The relationship site that I contribute to has one common question that is asked every day, so I decided to make a contribution to the most common question and that is, ‘how important is sex in a relationship?’
Actually, that was unfair. Of course there are more young people who will give that answer than older people, but beyond a very broad generalization like that there are many variations. The answer to this will be particular to the individual and will vary according to age, current sexual satisfaction or deprivation, and life particulars at the time the question is posed. How you were socialized, your general exposure and your personality will impact your answer too. One quip I’ve heard on the topic is that sex is like air: “not very important unless you are deprived of it; then it’s crucial!”
So, how important is sex to a relationship? It absolutely depends on its importance to each of the people having the relationship.
More couples than you would guess who appear happy to their friends and relations (and perhaps even are) are in sexless relationships. A sexless relationship is commonly defined as one wherein sex happens less than 10 times a year, and yes, those couples do exist. That factoid will be interpreted by some people as two people are ”supposed to”“ have sex more than that, no matter their preferences or circumstances, but I can tell you that there are persons who can go an entire year and nothing.
One of the ambiguities here is my oft-stated truth that sex does not equal penis in vagina intercourse. Is a couple “having sex” if they engage in some other form of intercourse, such as oral? What if they are having some other form of sex such as rubbing against one another, any part against any part, which is pleasurable and can result in orgasm to either or both? Isn’t that sex too? It is in my book. Perhaps the question might be recast as how important is orgasm or even how important is pleasurable and intimate touch?
I think often what is being asked when the “how important is sex” question is posed is “how often should my partner and I have sex in order to be considered normal or both individuals are satisfied?” What also might be behind this question is another worry such as “I’m afraid I can’t perform according to expectations so can I still have a relationship?” or “my partner is complaining about how often we have sex or what kind of sex we have so who is right here?”
Since this common question can mask many other concerns I usually respond “How important is sex to you?” If the person asking is coupled I also ask “Does your partner agree?” Generally not, or the question would not have arisen. Once a year or once a day, if whatever is happening between them is sufficient sex, there is no problem. Asking for outside validation is irrelevant. Let me just say if you think asking your partner now is sufficient, you have another guess coming, because there are couples who started out on fire and for some reason one is still on fire and the other is ice.
So while the answer is often frustrating to the one who poses it (as sex itself, maybe), the definitive answer to the question of how important is sex to a relationship has to be “it depends”. I will not leave you hanging, but if you both continue the conversation, continue exploring and continue communicating, then you be on the same page for the duration of your relationship. There is always something new to learn when it comes on to sex, so keep learning.