Sex as Glue: Staying in a Relationship for the Wrong Reasons
There’s no question about it: The physical and emotional feelings that come with sex are extremely powerful, the body’s version of hitting the lottery and cashing in.
Now, if you’re having great sex with someone who is truly good for you and the relationship is amazing, be my guest: Have all the sex you need!
You’ve managed to capture love’s brass ring: a positive romantic relationship where each of you brings out the best in the other.
No one should ever apologize for wanting or having great sex. When you find the right partner, sex can be so many things, depending on the moment and mood: an exciting, exploratory adventure; a soothing and comforting interlude; and a love-filled interaction between two people who care deeply for each other.
Quick caveat: Good sex should also make you feel good emotionally. What’s bad about good sex is that too often people stay in a dead-end relationship because the sex is so hard to give up. If you find yourself in a relationship where the sex is great, make sure to ask yourself if you’re happy overall in the relationship. It’s terrific if the relationship meets your sexual needs, but that’s not enough to sustain a real relationship.
Typically, people who stay in relationships because the sex is so good have relationships that fall into one of two categories: relationships with too little or too much emotion.
The Relationship With Too Little Emotion
In relationships where there is too little emotion, the couple connects sexually but there is little else that bonds them. Imagine the couple, for example, who has phenomenal sex and then goes out to eat later, with neither member having much to say as they sit across the table from each other. Imagine another couple that has great sex, but neither wants to introduce the other to their family or friends. There is little emotional intimacy in these relationships, with sex providing the primary bond.
If this is the kind of relationship you’ve fallen into, it’s time to be honest with yourself about how happy — er, unhappy — you are in the relationship. The most common reason people stay in such a scenario is fear: fear that someone who meets both their sexual and emotional needs doesn’t really exist. Make no mistake: Staying for sex is a version of settling.
As I write this, I’m reminded of so many clients I’ve worked with who kill time in a relationship with someone who isn’t the right one for them, telling themselves that they are open to meeting someone new, should someone better come along. Simply put, this notion sends me through the roof! It is wishful, distorted thinking to believe that you are in the right mindset to meet someone healthy and new as long as your mental — and sexual energy, thankyouverymuch — is already invested in someone else.
Odds are that you wouldn’t keep putting change in a pocket full of holes, so don’t be more careless with your heart than you are with your hard-earned money! The goal is to never, ever let yourself rationalize your behavior to the point that you feel okay about staying in a relationship that doesn’t fulfill you emotionally.
The Relationship With Too Much Emotion
Another reason why people stay in relationships for sex, even when they’re not happy overall with each other, is because they’ve gotten hooked on the incredible intensity of the relationship. In relationships with great sex but too much emotion, the couple often succumbs to jealousy, paranoia, poor communication, and extreme fights or arguing. The couple tries to convince themselves that the intensity of the sex — and all the emotional drama in between — is proof of how much they love each other. How misguided that notion is, unfortunately.
The truth is that these individuals don’t know what good love really looks like. Instead, they’re stuck in a self-destructive cycle of trying to prove themselves, waiting for their partner to change, or prove everyone else wrong who says these two individuals are bad for each other. Relationships with amazing sex but too much emotion are doomed because the couple never truly deals with and processes their feelings with each other; instead, they use sex to work out their issues. In turn, negative feelings keep coming back and getting more intense, so the dysfunctional couple needs the positive feelings that come with sex more than ever to help them self-medicate. The couple finds themselves desperately trying to reconnect through sex, as sex becomes the only way the couple emotionally connects at all.
There’s an old saying that has some truth to it: “In bad relationships, sex means everything; in good relationships, it means very little.” While I don’t believe the latter point is entirely true, you get the meaning. Great sex within the context of a bad relationship is a like a drug that will keep everyone coming back for more until each member of the couple gets honest with themselves and admits the truth: The relationship is broken or, worse, not much of a ‘relationship’ at all.
Getting caught up in a good-sex/bad-relationship dynamic can do serious damage to your peace of mind and self-esteem, making you lose faith in your judgment and your ability to attract quality partners. Be honest with yourself about the quality of your relationship, and remember that sex is supposed to be just one of many parts that make up a satisfying romantic relationship.