Relationship Sexually Stuck? – A look at your unwritten rules of engagement.


Quick summary: a simple tweak to the unwritten rules surrounding physical intimacy can recharge the sex life in a relationship. Most people have set rules regarding sex in their relationships… “It has to be…” or “it is only appropriate when…” or “sex is supposed to be for…” A simple suggestion is to write down with your partner why, or for what reason, you usually have sex; then follow this exercise by writing a list of all the various reasons sex is a useful activity in general… use this information to generate different reasons for sex.

There are thousands of reasons why sexual activity can change in frequency and procedure over the years… children, work, libido, time etc. Many people express secondary positive outcomes to the experience of sex (reduced stress, increased relationships satisfaction, more hopeful etc), which encouraged me to write a blog concerning how you might improve your sexual relations.

First of all we usually get in our own way by unconsciously following ‘rules’ concerning sex that we might not even agree with. Rules come from many different places; you might have picked them up from your family, you might have heard a rule expressed in pop culture, or you might have misinterpreted something that your partner said to you etc… either way, I suggest that you might want to look at your rules and see if any of them are not so useful to you (though they might have been very useful in your past).

For example –

“I am too tired to have sex” – unwritten rule – ‘don’t have sex when you are tired’

“I am not in the mood for sex” – unwritten rule – ‘don’t initiate sexual relations including foreplay before you are ready to have sex’.

“I don’t feel very sexy or romantic” – unwritten rule – ‘sex is supposed to be for romance so do not have sex until the ‘romance’ check list is completed’.

“I have a lot going on at work.” – Unwritten rule – ‘life must be less complicated for sex to take place.”

‘My partner did not do the favor that I asked of her’ – Unwritten rule – ‘sex is something that is earned from meeting an expectation.’

Now it is your turn – finish the following sentences (you can use them more than once)

I only have sex if…

I never have sex if…

Sex is supposed to be for…

I don’t have sex because…

Now try and offer to yourself a reason why this rule might not always be true… you can do this using ration or you can simply look for times in your life when your rule was not true – note -critique your rules and not you partner’s rules. For example if your rule is ‘I don’t have sex when I am stressed” you might reply to yourself -” the times that I have had sex when I was stressed were always good once we started and I always feel better after”. 

We tend to be very well aware of the reason why not to have sex, but we are not always as aware of the reasons to have sex.

Before reading the list I have provided below try jotting down all the reasons why you would ever have sex with your partner.

Below is a selection of Reasons to have sex that I have heard or read about along my therapeutic journey –

1.) Physical release/orgasm

2.) Reproduction

3.) Emotional intimacy

4.) Romance

5.) Exercise

6.) Reproductive health

7.) To encourage a healthy libido (some studies suggest ‘use it or lose it’ is true)

8.) For play/ humor/ to have fun

9.) To help one partner sleep

10.) For stress of anxiety reduction

11.) Fantasy, role-playing, or experimenting

12.) To feel comforted in times of sadness

13.) To express an emotion

14.) To celebrate something

15.) To feel close to someone (we all have different ways by which we feel ‘loved’ by another).

16.) To be visually stimulated

17.) To connect spiritually

18.) For an activity when you are bored

19.) For passion

20.) For pleasure

21.) Conflict Resolution

You can have as many reasons as you would like to have sex – you don’t need to pick just one.

There is a subtle difference between ‘rules’ and ‘expectations’ – I will cover expectations in a future blog as this is also an important theme.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

6 thoughts on “Relationship Sexually Stuck? – A look at your unwritten rules of engagement.

  1. Actually, I think another good topic that I think many women battle with and could use illumination if you’d like to talk about it off line. i think it wold be helpful for many women, and men.
    Email me if you’d like and we can discuss.

  2. Pingback: The Sex vs. Emotional Intimacy debate | how to make both partners feel loved in a relationship? | thoughts from a therapist

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