Life After Dating: 7 Ways A Relationship Changes Your Sex Life & 7 Ways It Doesn’t

I’m someone who has had a lot of sex with a lot of different people — “a lot,” of course, being subject to interpretation. I have had several relationships throughout my life, but a fair amount of sex has been with hookups, men that I briefly dated, or FWB. I’ve been lucky enough to have some extremely hot sex that I fondly remember. But primarily, there was a lot of largely unremarkable sex that was meh at the time; being kinky, it has not been easy for me to match up well with fulfilling sexual partners.

When I met my husband (a year ago in two weeks, in fact!), I happily settled into monogamy with him. Kale not only satisfies me and loves being satisfied by me, but he loves and appreciates my past experiences. Consistently knowing where my next good sex is coming from makes me relieved to be off the sex-and-dating merry-go-round.

That’s the biggest way that a relationship has changed my sex life. Here are a few more:

Ways A Relationship Changes Your Sex Life:

1. You’re probably having sex on the regular. During spates of singledom, both women and men can get restless and frustrated. Sometimes you can even feel like a loser because it’s been, gulp, eight months since someone got into your pants. (This is why we own vibrators, ladies.) Being in a relationship isn’t a guarantee that you are having sex on the regular, of course. (See: PMS; long-distance relationships; third-trimester of pregnancy; baseball season.) But when you have a consistent parter, that initial legwork is done. You know you can go home tonight and get some if you (both) want to.

2. Sex (hopefully!) improves over time. Sex gets better and more fun the more you practice with someone.  It’s not just learning someone else’s likes and dislikes; it’s realizing that your bodies are perfectly sized for this position but not that position, or that there’s something neither of you tried before which wildly turns you both on.  Every time you couple up, you’re applying all the past experience you’ve had. It feels good to be with someone who knows your body. And it’s enormously gratifying to know someone else’s.

3. Someone knows exactly what you want. It’s refreshing to not need to teach someone how to please your body. I am … finicky, let’s put it that way. My husband knows that I prefer water-based lube to silicone-based lube, I constantly get wedgies that need to be fixed (and can’t fix them myself if my hands are tied in bed!), and I become cold so easily that a warm blanket needs to be at the ready. All this stuff (“Um, can you fix my wedgie, please?”) could make me feel like I was the world’s most annoying hookup with past partners but my husband doesn’t think twice about it. He also has never, never, never bitten my nipples because he knows that I would HATE that.

4. Familiarity and trust leads to fewer inhibitions. With a hookup, you can sometimes feel more inhibited because more is riding on how it goes. (I think that’s doubly true when you have BDSM sex, because so many kinky folks are afraid that their partner is going to get spooked and run in the other direction.) There’s a trust that comes with a partner, especially a long-term partner, and (I would hope) inhibitions melt away over time. I very vividly remember hookup partners who were scared to even spank me. But I don’t think there’s much that I could ask my husband that would freak him out — and if he was freaked out, we’d communicate openly about it.

5.  When something special happens, it feels especially intimate. The most incredible sexual experience I’ve had in my life happened with my husband when we tried Tantric sex. I had the most intense, longest orgasm of my life which felt like it lasted several minutes. (We didn’t exactly set a timer.) I’ve had great hookups and perfectly acceptable orgasms with other men throughout my life, of course, but the time and intimacy needed for Tantric sex was something that I only felt comfortable doing with Kale. And it felt all the more special because he’s here for the long haul — so we intend to do it again! 

6. If you are fertile, the possibility of getting pregnant in a committed relationship adds another dimension. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone takes unplanned pregnancies lightly, in a relationship or not. It’s always a big decision. But when you’re in a committed relationship or a marriage, there’s the added element of, “Well, weren’t we going to do this some time anyway?” Of course, sometimes the answer is no.  I’m reading The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman right now and the book opens with the main character, Nate, taking his hookup to have an abortion. She is extremely pissed at him afterwards. She wanted the abortion because she didn’t necessarily want to have a child right now. But she realizes that he wanted the abortion because he didn’t want to have a relationship with her.

7. If it’s not good, it’s even more annoying because your partner should know better (right?). You expect that a hookup or somebody you’ve only been dating a short time won’t know all your little quirks. You accept that you need more time to practice together. But when a longtime boyfriend sticks his pinkie in your butt because he forgot you hate that, it’s a lady-boner killer. When bad sex happens with a partner, it can feel like capital-D DOOM.

Ways A Relationship Doesn’t Change Your Sex Life: 

1. It’s still sticky, messy, loud. The only difference now is that the wet spot in the bed is on a bed you’re probably going to be sleeping in.

2. If you or your partner has sex-related issues, they aren’t going anyway anytime soon. Being in a relationship doesn’t make your life easier. It doesn’t make your problems go away and that includes your sex-related problems. If you have intimacy issues, or issues relating to sexual abuse, or closeted sexuality issues, guess what? That’s part of your relationship now, too. (And it’s not fun for your partner to deal with, so get thee to a therapist!)

3. You both will still masturbate. I guess it depends on whether you consider masturbation “cheating” (I don’t). Vibrators are very fun with your partner. They’re still very fun by yourself.

4. You both will still watch porn. This also depends on whether you consider watching porn “cheating” (again, I don’t). (And on whether you watched porn in the first place, too, I suppose.)

5. Sometimes, you will still be too tired. Even if you have a steady partner, sex is still something that needs to fit into the rest of your life.The early parts of a relationship are not like real-life. You stay up until 2 a.m. talking! You wear sexy lingerie every single day! But eventually reality sets in and while sex may be a priority in your mind, it doesn’t actually work out that way. You fall asleep while watching “Dancing With The Stars” because work has been so exhausting lately. Your sexy lingerie is now at the bottom of your dirty laundry pile. This is normal, of course — and that’s without even adding kids to the mix — but it can bring on new anxiety about not having enough sex even though you now have a steady partner.

6. Over time, it can feel rote. Familiarity breeds … familiarity. I had a friend once complain to me that she knew exactly how sex with her partner was going to go: what positions they’d use, how long it would last, how they would finish. I’m sure all of us can relate to that on some level (even if it’s just, “Oh, we’re doing missionary again?”). Lucky for us all, there are always new toys to use, games to play, positions to try, lingerie to wear … or you could even open your relationship up to include additional partners. The possibilities really are endless.

7. You still need to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancy. And STDs. But you both got tested first, right? Right?

Anything I forgot? Let us know in the comments …

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