Abstinence | Can a temporary sex break be beneficial?
It’s a fine line. Is there such a thing as too much sex? What is too little? In a recent post I wrote about the frequency of sex and how this is often a source of discord in couples. While writing that post, however, it never occurred to me that sexual abstinence could, indeed, have some merits. Until a recent visit to tantric massage studio, that is…
Aurélie had just finished Aliki off and the three of us lay naked on her warm round futon. We were talking about sex and about Aurélie’s job as a sex therapist and tantric masseuse. Aliki and I are both fascinated by the world of Tantra.
‘I work a lot with couples with sexual problems’, she told us, ‘often one or the other has an emotional impediment or an insecurity causing a dysfunctional sex life.’
‘So, what do you do? How do you help them?’ asked Aliki.
‘Through therapy and through tantra; by showing them how things are done and helping them find out what works and what doesn’t.’
We started talking about Couple of Secrets and our philosophy: that a good, healthy sex life is essential for a fulfilling relationship, and that two people have to take initiative and keep an open line of communication to maintain it.
‘Very true,’ she confirmed, ‘but it is also true that, at times, a temporary lull also has a positive effect on our sex life.”
A lull?! It did not ring well in my ears. ‘Do you mean, like, once every other day?’
‘No, no, I mean full abstention. Taking “time off sex” can also recharge your libido. After all, nothing is as deadly for passion as routine!’
Aliki chuckled. When we have a couple of days of low activity, we always joke about it being the beginning of the end of our relationship.
Caught between two sayings
On some level it makes sense. After all, the old adage is that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Perhaps what is true for ‘heart’ is also valid for ‘genitals’.
It stayed with me after our session. Thinking about it, I realised that Aliki and I often practice abstinence, albeit unintentionally. The nature of our work dictates that at times we are apart for a week or so.
At the moment of writing this post, we are having one of these weeks.
It is true that being away from my partner makes me appreciate her even more; and miss her more. And it is also true -this week I paid special attention- that my physical desire for her takes on a new quality. The first time we see each other after these periods we often end up making love deeply and slowly rather than jumping on each other. Temporary abstinence does have an effect. It messes up our comfortable routine and has us fantasising about each other like teenagers.
When in doubt…
The scientific community seems to be divided. Many in the medical profession associate sexual abstinence with certain negative effects, including the risk of erectile disfunction for men and even lower intelligence. (I’m guessing conversely that my IQ should score pretty high!).
There is also a risk that prolonged abstinence leads to a vicious circle of sexual apathy. Simply put, the less you have sex, the less you feel like it. In the end sex is also physical exercise, and we all know how difficult it is to restart training once you have stopped for a while. After all, the other saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. And once out of mind…
Our conclusion so far is that the best way to stimulate and maintain a healthy sex life is to communicate and engage. Aliki and I often share our sexual fantasies and talk about our sexual experiences. We always plan our sexual adventures together. And we find that it works very well.
At the same time, Aurélie’s comment also gave us food for thought; occasional, temporary sexual abstinence may in fact make us appreciate more what we have and yearn more for it. It breaks the routine and increases our lust for each other. The operative words being ‘occasional’ and ‘temporary’. When in doubt, we err on the side of action!
And of course, a good couple tantra session goes a long way!