Bad Sex: Should Bad Sex End a Good Relationship?

bad sex

A few weeks ago I came across an interesting piece on The Atlantic written by a married guy proudly claiming that his marriage was good, but his sex life was…boring. Judging by social media – where only the most accurate of information is available – when it comes to top 3 relationship fears, most men and women seem to fear a boring sex life; no sex life; and “settling.” A few excerpts from the article, What If Maintaining Desire Isn’t a Major Goal of Your Marriage? are below.

Daniel Bergner, author of What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, is asking readers to contemplate such questions at Slate‘s Double XX. Specifically, he asked, “How can women maintain desire within long-term committed relationships?” In response, readers have written in with a series of predictably titillating responses from the familiar grab-bag of shocking alternative lifestyles and fetish. You’ve got threesomes, you’ve got costumes, you’ve got group sex, and so forth.

Specifically…is it necessarily true that everyone, in every marriage, wants to maintain desire? Obviously, pretty much nobody wants their sex life to completely roll over and die. But, on the other hand, one of the things that’s great about marriage is that it frees you from the constant, incessant treadmill of sexual obsession. I was single for quite a while, and the worst part was not the lack of sex (since really you can have sex quite efficiently with yourself) but the waiting, the hoping, the crushes, the uncertainty, the self-doubt and self-loathing—in short, that thing that some religions call the wheel of desire. When Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins tells me that I could maintain desire by dating outside my marriage, all I can say is, hell, no. I hated dating. I was bad at it, it made me miserable, and I’m sure it wasn’t particularly enjoyable for the folks who had to share my misery either. My wife rescued me from that, bless her. No way am I going back.

If you want your marriage to be about an Olympics of kink, that’s fine—but making it mandatory seems like it has the potential to be as cruel, and as restrictive, as the monolithic monogamy from which we are supposedly being liberated.

Let me clarify a few points. The writer seems a bit jaded by the facts that he, “hated dating” and “was bad at it.” He might otherwise feel different if he was a successful-dater in the past. I wasn’t great at dating, but I wasn’t horrible at it either. All in all, I like to think I did ok for myself. Next, unlike the author of the book mentioned above, Daniel Bergner, I’m not advocating for open marriages. While I have nothing against open marriages and the people who participate in them (Full disclosure: I was in an open relationship once. I can honestly say it wasn’t that bad, but I probably wouldn’t do it again), I’m more interested in focusing on how does one maintain desire and sexual attraction within a committed relationship. Today, we will liberally define “committed relationship” as simply a long-term relationship or married.

I think most men and women fear losing their attraction to their wife or husband. I think we all expect to fall into a level of comfort with our partners, as this is one of the many benefits of being in a committed relationship. However, I don’t think we want to cross the invisible line between comfort and boredom, especially when our good friend Dr. Phil informs us that up to 20 percent of married couples have sex no more than 10 times a year, which is technically defined as a “sexless marriage.” I plan to love my wife, but physical impairments pending, I also plan to have sex with her more than 10 times a year. I hope she feels the same way about me! But, maybe I’m going about life all wrong?

In fact, I  was surprised by the frequency or infrequency of sex men were reportedly having according to The Kinsey Institute. It should be noted that while Partnered/Married men have more sex than single men across the board, it is married men that have more consistent sex than single or partnered men. Although they have less sex overall, single men are the most likely to have sex with different women each time – whatever value you place on that. When it comes to good or bad sex, take from the following information what you will…

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Like many others, perhaps I’m too young and have placed too much emphasis on the importance of good sex within a relationship. I’ve never been married, so I really don’t know. Being unmarried, I have seen a pattern of good sex in most of my better relationships. Still, I am “only” 30. Yet, even at “only” 30, I don’t need as much sex as I did in my teens as long as the sex I do get is pretty good whenever I get it. As an FYI, a study found that older women, ages 27 – 45, actually have a higher sex drive than both men their age and younger women. Perhaps after a few years (or decades) of being  with the same woman, whether we have sex a few times a week or a few times a year won’t won’t matter that much to me. I have no real way of knowing until that time comes or doesn’t come, if you know what I mean.

WIM SigSingle readers: Has bad or lack of sex ever caused you to end a relationship prematurely? Is “good sex” a requirement you must have in order to be in a committed relationship?

Married readers: Has your sex life improved or worsened since you got married (or got in a committed relationship)? What effect has the length of your marriage or kids had on your sex life? Is good, frequent sex still important to you when you’re committed to one person?

From Our Partners

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    Sexual chemistry is very important, it ties in the most basic premise of a relationship: does this person make you happy? Unhappiness will always manifest itself whether its through resentment or infidelity. As far as ending things, I think its perhaps different for men, women aren’t necessarily “bad” at sex, and she can always find redemption by keeping her body right and mind open.

  • http://whatyouallow.com/ Wildflower

    Not only was it bad sex that caused me to end the relationship, but he also had the tiniest p*nis I ever saw on a man.
    My recent post He’s Moved On, Why Haven’t You?

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

      yikes

    • Angie

      I think we have all been there girl. Sometimes I wonder if it would just be better to be a virgin so I wouldn't even know any better lol.

    • oh ok…

      I think I know who your talking about! LOL

      • oh ok…

        Let me just say j/k, but if you went to HU then…..hm

  • Calicker

    Sex is an intricate factor in a relationship and I'm certain in marriage. Therefore, practicing bad sex on a consistent basis in a committed behavior is close to being a top 10 cardinal sin to a healthy, successful relationship. Bad sex on a regular basis is almost equivalent to no sex if your losses continue to outweigh your W's in the bedroom column. All fellas have bad days whether stress or lack of motivation plays a part but its our duty and responsibility to see to it that the sex life never bores and the relationship stays exciting.

    My recent post http://www.theurbanbeaux.blogspot.com "Straight juice NO CHASER: Day 1"

  • keitathejedi

    Ok, so first off I am single. Second, I didn't realize how important good sex is in a relationship until I didn't have it. WHEW! Talk about a let down. I've always thought of myself as someone who didn't think sex was a big deal and that there was always a way to compensate for lack luster sex, but I totally take that back and don't wish bad sex on anyone.

    I recently (like 2 months ago recent) had to gracefully exit a relationship because I couldn't deal anymore with the junior varsity performance. The issue is that, no matter how awesome someone is, once you have that mediocre sex, everything else that you didn't like and ignored gets magnified. All that annoying stuff that was cute, is now just annoying, and you can't help but be irritated by everything. Some of my friends said I could have taught him how to deliver so I could have the Stallion i've always wanted. Um, No. Not at this age. I don't want to teach anyone. Nobody has time for that. So, yes. Bad sex has a high probability of ending a relationship.

    • SingLikeSassy

      ALL THISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

    • Streetz

      Preaching

    • langwichartz

      @keita

      If the shoe was on the other foot, would you have wanted your partner to try to work with you? I'm asking because of your decision to not share ways to improve.

      • keitathejedi

        Hey lang–
        yes! to answer your question, yes. For the sake of a public forum, I gave you all the abbreviated version of my story. I did allow him some time (maybe a month) to get his stuff together, and maybe that wasn't a whole lot of time, but it was better than nothing and he KNEW what the issues were.

        Ok, some more background info. this was a long distance relationship. heard of Match.com? Yeah, we met there and dated for about 2-3 months. After the initial let down, and then the subsequent let downs that followed, i had to evaluate my time and financial commitment to 'teaching' him how to deliver. To me, i hadnt invested soooo much time where i felt like i was losing a lot. Plus, i couldn't rationalize driving 4 hours on a regular basis for sub parness. I began to feel like I was missing out on something else and that would have eventually made for a bad relationship. Had I loved him or had there been more of a foundation, I may have handled things differently.

        Although sex isn't the most important thing, it has a trickle down effect and played a part in our connection in other areas. @langwichartz how much time/energy would you say is efficient as far as tutorials????

        • langwichartz

          It depends, according to the individual, and the other redeeming qualities they may have. I find it surprising that a guy didn't respond positively to sexual instruction. I wonder if he had any "counter issues" that inhibited him from performing as you liked.

        • keitathejedi

          i think deep down he wanted to 'positively respond' but couldn't.

        • langwichartz

          *guffaws* like whoa! "deep down" poor little tink tink!

        • http://twitter.com/jtSolBroSupreme @jtSolBroSupreme

          Not to get too personal, but when you say the sex was a let down, are we talking – endurance? creativity and spontaneity? or just plain old tired-ass in and out and done?

          I also think GOOD sex can be taught and learned if one is willing…but it does take two.

        • keitathejedi

          Endurance was a big part. Size was in there, creativity, excitement, passion… All of it. I'm not exaggerating either. I talked to about what I liked and didn't like but nothing changed. It seems like for him, sex was a means to an end instead of an experience. Because of alllllll of these issues I just wasn't interested anymore. I didn't want to kiss, didn't want to be touched, cuddled, none of it. It definitely had an impact on my attraction. For women, it's totally about connecting, and subpar sex is a barrier….

  • http://singleblackmale.org MR 2 cents ($0.02)

    **raises the single reader sign**

    Bad sex will definitely kill a man's vibe in a relationship,most definitely lack of sex will end it or cause infidelity for sure! I wouldn't say "good sex" is a requirement but u do hope that the lady u choose to be committed with can really satisfy u. Most important is the sexual chemistry tho,if 2 people are on the same page(freaks) then it should definitely be all good. If the relationship is good outside of the bedroom tho a man will definitely be more open to dealing with a chick who has "bad sex". Now to all those women who aren't supplying the goods enough to your man…u will soon be cheated on or just dropped all together LOL. It's my belief that if u wanns be good at sumthing..u work at it. Learn it & practice it. Nobody ever wants to hear they have bad sex,but if you're not willing to work at it then more than likely your relationship will suffer!!
    My recent post The Great Gatsby Complex: When Your Perception Clouds Your Reality

  • Peter Parker

    Yeah good sex is definitely a requirement. Some things can be a taught and a woman must be a freak. No if's ands or buts. I am not trying to hear, "oh i don't do this or that" girl bye with all that. I have been lucky to not experience bad sex, but there are those who rank higher than others on my totem pole.

  • payne well

    I think the chemistry of sex is important. He does not have to blow my mind immediately, but the desire to please and the tools necessary to please are important. I say that because he can be the best guy ever, but I assume he would want to have sex with me rather often. If I am not enthused about sex, it can make him feel bad or become less attracted to me. So that chemistry is very important. I would hate for my husband to say "hey hun, you wanna do it tonight" then my response would be "yikes, tonight? Didn't we just do this last month?" I have noticed that when we have that foundation or I really like someone based on their personality, I find myself enjoying the sex why more versus solely on physical attributes such as attractiveness or size.
    My recent post I get so lonely

  • shareefjackson

    It's critical in marriage but not for the reasons you may think. I've found that a bad sex life in a long term relationship can be reflective of deeper problems. For me, I know that sex pretty much tracks the status of relationship. If I'm not feeling emotionally well, or there is a huge problem, the sex life suffers. I know that there are some that can bone even if the relationship is down the tubes but that's not me.
    My recent post Digital Convenience vs. Physical Ownership

  • Dr. J

    This post is really funny actually. Good post.

    There is no country for bad sex relationships. You give the other person a chance to improve and see the err in their ways but after that… yo ass gots ta go.

  • FlyyLibrarian

    Has bad sex ever caused you to end a relationship prematurely?

    Yes, but before I ended it, I tried to communicate how things could be better. Sometimes it's an "equipment" issue as Wildflower stated above. Sometimes they have the "equipment", but the player is just uncoachable. Sex is too easy to get (not advocating promiscuity, just saying), nobody should tolerate getting it bad.

    On another note, I'd love to hear (read) more about this open relationship you had. Perhaps in another post? : )

  • keitathejedi

    Ok, One more comment. You know, most people don't even know they have bad sex because people aren't honest. Best believe, I let the guy know (as nicely as possible) that his sex was not the business. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but if people were more upfront about what they want, like, and don't like, some of these bad sex situations could be remedied. Everyone cannot be saved,but at least let the person know.

  • Larnelw

    Speaking from the married man’s perspective, you better damn well believe good sex is important. Anyone who thinks sex isn’t that important and that they can substitute other things in its place within the relationship is DELUSIONAL!!! Nothing brings you closer together; mind body and soul; than sex/love making. So a bad sex life will result in a heavy toll upon the relationship as it will prevent a couple from reaching a certain level of closeness that only it can bring.

    • http://twitter.com/jtSolBroSupreme @jtSolBroSupreme

      "Anyone who thinks sex isn't that important and that they can substitute other things in its place within the relationship is DELUSIONAL!!!"

      True that cause from what I've seen, folks get substituted with OTHER FOLKS. LOL

  • jdoubleu

    For me, bad sex is simply the lack of sexual chemistry. My standing opinion is that in a marriage, "no" is unacceptable when it comes to sex. If there's something new to try, then you should be down to do it. I mean you share everything else with your spouse, why not new sexual experiences? A woman can give good dome or let you throw her ankles behind her ears. But if that basic desire to always wanna jump her bones out of sheer sexual attraction isn't there, then I'm not phased by "what" she can do. I'd prefer to always feel the anticipation and excitement to have sex with my girl than it to be like well sex is cool because she's a freak w/ no boundaries

    At the same time, bad sex can turn into good sex; as long as the equipment isn't the issue lol But if you don't like the person like that, why put in that kind of effort you know?
    My recent post #30in30 Day 11: Meeting The Parents

  • Paul B.

    Bad sex by itself? Not at all. Bad sex with a complacent attitude and an ego problem to boot? I can see how that might lend itself to the demise of a relationship. Things don't have to be perfect every time to make a relationship work, but there needs to be a willingness to do/be better though. A bad attitude can kill a relationship faster than anything else.

  • http://Mylastfatyear.wordpress.com Carnisha

    Since when is 27-45 older women?

  • langwichartz

    I'm with jdoubleu on this one, chemistry is soooooooo important! I'm also of the opinion that If you can't discuss it, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Likes/dislikes, do's/don'ts, and even experimentation should be discussed between intimate partners how else will you learn to please. (Yoda voice) Do you must, there is no try! For those that don't/wont (Yoda) "That is why you fail"!

    On another note, in looking at the responses to the post, I don't think people see the dichotomy/hypocrisy in putting "too" much of an emphasis on good sex in a RELATIONSHIP. For if you can leave a good person for bad sex, you will get/stay with a bad person for good sex. I see it happen all the time so buyer beware!

  • http://twitter.com/DoctaPOPS @DoctaPOPS

    So ummm I'm a young buck, maybe one of the younger writers on the site. In my experiences, sexual chemistry means a lot to me. I need an open mind, I need consistency. I need this mainly so that I can become more in tune with the woman on that level. Once I'm married I won't be surprised if the consistency decreases, I just wouldn't want it to decrease in a large way. I'd hope we would have stretches in which we would go at it tooth and nail maybe for a week here and there. Now obviously I'm speculating. But bear in mind that we can't have sex forever. We hit our 80s and I'm not sure if we'll be knocking it out of the park. We need to enjoy this thing. Sex is important. If a partner is not willing to try to improve to appease your needs then thats when I say you go.

  • http://twitter.com/Tonyoardee @Tonyoardee

    Sex is cool but women have to be understanding that there are some things beyond a man's control like frequent premature ejaculation

    • keitathejedi

      There are ways to overcome that……

      • http://twitter.com/Tonyoardee @Tonyoardee

        no ways to overcome heightened stimulation

    • larnelw

      There are definitely ways to control that both naturally and/or by the use of moderate desensitizers.

  • http://twitter.com/mpj2k4 @mpj2k4

    Well I don't have a super high sex drive anyways, once a week and I'm cool. I was out with this lady that I was older than me and she was telling about a guy she had dealt with was great, could cook, great with her kids and good guy but wasn't great in bed and how she was quick to dump him. It really messed with her that he was bad in bed. I did tell her something that left her speechless and what I've always known. Women are not much different than us, women will stay with a bum that doesn't have anything but giving good sex, but leave a all around great guy if the sex is average to bad.

    • larnelw

      That should show you how important good sex is. You don't have to have sex 3 times a day or even every day. But when you do have it it has to be good/satisfying. At least the majority of the time. Nothing can bring you closer to your lady than your sexual interaction. No amount of talking. No amount of money spent or time together. Sex is the ultimate binding agent between a man and a woman. And that's why people find themselves in so many bad situations because of sex.

  • http://k-unwrapped.blogspot.com kiesh

    Yes, I ended a relationship over bad s3x once. We tried to make it work for a couple of months and after a certain point I just could not take it. It wasn't a matter of technique…that I could work with. We really didn't have much of a s3x life and it wasn't due to lack of desire. I'll leave it at that. I don't require 'great' s3x but BAD just won't do.
    My recent post Daddy Issues or Just…Issues?

  • Lay

    Why is everyone assuming the man has the higher sex drive. Also, do you let a relationship develop into something deeper if the sex Wil never satisfy, e.g. size issues?