Sex: An Expression of Many Parts of Yourself

If you’ve been with your partner a long time, it’s likely that your sex life is vastly different now than it used to be. Couples in long-term relationships tell me all the time that they’re having less (or no) sex, and that it’s plain vanilla – the same tried and true position, or quick and to the point because of the kids and schedules.

When I talk about ‘sex’ I’m including all types of intimate contact. This includes:

  • holding hands
  • back scratches
  • foot rubs
  • kissing
  • oral and anal sex
  • masterbation
  • intercourse

In other words, any interaction between consenting adults. People engage in sex for many different reasons:

  • adult play
  • stress relief
  • expression of power and aggression
  • expression of sexuality
  • physical relief
  • a ‘reset button’ (a means to repair after a conflict)
  • love and closeness

Sex is a form of play for adults. Think of the ways kids know instinctively how to play. They climb on the playground, have pillow fights, dress-up and role-play both tender and aggressive characters. Sex can be an adult-version of play which serves many purposes:

  • physical stimulation
  • role-play and fantasy
  • a chance to be aggressive
  • a chance to relax, laugh, and have fun.

Hearing that sex is a chance to be aggressive may surprise you. Many people, especially women, are uncomfortable with their aggressive side. By aggression during sex, I don’t mean abuse, shaming or forcing someone to do something they don’t want to. I mean a healthy expression of aggression like taking control, being on-top, and making sure to get your own needs met. Sexual play gives us the chance to explore and express this assertive and powerful side of ourselves.

On the other side is passivity and submission. Again, I’m not talking about being unwantedly intruded upon or forced to do something you’re not into. Healthy passivity is allowing yourself to lay back, to receive pleasure, to let go emotionally and physically, to be held, and to receive love. Often it’s men who are uncomfortable with this side of themselves. Many times, if men are conflicted about this side of themselves they don’t allow it to be seen elsewhere and the only time they allow it to show up is during sex when they’re in connection with someone they trust.

Other people do the opposite: they only feel comfortable acting out these conflicted sides of themselves with a total stranger or someone they know they’ll never see again. If you’ve done this, I invite you to consider sharing this side of yourself with your long-term partner. Find the courage to let your partner know about these other sides of you. It can be highly erotic to discover something new about someone you’ve been with for a long time and thought you knew fully. Take it slowly until you know it’s safe emotionally. You could begin simply by telling your partner what you’d like or showing them without words. If you’re scared, preface it with “Please don’t laugh at me, but there’s something I’ve been thinking about…” Who knows, maybe the two of you will end up laughing together to relieve the tension. Maybe it will be a big hit – the new thing! Or maybe a big flop. The expression and the exploration is the best part here.

Sex with a long-term partner can be a safe place for all different aspects of ourselves to be expressed, explored, and played with. I keep choosing words with double meanings – DO take this both ways! Just talking about sex should be fun and playful.

Using sex to express other sides of yourself in the safety of someone you trust, even if you expresses things that don’t seem to be what men and women are typically ‘supposed to’ like, is good and healthy and normal. It’s an intimacy builder and a form of adult play. And we all need more play in our lives!

To learn more or to schedule an appointment here at Couples Therapy Center, call 908-246-3074, email or go to and use our online scheduler.

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