Many of us are home right now, practicing responsible social distancing while working and living around kids, pets, spouses, and partners. If that sentence stressed you out, join the club. If we are going to get through this pandemic, we need to find ways to relieve stress in healthy ways.
Stress relief can happen through hobbies like reading, knitting, or baking. Others use exercise or meditation to find balance. And some people find release in masturbation or sex. But just because you and your partner are around each other more often and theoretically more available to have sex, unless your partner is all in, sex is out. I don’t care how much tension it could reduce, don’t ever pressure your partner for sex—and definitely don’t do it during a pandemic.
If the true nature of live-in relationships wasn’t known before, this crisis has certainly brought it to light. Some couples have taken this opportunity to really embrace gratitude and realize how lucky they are to have found their ride or die pandemic person. Others have suggested that they will go the way of China and add to the increased divorce rates when we emerge from lockdown. If the relationship wasn’t over before coronavirus, it will be soon. Yet there is an expectation that sex is still part of the equation, no matter the quality of the relationship.
First of all, marriage or partnership does not mean sex is a given. Under zero circumstances does one person owe another person sex. If you are threatening, badgering or coercing your partner to have sex until they finally give in, that is a form of sexual violence. And if you suggest or ask for sex and are told no, and then become cranky and belligerent and make people around you miserable, then you are a selfish asshole. Even in the best relationships, one person may want sex more often than the other. Sex drives can vary, but how we react when told no goes a long way in making sure the other person feels taken care of.
Right now many of us can barely take care of ourselves. We are exhausted and terrified. We are lacking routine and certainty. And for many of us, feelings of old traumas have been awakened and are adding to our sense of fear and anxiety during this scary time.
When the pendulum swung from a suggestion of social distancing to a shelter in place order, my thoughts went from okay, we can do this to oh, fuck I will not survive this. It takes a lot for me to keep my baseline mental health where I want, and need, it to be even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. The things I need to do to feel good are either not happening right now or are being modified in ways that dull their effectiveness. I know I’m not alone. We are all struggling to find normalcy in abnormal times and trying to find ways to relieve stress.
Would sex help? In some situations, yes. But, for me, sex is out of the question because my person is 1,400 miles away. Navigating a long distance relationship is hard enough, but the pandemic has made the longing worse and the lack of physical comfort is painful. I am still being taken care of in ways that will help me through the emotional whiplash many of us are feeling, but I crave a hug, the rush of feel-good chemicals, and the escape that comes from physical touch from the person I love. I know she does too, but without the emotional connection and safety, neither one of us would desire physical intimacy. And if one of us isn’t able to relax, then neither of us can have sex. Simple.
So, while sex is off of the table for me at the moment, it may be for you too, even if you are living with your partner.
Vulnerability and discomfort live on the surface right now, and instead of pressuring someone to have sex because it would distract you from those feelings, try figuring out what your partner requires. Maybe your partner wants to have sex, but it feels like too much work. Curling into a ball, sleeping, or watching Netflix may be the escape they need.
They may need empathy, help with the kids, or a chest to cry into before they are able to achieve any level of sexual intimacy. Try taking some of the pressure off so that they can let their walls down enough to either be willing to try to have sex or to want it. You can try masturbation too. Shocking as it may seem, a vibrator and/or YouPorn can also produce orgasms and the release you are looking for. Is it the same as loving, consensual sex with your partner? No. But it’s better than being a pushy asshole who is only interested in bullying your way into getting sex because you have “needs.” And obligatory sex isn’t loving sex, and pressured sex isn’t consensual.
I get it. Touch is an important part of relationships, but sex isn’t the only way to benefit from physical intimacy. Hugging, hand holding, snuggling, or back rubs can bring you and your partner together while achieving an increase in oxytocin—the cuddle hormone that makes us feel bonded with the person we are with. But don’t hug or touch your partner with the expectation of it leading to sex. Hold your partner’s hand because it will make them feel safe.
Take it down a notch, Champ. Beat off or grow some empathy. We all need to feel safe right now, especially if anyone is going to get laid.