How Taking a Break from Sex Can Improve Intimacy

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break from sex

When is it important to take a break from sex? How does that break improve your relationship? Tune in to find out!

Mary Jo Rapini is a practicing psychotherapist, author, speaker, and Fox 26 Houston expert specializing in relationships. Her mission is to encourage healthy and strong relationships, beginning with the relationship you have with yourself.

In this episode of Last First Date Radio:

  • The most common sex issues 
  • Why couples struggle with sex
  • When to take a break from sex
  • How to have a conversation about taking a break from sex
  • What to do on your sex break

Taking a Break from Sex Can Improve Intimacy

What types of relationship struggles show up in the bedroom?

The biggest the biggest one is when there’s a total emotional disconnect, and when you’re not connected emotionally, when you’re just going through the motions of having physical sex, it gets old, gets dull.

It becomes something you don’t look forward to. You don’t cherish it. It’s more of a release than it is two people coming together and connecting. Sex was created as another form of communicating your deepest feelings for your partner. And when you take that out of the sex, it just becomes recreational. I think we’ve all numbed ourselves with the recreational part.

Can you share some of the differences between how men and women approach sex?

A lot of it has to do with how your male partner was raised. I think there’s a lot of pressure on men to perform. I think a man’s penis is a big deal, and I think there’s a lot of pressure that is put on men that if you don’t like sex, and if you’re not the aggressor, then you’re not a real man. And meanwhile,  when men try to be emotional, many times their parents stunted that ability.

I see this in my therapy office. The  reason men go to sex to connect is because they’re reluctant to share their feelings. I tell men, you can be emotionally vulnerable, you can be sensitive, and you can still be very emotionally strong. It’s a human emotion to be vulnerable and fear being hurt. Men feel that and women do, too. But you won’t see men feeling comfortable with feeling that. And so sex gives them a way to perform. And they’ve been conditioned that they keep the woman if they please her physically.

When a couple isn’t interested in sex, what are some common reasons? 

It depends on what passage of life they’re in. Women are oftentimes disinterested after a baby, and it takes a while for them to restore that. They go through a brain fog part where they just can’t they’re confused. They are tired. Both people are usually tired. And then during perimenopause, which is late thirties, early forties, that’s another time when many times women won’t want sex. Some women have a very erratic sex life at that time.

They want a lot of sex or they they don’t want any. Those fluctuations are mostly hormonal, but to their partner, if they’re dating or if they’re in a relationship, you can come across as being resistant to having sex. I think when you’re raising teenagers, it’s a time when a lot of women reject sex. And I think it’s because they’re stressed. I think they’re worried. And I think women need a complete escape from being a mother to really enjoy their sex life.

How do you know if your relationship will benefit from a sex break, and if so, how do you begin the conversation suggesting taking a break from sex? 

It’s time to take a break if you have a dissatisfied partner and they say, “I just can’t live like this, I’m always begging for sex”. One partner’s always saying no or they do it, but they’re not into it. Or they say, “I just don’t want to be married anymore”. If any of those things are said, then usually I recommend it’s a good time to have a sex break.

How can people start that conversation?

If you’re in therapy, usually the therapists will say it. But if it’s just the two of you, I think a really gentle and kind way to do it is to say,”Listen, this conversation is tainting every area of our relationship. So why don’t we just consider working on other areas and kind of putting sex on the shelf for a while? You know, where our goal is to have a great sex life. In order to have that, we need to restore each other’s emotional needs.” If a couple can talk and get to that point, they’re in an ideal position to actually carry this out and improve their intimacy, which is the effect of taking a sex break.

What are 5 behaviors that can help fill the void and build emotional connection when you’re not having sex?

  • Getting back to basics: Getting to know your partner’s body again is part of getting back to basics.
  • Striving to see your partner’s intentions more clearly. Get curious when your partner says something, ask them. Stop yourself from assuming and ask yourself, can you clarify that I’m having difficulty understanding. What did you mean by that? When we get more curious, we open up the conversation and conversations no more, no longer, yes or no. It has all these different things like how did that make you feel?
  • Investing more time in your friendship. The best sex you’re ever going to have is dependent on the closeness you feel. The more close you are, the more you can let go and be free. You’re not the same person people you marry. I mean, basically, after two years you’ve changed a lot. And getting back in touch with who your friend is now is really important. 
  • Uncovering deeper issues. Talk about those resentments, that anger, that frustration, maybe that disrespect that you kept sweeping under the rug and covering up with sex. You can’t continue that and expect your relationship to have a healthy sex life.
  • Appreciating your partner and your relationship for having sex. What do you appreciate? Just jotting down a few things after sex; maybe the way your partner looked, or the way your partner received you, or the way your partner took full effort and time to please you. Those things are really important feedback to give your partner. And when you take a sex break, you start seeing your partner and what they do for you every day. Small acts of love are all part of this tapestry that is called lovemaking.

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Connect with Mary Jo here.

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