Sexuality is about connection. Human beings need and search for intimacy with others; we’re all hard-wired for it. Popular media frequently misportrays human sexuality- healthy sex is about so much more than intercourse and orgasm. At the other end of the spectrum, Netflix movies, t.v. shows, and social media frequently portrays sex as some sort of “magical event”, perfect and flawless.
According to Michael Metz and Barry McCarthy, authors of Enduring Desire: Your Guide to Lifelong Intimacy, “good-enough” sex is about relationship- and about real human beings discovering and creating their own experiences on what can be a “journey of caring and exploration”.
Here’s some common myths around couple sexuality based on the research of Metz and McCarthy and the work of Dr. Sue Johnson- creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)- a highly effective and short-term approach to couples therapy that focuses on emotional connection (rather than the content of specific problems that couples are facing). As per Dr. Johnson, “sex is a dance” and insecure attachment including anxiety and avoidance can limit and block our movements.
Myth #1: All Men Care About is Sex
It may be quite accurate that men think about sex often, but it doesn’t mean that sex is all they care about. Indeed, researchers have found that men between the ages of 18 and 25 think about sex once every five minutes, and that 25 percent of men can’t go 5 minutes without sex coming-up in their minds.
Men can and do learn to acknowledge and respect their body’s “biological imperative” and can find connection and intimacy that they long for by placing their ultimate sexual focus on relationship. Through self-awareness, men learn to differentiate feelings of loneliness or anxiety from sexual feelings. In addition, as per Metz and McCarthy, men can acknowledge and manage their biological and natural tendency toward “visual sexual objectification”, channeling and personalizing sexual thoughts and urges toward their partner and their sexual relationship.
Myth #2: Monogamy Can’t Work in a Long-Term Committed Relationship
According to Dr. Sue Johnson great sex is a “safe adventure” as discussed in her book Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships and Hold-Me-Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. With a secure emotional connection built on trust and communication that truly allows partners to share fears and vulnerabilities, couples can risk moving towards curious exploration and confidence in themselves and in their relationship. Feeling, knowing and believing that our partners “A.R.E.” there for us- that our partners are “Accessible, Responsive and Engaged” can lead to a sexual relationship that is more secure and intimate. As we grow and learn to connect emotionally to our partners, so too can we connect sexually.
The unfamilarity of sex with someone new can set off a flood of feelings and biochemical reactions that can be quite alluring. For some, even addicting. However, mature love and sex long outlives the early and initial stages of romantic love or excitement by being with different or new partners. Trust, comfort and attraction in a long-term committed relationship can nurture and put flame to desire long after the initial “heat” cools down.
Cuddling and caressing significantly boosts satisfaction in long-term relationships according to a new study of middle-aged and older couples who had been together for an average of 25 years. Sexual satisfaction also has been shown to increase for many couples who have been together for 15 years or longer.
Myth #3: Pornography is Good for Your Sex Life
Healthy sexuality is relational. It’s about connection with another human being. Sex that is seen in pornography is frequently “emotionally bankrupt”- with intensity and passion that is faked for the camera and for viewers. According to some research, pornography can be used as a way to avoid intimacy- which is consistent with some studies suggesting that compulsive porn users may fear closeness. Alot of pornography accentuates sexual performance including sex acts and orgasms. As per Metz and McCarthy, this portrayal of sex is unrealistic and “fake”, and these “performances” could create pressure and negative fixed ideas about what healthy sexuality is all about. As discussed, healthy sexuality is nurtured in relationship with a caring and attuned other. Healthy couple sexuality happens when the feelings and needs of both partners are valued and respected.
A loving and connected bond with another human being can truly provide us with a safe haven in our lives to maintain emotional balance and handle the stresses of life without being alone, knowing that our partner is there for us, a source of security, care and affection in the day-to-day challenges that life can and does bring.