Life is busy. That’s for sure. Kids, work, errands, taking care of the home. Too often, the relationship with our partner becomes an afterthought amid the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. We let ourselves fall into patterns — uninspiring routines — and interaction becomes limited, especially when it comes to sex.

While a small matter in the short run, a lull in a couple’s sex life can become problematic if left unaddressed. That’s because sex is what sets our partner apart from all our other relationships. We hug and kiss friends and family members. We even hold their hands. But that is the extent of our physical intimacy with them. Anything further is reserved for our partner .

Without doubt, it’s not the lone gesture that identifies and solidifies a relationship. However, sex is an essential aspect that binds us together with our significant other. Yet, we far too often let it fall in line with all the other chores: cleaning, cooking, taking out the trash, doing laundry, walking the dog, shopping, having sex. It becomes another check on the “things to do” list.

Sex as a conversation

But sex is not solely a physical deed to be done. Sure, a quickie is nice every now and again to show we’ve still got it, but the act shouldn’t be a robotic interlude where you do this, I do that, and we’re done. If it is just about an orgasm, we can take care of that business on our own.

Somehow, unfortunately, sex seems to have been reduced to little more than an act. It’s so overrated that it’s underrated, I like to say. What I mean by that is thanks to its over-the-top prevalence in media and music it has been reduced to a cinematic drama or else described as a crude act.  It’s either orchestrated or degrading.

The most meaningful sex, though, has less to do with the act and more to do with the interaction. It’s a communication all on its own. That physical and emotional conversation is what separates the relationship with your partner from all other relationships. But somehow that aspect can get lost.

Why is that important? For one thing, such a physical connection creates acceptance and reassurance. Simultaneously, the emotional intimacy of sex expresses safety and comfort. Who doesn’t feel more relaxed and in tune with their partner after an intimate sex session. There’s more smiling, laughter, and conversation. Sex takes the edge off, breaking down walls that build amid the daily grind.

Sex as a reminder

It goes without saying that a couple is not always on the same wavelength with each other. Add to that the lowering of libido with aging along with busy schedules, and it is easy to see how sex can fall to the wayside. Yet that doesn’t negate the need for physical and emotional contact, even if it is not sexual. Those non-sexual interactions – snuggling, light strokes in passing, saying/writing sweet nothings – are additional ways of indicating connection and care. They stoke the fires of intimacy, serving as bridges to tide you over till more expressive interactions return. Without this kind of contact, a relationship risks becoming asexual.

Sadly, though, that risk can become all too real. It is frequently cited that 15% of marriages are sexless, meaning the couple goes over six months without it. That’s a long time. Upon reaching this point, it’s a long way back to the bedroom. It’s a much shorter way out the door.

According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, the three main elements of love are physical interaction, emotional connection, and staying together. Take out the passion and you are left with companionate love, a roommate. That is an unfulfilling way to be together, emotionally and physically.

A fulfilling sex life, one where both partners feel attended to, is part and parcel of a healthy marriage. To be sure, it does not make a marriage. Nevertheless, sex gives a couple a unique way to express a mutual appreciation for being together. It’s a recurring reminder of why you’re committed to being with this person. Such a reminder is one worth repeating regularly.

By Dan Franch, July 2013.