Sex, love and COVID-19: Sex expert’s tips on staying close

When speaking with clients during this pandemic, and when consulting with colleagues about what they are hearing from their clients, the well-established best practices for satisfying relationships remain intact.  In basic terms, these are the ways we remain connected, flexible, playful, loyal, honest with each other.  Be passionate and compassionate, appreciative of the coupling and both individuals making up that couple.  It is especially important to keep these practices in mind as anxieties about potential COVID-19 infection, socioeconomic concerns, and/or feeling isolated from friends and family are placed within a global “pandemonium.”  How to speak with your loved ones on various topics was the focus of a previous post.  Today, the focus is on sex and love when “sheltering in place” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many individuals express how sleep patterns, inability to exercise, being constantly in close proximity with their partners (many with children at home) erode their desire for sex and romance.  In fact, many couples are not thinking about sex – – at all!  This is understandable.  Network television and books continue to be solid distractions, as are streaming entertainment options, games, online and paper-based learning options.  Many people I know are channeling their energy to learn new arts & crafts. Couples and individuals with children dream of that much time on their hands, adding homeschooling to a To-Do List that was already quite long.  Perhaps everyone is incredibly grateful for an opportunity to sneak in the occasional mid-day nap.

Sex, love and COVID-19: Sex expert's tips on staying close

Sex, love and COVID-19: Sex expert’s tips on staying close

Stay At Home Hub

Sex within relationships, as well as solo-sex, can be another healthy option.  Yes, even during a pandemic.  Maybe we’ve all read one of the countless articles about how sex toys, porn sites, dating / “hook up” apps, and cam-to-cam sex sites remain incredibly popular despite the pandemic. The incredibly popular online site, Porn Hub, has been comically referred to as Stay At Home Hub.  If that isn’t an indication that sex is on people’s minds, I do not know what is!  Many couples with active sex lives are suddenly quite pleased to have a “quarantine buddy” or “quarantine lover” right at home; this makes gratitude and appreciation for their partner that much easier.  While popular memes depict post-pandemic divorce rates skyrocketing, this message is balanced by a future thirteen years from now in which kids will be referred to as the “quaranteens,” having been a product of parents with ample time to focus on reproductive activities while in some version of “lockdown.”

But many express how one individual making up the partnership remains interested in sex even as the other person finds sex utterly unappealing.  It is fairly easy to understand how any of the aforementioned considerations may pull one person away from their sexuality and sexual drive just as much as it makes sense how a person could focus on ‘adult playtime’ of a sexual kind.

If you find yourself uncertain of how your partner is feeling about sex, the principles that enable good conversations about health, money, plans, and emotions are the same principles that apply to sex.  However, sex can be a topic many couples, including long-term marriages, simply do NOT speak about, leaving it to random opportunities and ‘chance’ to enable sex to occur in their lives.  Confronted with being in one another’s presence 24/7, or some variation thereof, awkward silence, as well as feelings of hurt and anger about that silence, may result.  Anxiety about potential bad outcomes when talking about sex may again promote silence and the feelings associated.

Sex in Quarantine

It is a compliment for a partner to bring up the subject of sex while in quarantine.  That said, it can be out of great respect and kindness that a particular partner avoids the topic.  When our intent or our partner’s intent is left to silence, we lose the opportunity to actually know, left to our assumptions about that silence.  Loss of an opportunity to continue to get to know one’s partner does not make for a better partner or couple.  It may maintain household equilibrium in the moment, but intimacy and rapport may suffer for it in the longer run.

If you decide to speak with your partner about sex, let that partner know your intent with a particular topic. Reassure your partner that curiosity about sex as a subject for conversation means love, caring, and appreciation for that partner.  Discussions need to make explicitly clear that there are no right or wrong answers, just honest answers. The goal of sharing thoughts and feelings is not to “get laid” or “have an awesome sex-filled date night” (unless both partners agree that is a great plan post-conversations).

Dialogue opens up the field of possibilities for what to do if one partner’s idea of making the pandemic easier to handle is sexual in nature.  This is true even if or when sex is the last thing on the other partner’s mind.  Both are valid and quite understandable states of being during a pandemic, and both require our respect.  Pejorative meanings about sex as a coping mechanism, let alone a desire to connect, relax, and experience pleasure, must be relinquished.  Judgment about a person’s lack of sex drive must also be renounced. After all, sex can be a wonderful way to find a deeper intimacy, more meaningful shared acceptance for one another.  The intimacy that typically comes from sex together may in fact come from providing privacy for one partner to masturbate – with or without porn, with or without toys – while the other partner reads, watches television, gardens, catches up with friends or family on Zoom, or catches up on quality sleep.

We all need a bit of wiggle room when contending with the myriad of unknowns that come with a pandemic like COVID-19.  But with a little patience, even the romantic relationships with different sexual drives can be better for having had the time to slow down, share honestly, listen actively. If we permit ourselves – the individuals making up that romantic relationship – the freedom to enjoy, distract, connect, and continue to get to know one another, the possibilities (and positions) are nearly endless.