by Andrea M. Darcy
We suffer information overload these days about our love lives. A quick glance at a magazine stand and there will undoubtedly be headlines about the latest ways to please your partner, please yourself, be more adventurous between the sheets, get more health benefits from sex, and be more connected and in love with your partner.
It’s hard not to be intimidated and wonder if your own sex life is normal. It seems the downside of the sexual revolution is a culture in which we all are left to secretly worry that we are measuring up.
So what is a healthy sex life, really?
First of all, remember that the world consists of very different people.
Assuming we should all be measured by the same sexual yard stick is like assuming everyone should be able to run 5km in the same time bracket. Your age, health, and sex drive, and then those of your partner, will determine what sex life is healthy for both of you.
Second of all, each couple will have their own definition of what sex even is. Sexual activity can include actual intercourse, touching and feeling, or just kissing and cuddling. If the latter is very sometimes completely satisfying for you and your partner, that’s what matters.
5 ways to know you have a healthy sex life
So how can you get clarity on whether you have a healthy sex life or not?
1. You are doing things you enjoy and saying no to things you don’t want.
It’s important to listen to your wants and needs when it comes to your love life, and not become so involved in pleasing your partner you are not really enjoying it anymore. This includes when and where you have sex, too. If you really are too tired and stressed, then there is nothing wrong with having a nap instead. And if getting amorous in the shower isn’t for you, then be honest about it – ditto if you would like to.
2. You are communicating to your partner about what works for you.
Of course the only way your partner will know what you want and don’t want is if you actually tell them. Sometimes people fall into a habit of assuming for years their partner knows and just doesn’t want or care to deliver what they desire. Don’t assume anything. Communicate constantly. People forget things, and we change and grow, including with what we want physically from a relationship.
3. You feel good after sex.
Despite the myth the media feeds us that sex is the great cure-all, sometimes you can feel down after sex (read our guide to 10 reasons why you might be depressed after sex). But if you are constantly feeling down after lovemaking, it’s a sign something isn’t right.
4. Your sex life has movement to it.
And this is not a reference to hanging from a chandelier! It’s about having a sex life that is not stale and repetitive. Healthy sex involves occasional spontaneity. This means you are in the moment and truly enjoying each other, not just doing things as you think you ‘should’ or out of habit, taking things (and each other) for granted. Try something new now and again, even if it just some ‘off schedule’ activity.
5. You are actually having sex. Once a month doesn’t cut it.
If your sexual interaction has boiled down to once a month (or less) it’s not a ‘normal’ side effect of marriage or a long term relationships. It’s a sign you aren’t communicating or something else is wrong. If you are having trouble talking about it, consider a couples counsellor who can create a safe and non-judgemental space to start talking.
5 Things to look at to troubleshoot your love life
So what if you aren’t hitting many of the above points? And your sex life is, after all, floundering? Time to take an honest look at what isn’t working and what can be done.
1. Stress levels.
Stress can seriously dampen our libidos. If you are stressed, there are various techniques you might want to try, like progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, or just plain old exercise. Or consider a coach or therapist, who can create a safe space for you to unload your worries (read about different therapy approaches here).
Again. It simply cannot be overstated how important communication is to a healthy love life. If things aren’t zinging, it’s highly likely that there is a communication breakdown. If you feel you can no longer communicate with your partner despite best intentions, it might be time to visit a couples counsellor. A couples counsellor is not there to take sides, but merely to facilitate communication and get you and your relationship back on track.
It’s easy to take each other for granted when a relationship matures. Sometimes it’s just a matter of re-committing to each other. Taking time to remember why you have chosen to be together deepens the emotional connection, which in turn tends to deepen the physical connection.
Remember that your love is your love life is just that – your love life, no one else’s. Don’t let what you actually want and need be coloured by what you think you ‘should’ want or need, just because it’s what your friends have been trying, or you read in a magazine article other people are doing. Expecting too much of your love life can make you unrealistic and unappreciative of what is working.
5. Your health.
If you have had a switch into feeling really uninterested in your sex life, or your partner has lost interest, don’t overlook a health issue affecting your libido. Do go to your GP for a general checkup. Things like diabetes and high blood pressure can all affect your drive.
And don’t forget to check in on your emotional health, as well. Depression, even if it is only mild, is one of the leading causes of a lowered sex drive. A few sessions with a counsellor or psychotherapist can do wonders if this might be you, and as well as helping your mood also offers a safe space to discuss how you honestly feel about your love life and decide what steps you can take to improve it.
Images by: Macnolete, Christopher, Peanuttt
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and advises people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy