like infidelity to our partner if we are not aware, observant, and careful.
Boundaries around the “act” of sex will also make a difference in the level of intimacy. Without judging the choices of others, we need to be clear on whether we are making love, or simply committing sexual acts for the sake of release.
Explore with one another the distinction. If sex is an act of release, how does it impact the intimacy of the marriage overall? Does it enhance the marriage or lessen it? If the goal is to grow intimacy, what are the actions that are in alignment with the goal for example?
The answers will be different for each couple depending on their values and goals.