Principles of a Healthy Sexual Relationship

Sexuality is an essential piece of a satisfying relationship.  How does one maintain a healthy sexual relationship with their partner? I am going to provide you with the principles to keep the sexual energy flowing in your relationship. Before we get started I am going to provide you with a secret here: sex is never just about sex.   It takes a healthy relationship in all areas to have a satisfying sexual experience.   Do you recognize other areas of your relationship suffering? Is there a lot of conflict? Do you not feel connected to your partner? If so, it is likely your sexual relationship is suffering as well.  I have written other blog articles on how to manage conflict, How to Avoid the Same Conflict, but in this blog I am going to focus on how to create a healthy sexual relationship.  If you have a lot of conflict or lack of connection in your relationship I am going to ask you to focus on that first before you delve into sexuality; because without connection and good communication it will be very difficult to make progress.

Talking About Sexuality.  Do you have open communication with your partner about sexuality?  If not this is the first place to start.   Our culture creates a lot of silence around sexuality and views it a taboo.  This taboo creates a culture of couples who do not nor know how to discuss sexuality. If you can’t talk about sexuality how can it be satisfying in your relationship?  I tell my couples in therapy that if you cannot talk about sex then you should not be doing it.  The exercise I give clients to start this conversation is the before, during, and after exercise. During each part you will discuss what you like or dislike about the sexual relationship with your partner.  In the before part you discuss with your partner what you like and do not like about how he or she initiates intimacy.  In the during part you discuss what you like or do not like during sexual intimacy.  In the after part you discuss what you like and do not like after the sexual encounter.  This exercise should not be done in the afterglow of a sexual experience but at a time where both of you can be fully present.  This exercise can start you on the path towards a healthy sexual relationship.

Personal Responsibility. It isn’t uncommon in my office to hear an individual in the couple blame his or her partner for an unsatisfying sexual experience.  I am here to tell you, YOU are personally responsible for turning yourself on or off to a sexual experience.  Your partner can provide the ideal environment; but if you are not allowing yourself to be turned on and present it will not be a satisfying experience.  You have to take personal responsibility for the sexual experience. When you do you are more likely to have a healthy experience.

Balancing and Understanding the Components of the Sexual Experience.   The physical sensation is not the only element that produces healthy sexual intimacy.  Yet it is often where we put all of the focus. There are many other components that entail a satisfying experience.  I like Gina Ogden’s model of the sexual experience.  She displays her model on a circle that can change depending on what part of your sexual story is holding the most influence.  In her circle there are four components.  These four components entail the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental story.  When these four components are in balance the sexual experience is heightened.  I have described these four areas below:

The four components of the sexual experience:

Physical: The physical story is the area of sensation and dysfunction.  The physical story has a positive and negative side.  The positive side is the ability to understand all five senses (taste, touch, smell, vision, and hearing) and how they can enhance the sexual story.  When you pay closer attention to your five senses in relation to your sexuality you will experience a more intense experience.  The negative aspect of the physical story is focus on pain or dysfunction.  If I focus on my pain and dysfunction in relation to sexuality my story is dominated by this experience and does not allow room for the positive sensations.

Emotional: The emotional story is the area of compassion/passion and fear/anger.  The emotional story is being aware of what our emotions are communicating.  If I have passion, I can and will receive passion.  If I am angry, I can and will receive anger in return. Be aware of what your emotions are communicating and what you are currently receiving.  Many individuals need to be emotionally close before he or she wants to be physically close.  Are you one of these individuals?  Are you putting on emotions that will create a story of passion or are you creating a story that creates fears.

Mental: The mental story is the area of discernment/choice and the area of judgment/shame.  The mental stories are created by the messages we have received from society, our self, and religion.  When the mental story is open I have an open mind and I do not allow these past messages to influence my sexual story.  When I allow judgment to take control this becomes my story.  An example might be that I judge myself based on the body images of models and I do not have this body.  Instead I am shameful of the body that I have and think that I am ugly when my partner sees it.  This creates an unhealthy view of self that dominates my mental story.

Spiritual: The spiritual story is the path of connection/meaning or disconnection/over control.  The route of a positive spiritual story is the ability to completely allow yourself to let go and to have a deeper connection with your partner during the sexual experience.  Often this experience is described as ecstasy.  It often presents its self when you allow all of the others components to be positively balanced.  When we are not balanced and the negative sexual story has control you can experience sexual disconnection or want to control the experience.

What does your sexual story look like?  Do you notice that one part of story has more control?  If you notice one part of your story is dominating you should work on strengthening the other positive parts of your story.  Do you find it difficult to change a negative view of your sexual experience?  Do you feel like you need additional help?  I recommend that you find a therapist who specializes in sexuality to assist you in your pursuit; through this therapy experience you can create a healthier view of your sexuality.

Sexuality remains an essential part of any relationship.  Sexuality takes a lot of work and practice to be a positive experience.  To create this healthy sexual relationship you need to be able to communicate and connect with our partner.  Once that part is done you can work on elevating the sexual experience by talking about it, taking personal responsibility, and balancing all four components.  I hope that the principles that I have shared above help you and your partner on the path to a deeper sexual connection.

Reference: Gina Ogden, PhD, MFT, website: