Sex and Intimacy: Are They the Same?

 

bigstock--163639982A recently published article opined that the reason fewer and fewer men are interested in marriage or long-term relationships is because they have easy access to sex through text messages, dating apps, and streaming internet porn. In other words, they don’t have to try to win affection by making themselves presentable, having a good education and a good job, showing confidence, or doing any of the emotional labor required to be intimate with someone.

 

I found this to be an interesting article, but probably not for the reasons you think. I think it’s very easy for all of us to look at modern society, point a finger at smart phones and say “There! That’s the reason this is all falling apart!” But I wonder, and I think it’s a good idea for you to wonder about this too.

 

So I want you to take a few minutes and answer the following questions for yourself. They’ll help you come to a better understanding of what your needs are in terms of sex and relationships, and why you might feel the way you feel.

 

Do You Think That the Main Purpose of a Committed Relationship Is Sex?

The article that I mentioned seemed to indicate that the main purpose of marriage, or long-term committed relationships, is sex. In the 1700’s, when sexual urges were viewed as sinful and sex was supposed to only be for procreation. The author suggests that this is why so many people were marrying in their teens. As soon as the urges hit them, they had no other socially acceptable outlet except marriage, so that’s what they did. As our morals have shifted, and as we have become a more secular society, there is more premarital sex, and perhaps as the author proposes, less need for marriage.

 

But personally, I immediately bristle at the idea that marriage is for sex. After all, you are going to be sharing many more things with the person you marry than just your bed. Responsibilities, bills, illnesses, children, perhaps religious or political affiliation, extended families, and all the joys and sorrows of a human life. Sex is the byproduct of a healthy, committed relationship; it is not the purpose for that relationship.

 

So, in your experience, do you view committed relationships only as an opportunity to have regular sexual access to a person’s body? If so, has your willingness to enter a relationship dropped thanks to the so-called “hookup culture” around today? Or perhaps you feel that you are stuck in a relationship that hinges entirely on sex. How is that circumstance affecting your life?

 

Do You Feel that Sex Alone Meets Your Needs for Intimacy?

Do you see an inherent value in a close, intimate relationship? In my work with sex and porn addicts I often help them understand the idea that there is value in having a deep and personal relationship with someone which happens to include sex.

 

You may have regular access to sex through apps like Tinder, but after such an encounter, do you feel understood? Has your life been touched in any way by this person’s values and beliefs?

 

Or perhaps making that type of connection with another person scares you. There is a vulnerability in relationships, and if you find it difficult to be open with another person, you may simply be avoiding the issue by continually seeking out sex without meaningful connection.

 

Remember, sex and intimacy are not the same thing, even though they can be interrelated. Sex is a physical act. Intimacy is closeness, openness, love, understanding, and the feeling that you are very important in another person’s life, and that they are very important in yours.

 

I want you to think about whether or not you might find intimacy more satisfying and fulfilling than sex. I want you to think about whether or not intimacy is missing from your life, and if you are attempting to fill that empty space with sex. I want you to think about whether or not that approach is working for you.

 

What Is It You Really Want?

I am not taking a puritanical approach here. Sex is a very important part of the human experience, but there are constructive ways to go about making sex part of your life, and there are damaging ways. In fact, if you find that you have tremendous difficulty with intimacy, I want you to think about whether there may be a damaging sexual experience in your past.

 

These experiences do not always have to be overt. Obviously, things like molestation or abuse can have a tremendous impact on a person’s ability to connect with others all throughout their life, but something as simple as having an absentee parent, having an especially bad breakup, or growing up without anyone to model a healthy relationship can skew your thinking dramatically.

 

In my work with sex and porn addicts, one of the first things we need to establish together is what they want to get out of their counseling. You need to decide the same thing for yourself. Do you want to save an existing relationship? Do you want to break out of the cycle of meaningless sex or porn watching and find true connection with someone? Do you want to heal old wounds from your past so that you can get free of a destructive cycle? Do you want to rewire your brain so that you can take charge of your life, and kick addictive habits?

 

I want you to think about each of these questions because they are important. And, if you can answer them truthfully – if you can be open and honest with yourself – you may find that counseling would be very helpful to you. If you don’t like the answers you give to these questions, that is a sign that it’s time to reach out.

 

I have helped many people break the cycle of addictive behavior, and unhealthy attitudes about sex. I can help you learn how to bring intimacy back into your life, and I can help you understand why it’s so important to do that.

 

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