The benefits of sex and ways for couples to re-ignite the spark. The rest is up to you.
By Lauren Felechner
In a country where the divorce rate’s national average is 50 percent, and here in Orange County — one of the highest ranking counties nationwide at 72 percent — finding ways for couples to remain intact can seem like a lost cause. Relationships involve upkeep and maintenance, commanding effort and interest from both sides. Much like a flower, if it is not watered or tended to, it can wilt away. While sex offers a way to renovate the relationship, igniting that spark is easier said than done.
Whether the relationship is new and exciting or there are years of commitment behind it, sex provides an opportunity for intimacy and restoration. Francesca Cancian, Certified Sex Therapist and Marriage and Family Therapist from Newport Beach explained, “For couples that have been together for a long time, the spark may start fading. About 10 percent of all marriages are non-sexual; the couple has sex less than 10 times a year.” She continued, “To keep the spark alive, you need to make time for conversation, intimacy, touching and pleasure. For most busy couples—especially those who have young children—this means scheduling dates. I know this doesn’t sound romantic, but it’s often necessary in order to escape the vicious circle of putting off intimacy and then getting more nervous about your sexual life.”
The best way to get out of a sexual rut is not get in one in the first place. However, couples fall victim to busy schedules, work overload and tending to children. According to Michael W. Smith, MD, MBA, CPT, medical director and chief medical editor at WebMD, keeping in mind the following benefits may assist couples in the straying of the sex department:
Helps keep your immune system humming. Having sex increases the body’s levels of its defense against germs and viruses.
Improves women’s bladder control. A strong pelvic floor is important in evading incontinence, which affects about 30 percent of women. Contracting the pelvic muscles can help strengthen them.
Counts as exercise. Having more sex can be your cheeky way of sticking to your New Year’s resolution of leading a more active lifestyle. Sex uses about five calories per minute, resulting in an amped up heart rate while utilizing various muscles.
Lowers your risk of heart attack. An active sex life is not only great for the heart and raising your heart rate, but it also helps maintain balanced estrogen and testosterone levels.
Alleviates stress. Being close to your partner can ease stress and anxiety while lowering cortisol levels. Touching and hugging can release endorphins while sex and intimacy can enhance self-esteem and happiness.
Other mental, emotional and physical benefits of a healthy, sexual relationship includes improved sleep, pain relief (headaches and cramps,) may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and improve your complexion with the release of the compound dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA.) However, often enough, getting back into the groove of things with your partner requires the assistance of a third-party, and consulting a sex therapist just might be your best option for sex reconciliation.
“Feeling genuinely interested in sex is a hard thing to accomplish for many couples. Low desire is one of the major complaints of couples that consult sex therapists. I think being super-busy and having very high expectations of sex are two main reasons. We have such high expectations of sexual relations that the whole thing becomes intimidating—one more hard thing to achieve,” Cancian stated. “You should expect that your sexual encounters will not always work. Even if the purely sexual part is not very good, the sensual, affectionate part of your contact can be very good for both of you. But first, both need to be relaxed and acceptant of yourselves and each other.”
Sex does not have to be the end-all-be-all of a successful relationship or marriage. Every bond needs a proper foundation, and building that foundation is imperative to a long-lasting, healthy companionship that can also open the doors to a healthy sex life. “Good sex will make your relationship better. You’ll feel more affectionate and relaxed with your partner,” Cancian said. “It will be one of the wonderful things you do together. But you need other things to build a long-term, intimate connection, like trust, communication, shared values and activities.”