November 6, 2008

Q&A: Is Sexual Chemistry A Sign Of Healthy Relationships?

A reader asks if sexual chemistry is a requirement for a healthy relationship, or just a nice perk.

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Question: My sex partner and I have really good sexual chemistry together, but we’re complete opposites when we’re not having sex; is this a good thing? Is intensely passionate sex a sign of a healthy relationship or just a strong libido?

You’ve hit upon an age-old question that many men and women have wondered. Sexuality, however, is complex and the answer is not cut and dry. Some couples who have intense sexual chemistry find that although they are attracted to each other and enjoy having sex with each other, they simply cannot spend time together or live together as a couple. Other couples with intense chemistry, however, find that even if they are opposites in other ways, that their relationship is important to them in ways that matter to them – and that their differences enrich each other’s lives, even if they sometimes bring discomfort, stress or arguments.

As such, we can’t tell you whether your chemistry is the sign of a healthy relationship or not, though certainly it seems to reflect at least a shared interest in and desire for sexual expression, and shared experienced of pleasure. Many couples struggle for months or years to become sexually compatible, and it can feel pleasurable, enjoyable and exciting when sex seems to happen naturally between two people.

Many women and men wonder whether their relationships are healthy, particularly given the various messages that we hear in the media about how to tell if a person is in a good relationship or a bad one. And yet, healthy relationships tend to have more to do with how a person feels in their relationship than with whether they are similar to or very different from their partner. You didn’t say what you meant by feeling “opposite” to your partner when you’re not having sex, but it may be worth exploring how you two feel with each other as partners.

For example, do you feel comfortable with each other? Are you able to communicate honestly and with care, and to support each other in ways that help you both to feel valued and important? Some satisfied couples have very similar interests in terms of activities, politics, religion, family and money. Others hold very different views on life, or enjoy different activities, but they learn over time how to make a life together.

A book by John Gottman, titled “The Relationship Cure“, describes how people can learn to understand more about their partner, and communicate in healthy, effective ways – and in spite of their differences – in ways that are relationship enhancing.