Why is Sexuality Important?
The goal and result of healthy sexuality in a marriage is closeness! Sex has the potential to bind us together. The way we handle sex influences the love in our relationship, and the love and safety in our relationship influences sex. Sex is inherently vulnerable, so when we are vulnerable and our spouse responds well, it helps us feel loved and grow closer. Sex should be something we share only with our spouse, which communicates passionate love: they are uniquely special to us, and we are uniquely special to them (which is one of the variables the research has identified leads to us feeling like we matter). Sexuality is an important and inseparable part of a healthy and happy relationship!
Sex and Attachment
Attachment theory, in a nutshell, is the theory that explains the most important, close relationships in our lives. When we are distressed, we turn to our attachment figure (parent or spouse), and if they respond with sensitivity and availability, we are soothed, and can quickly return to exploration and development. If this pattern is consistent 80% of the time, we develop secure attachment. If we are often responded to with insensitivity and unavailability, we develop insecure attachment. (See this blog post on attachment for more info).
Every sexual encounter is an attachment moment. Sex is unavoidably linked with attachment. People with a secure attachment are able to comfortably engage in sex, and report higher levels of sexual satisfaction than people with an insecure attachment.
When two people engage in sex in a way that facilitates and protects secure attachment, they are sending the message “you matter to me” to the other person. We all have a fundamental need to matter to the most important people in our lives, and healthy sex with your spouse can help fill that need.
How to protect attachment in sex
The person initiating sex needs to vulnerably turn to the other person. Be direct, and focus on the relationship. You should be seeking sex because you want to connect with your spouse. Try saying something like “I want to feel closer to you/connect with you” rather than “I need/want sex” or “We haven’t had sex in a while.” The other person then should respond sensitively to that vulnerability. The purpose of sex is to bind us together, and that binding only happens if there’s vulnerability and connection.
Just like with every attachment moment, when we experience a successful sexual encounter (there has been vulnerable risk and sensitive responsiveness from both people), we come away from that encounter feeling more secure in the belief and feeling that we matter to each other and that we are safe vulnerably placing ourselves in the hands of what should be the most important relationship in our lives. Research shows that there is no other relationship that has more power and ability to influence our self-worth (“Do I matter?”) and our feelings of love and belonging (“Am I safe?”). Further, there are few other aspects of this primary attachment relationship that affect those feelings more than what goes on sexually. It creates great cognitive dissonance if there are feelings of mattering and safety outside of the bedroom, while sexual encounters feel selfish and guarded.
What does Healthy Sex Look Like?
- Both partners are accessible, responsive, and engaged emotionally
- Integration of attachment in sex and caregiving.
- The best aphrodisiac or technique is secure attachment between partners. There’s nothing that feels better than a secure attachment and it naturally leads toward healthy sexuality.
- Intimate play—much higher with healthy sex
- A safe adventure
- Tension, excitement, and comfort
- If it brings you closer together, it’s ok! That should be the litmus test.
We tend to way underdo healthy sexuality and healthy sexual behavior because of lack of vulnerability. We settle for much less sexual satisfaction and enjoyment because of lack of vulnerability.
All our Instagram posts this week are also about sexuality. You can also click here to sign up for my Healthy and Happy classes. One whole class is all about sexuality, and we go a lot more in depth. To stay in the loop, sign up for my newsletter!