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Is it Sex for Love, or Love for Sex?

One of the most significant gaps between partners when it comes to love and sex is the truism that traditionally, male energy opens to love through sexual connection and female energy is more apt to need love to ignite its sexuality.

I remember well a conversation I had with another mother at the playground years ago, when I was urging her to not withhold her sexual response until she was satisfied with the loving attention she received from her mate. She looked at me shocked and said “why are you taking his side?” For me it wasn’t about sides, but rather the recognition that the more freely I loved my husband sexually, the more loving he became. It is an interesting and sometimes troubling chicken and egg conundrum that impacts most all relationships. It is not definitively tied to specific gender orientation, as many same-sex and gender non-conforming couples fall into the same trap.

This question of how and when we offer our erotic selves in the name of love is complicated by often misunderstood and unstated sexual needs, as well as common conflicting cycles of desire. For some, the act of choosing to move towards desire feels like a chore, yet everyone in a couple suffers the emotional scars of repeated sexual refusals. What we are willing to give of ourselves sexually is perhaps one of the most profound ways that our behavior speaks of love, or doesn’t. Simple gestures are easily misconstrued, taking on layers of meaning because being embraced or rejected sexually defines us in ways we often don’t acknowledge and aren’t able to name.

How do we know if giving up our resistance to sex is a profoundly loving act or an act of self-betrayal?

Although those places seem like they should be eons apart, it is not uncommon to feel confused about both our motivations and intentions when it comes to our erotic selves. This confusion can easily wind up feeling like resentment instead of love and has a lot to do with the painful associations that we hold about our sexuality. I heard two stories this week, one from a man whose wife hasn’t been sexual with him for months, and the other from someone whose partner is freely sexual with him, but also demands the freedom to be sexual with multiple partners. Ironically, these men have more in common than you would think at first glance about what we give up of ourselves sexually to be loved.

Asking provocative questions about whether your sense of being loved and loving is flourishing by extending into more sex or diminishing by the ways we give ourselves up in order to get the sex we want is a good place to begin to understand this magnetic dance between love and sex.

Listen deeply to what your heart reveals with these questions:

  • Regardless of the sex that happens or doesn’t, do you feel that your relationship is large enough to lovingly hold both of your desires and needs?
  • Does the pleasure of one person compromise the self respect or perpetually dominate the feelings of the other person?
  • Are you able to open to your erotic self with of a sense of curiosity about your own desire or only compelled by of a sense of duty and feelings of guilt?

Discovering and exploring our sexual selves with someone we love is a journey of a lifetime. The first step is in asking real questions.