Is good sex essential for a good marriage?
Dear Dr. Jory,
My boyfriend Jared (not his real name) and I first met when we sat next to one another at our college graduation, and we’ve been a couple going on four years. I love everything about Jared. Almost. Jared is very mechanical in bed and though I love the closeness, I usually end up disappointed afterwards. I’ve never had an orgasm with Jared, though I had lots of orgasms with a couple of my previous boyfriends.
I have asked Jared to slow down several times because I need more touching and some oral sex. Jared likes to receive oral sex but he doesn’t give oral sex and claims to be “pretty basic” in the sack. I don’t think he gets it because he is satisfied with our sex life the way it is.
I feel sure that Jared is going to ask me to marry him this summer. I love him—he has so much good in him—but I’m afraid to say yes. I worry that I will end up cheating on him and I don’t want to be a cheater. Dr. Jory, am I asking too much? Is good sex essential for a good marriage?
Signed, Wilted Tulip
This is a common question, Tulip, and here’s a direct answer: Studies show a strong correlation between being sexually satisfied and general happiness in relationships. Good sex doesn’t insure relationship happiness (there are many facets to relationships besides sex), but bad or boring sex can be a deal breaker even when everything else is fine. So you’re wise to slow down any rush to the wedding.
The first rule of sexual fulfillment is to know yourself. Feel good about your body—know what feels good, what gets you off, what doesn’t. Be comfortable with your sexual script—how you approach sex and what you hope to get out of it. You seem to know your sexual wants and needs (not everyone does), and you’re right to question whether you are sacrificing too much of your own fulfillment for Jared. In a committed relationship, you can only be as sexually fulfilled as your partner allows you to be.
I suggest you and Jared have a mutual talk about your sexual scripts. Outside the bedroom, share how your sexual wants and needs have developed through your past experiences. If the conversation respects both of you equally, it could draw you together in the best conversation you’ve ever had. I presume that Jared is willing and able to honestly share his past and that he won’t hold your past against you. If he is closed-minded or judgmental, this is a red flag that this problem will only get worse.
This is for Jared: “Pretty basic” could be pretty selfish and unfair because basic sex is slanted in favor of men. Men practically always orgasm during “basic sex,” but basic sex may leave your girlfriend feeling disappointed and used. I suggest you rethink equality in your relationship, and commit yourself to listening to your girlfriend. Open yourself up to try new things that please her. If you love and respect her, (and want to marry her), don’t you want her to be sexually fulfilled?
— Dr. Jory
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About Brian Jory, Ph.D.
Brian Jory is the Director of the Family Studies Program at Berry College, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and has dedicated his career to counseling couples, teaching about intimacy, researching relationships.
He is the author of “Cupid on Trial – What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough,” and has been featured on numerous television shows, blogs, and podcasts including Bustle, Romper, Elite Daily, NBC, PBS, and Good Sex, Bad Sex.