It’s said that either money or sex are at the root of most of the problems that lead couples to divorce. It’s comforting to believe that true love conquers all, but whether true love is in the mix or not, sexual incompatibility can unfortunately cause insurmountable problems in a relationship.
It’s easy to be mistaken about the importance of sex in the lives of people from older generations, but don’t confuse not talking about it with not caring about it. Sex is and has always been important in intimate relationships, but the way we talk about and conduct sexual relationships has changed dramatically. Even as recently as twenty or thirty years ago it was much more likely that a sexually incompatible married couple would stay together, if in name only, “for the sake of the children”, often without ever really discussing—much less getting help for—the reasons behind their sexual problems. It’s only in the last three or four decades that it’s been considered appropriate to openly afford sex the significance it deserves. And make no mistake; it is most definitely significant.
The Importance of Sexual Compatibility
What does sexual compatibility even mean? Think about the least fulfilling sexual relationship you’ve had, and compare it with the one that was the most fulfilling. Typically the relationship that satisfies you the most isn’t necessarily the one where you have the most sex, or even the best sex—it’s the one where you and your partner both have a roughly equal desire for sex, and either enjoy the same kinds of sexual activity, or are willing and able to compromise to give each other what they need. It also tends to be the one where you and your partner are able to communicate effectively about sex without shyness or judgment.
Personal preference aside, the effect that sexual incompatibility can have on a marriage is one of the most compelling arguments there is against waiting until getting married before having sex for the first time. That’s not to say it’s impossible to make such a relationship work—that certainly isn’t true—but there’s something to be said for making sure you’re compatible before making what you hope will be a lifetime commitment.
In a marriage between two people who are sexually incompatible and are unable to talk about sex, one or both partners usually ends up feeling that they’re not getting the level of intimacy that they want, which in turn leads to feelings of hurt, loneliness, and alienation. Over time the distance between them grows wider, to the point where both intimacy and communication are completely absent—all because of sex.
Physical Sexual Dysfunction can Affect Anyone
It’s not just compatibility that can cause relationship problems; any problems relating to physical sexual dysfunction can also be difficult to talk about and to solve. In the last two decades there’s been a massive increase in advertising and general communication when it comes to male impotence, mainly due to the burgeoning market for erectile dysfunction medications, but it’s not only men who are affected by physical sexual problems. Women can, however, be affected by a somewhat similar range of problems, including reduced libido, inability to become aroused or maintain arousal, inability to orgasm, and pain during intercourse. Woman can also be affected by a condition called vaginismus, in which the vaginal walls spasms during intercourse, and makes penetration both difficult and painful. One thing that’s important to note is that there’s a big difference between episodes of dysfunction and actually having a sexual dysfunction disorder. In the first instance, a person might be affected by occasional problems but be generally satisfied with their sex life—in cases of true dysfunction, the problems happen much more often than once in a while, and they cause true emotional distress that can affect every aspect of a relationship.
Solving Sexual Problems
Engaging in open, honest communication with your partner is perhaps the most important thing you can do to resolve any problems in your relationship, whether they’re related to sex or not. In terms of sex that kind of communication isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s absolutely necessary to prevent the alienation and loss of intimacy that sexual problems can cause.
Sexual dysfunction is either physical or psychological in nature, and there’s a very long list of physical issues that can affect your desire for sex, and your ability to become aroused. In a situation where you or your partner is suddenly affected by sexual dysfunction the problem could very well be physical; on the other hand, our ability and desire to have sex is strongly related to our emotional and wellness, there are many psychological issues, such as body image or the level of trust within a relationship, that can affect libido.