Sex, intimacy, and sexual compatibility: What every couple needs to know

MANILA, Philippines – “If you’re not sexually attracted to your partner, leave.” “It’s okay if you’re not sexually compatible – you’ll live.” “Passion is the most important thing in any relationship.” “Sex isn’t that important in a relationship anyway.” “You should be having sex all the time.”

With all these relationship “truths” and so-called “sex deal-breakers” constantly being thrown our way by media, peers, elders, and other married couples, we want to know the real deal: how true are these statements, anyway?

Even if there are misconceptions about sex and relationships that a lot of us may have formed growing up, perhaps due to religion, education, our upbringing, and Western mainstream media, it’s never too late to start debunking some of them! Relationship counselor and Stay Connected author Lissy Ann Puno dishes psychologist-backed truths about sex and intimacy that every couple needs to know to grow a healthy, loving relationship.

The real #CoupleGoals

“Taken apart or experienced it on its own, they are as important but experiencing it together, gives it more meaning and fulfilment for the individual and the couple,” Lissy Ann told Rappler.

But what exactly makes a “healthy, loving relationship?” Lissy Ann said that a a loving relationship is one in which “individuals trust each other enough to become vulnerable and secure, and “neither exploits nor takes the other for granted.” It involves “communication, sharing, and tenderness.”

Sure, that sounds like rainbows and butterflies, but it’s compromise that moves us along, as Maroon 5 said. I’m sure that many of us would want that kind of relationship for ourselves, but like the good things in life, achieving true #CoupleGoals requires time and effort on both sides. This includes choosing to love, committing to one another, making time for sex, and working on intimacy.

But isn’t intimacy just the same as sex? How are the two components different? Contrary to popular belief, they’re two different aspects of a relationship – and intimacy may not exactly be what you think.

“Intimacy actually means ‘inmost,’ so this refers to the innermost part of our beings or core. It suggests that to be intimate you need a very strong personal relationship and emotional closeness in order to feel safe to reveal that innermost self,” Lissy Ann said.

Often, Lissy Ann’s clinical practice sees struggling couples expressing sexual issues, which are usually symptoms of of a relationship that is not working. However, there are times where “sexual intimacy” is actually the problem.

Why is sexual intimacy important?

Combine sex and intimacy male looking for female, and you get “sexual intimacy” – a very important aspect of any romantic relationship. Sexual intimacy is defined as the “sexual expression of one’s love for the other,” and is all about “communication,” not only just an obligation or duty.

“Sexual intimacy is the expression of love through the physical body and one’s sexuality. Sexual intimacy is when you feel accepted, safe, valued, loving, and free to express yourself and your love for your partner with pure pleasure and enjoyment,” Lissy Ann said.

Love and acceptance are two elements that are just as important to the sexual experience as they are to the emotional.

For males and females, sexual intimacy can be experienced differently – for women, sexual intimacy is felt when there is a lot of emotional closeness and affection; while for men, sexual intimacy is felt with the frequency of the sexual experience.

If sexual intimacy is something you feel is lacking in your relationship, don’t worry – there are always ways to work on this together. Lissy Ann suggests that to grow in emotional intimacy, spend time doing recreational fun, and invest in deep levels of communication. After this, meaningful sex should come naturally from all of that.