How Integral Are Frequent Orgasms to Relationship Health?
Feeling good about your body and enjoying sexual pleasure are positive parts of your sexual health, even if sex isn't the same for everyone. What feels good for one person might not feel right for someone else.
The same goes for orgasms. Some people manage to orgasm quickly and easily, but others need more time and a different approach. No matter the effort required to get there, orgasms and relationship health are connected.
First, it's important to differentiate between orgasms and sex, because sometimes they're fused as a concept when they are not.
"Orgasms are a physiological and mental collaboration of the body that one can do for oneself or one can do in a relationship. But just having some kind of sexual contact doesn't necessarily produce an orgasm," said Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., a sexologist and professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and a New York Times bestselling author.
Some experts say the brain is the largest sex organ. And if your mind isn't in the right place, it is more difficult to orgasm.
"There are many things where the brain and the body work together or work in opposition, but they have to pretty much be in sync to have an orgasm," said Schwartz, whose new book, "Relationship Rx," addresses common issues encountered by couples, including problems with sex and intimacy.
It can be difficult to have an orgasm if you are under a lot of stress, are tired after a busy day or feel disconnected from your partner. So what happens if you are in a relationship and you orgasm regularly but your partner does not (or vice versa)? Or perhaps neither of you does.
Are orgasms an essential part of being in a relationship?
How orgasms are tied to relationship health
Orgasms are essential to increasing the feeling of intimacy and satisfaction in a relationship, according to Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., the CEO of Holistic Wisdom in Bend, Oregon. She is a clinical psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience in relationships, sexual health and sexual products.
"[They're essential] not just because they allow for emotional intimacy but because they also release chemicals in the brain, such as oxytocin, that enhance feelings of love and affection, and dopamine, which is a chemical that makes us feel good," Lawless said.
Schwartz reiterated the importance of orgasm in a relationship, especially for women.
"For women, oxytocin is predominantly produced in larger quantities under two conditions," she advised.
Those two conditions are:
- Breastfeeding (to help you bond with your child)
- Sexual orgasm (to help you bond with your partner)
The oxytocin released after an orgasm creates positive feelings of attachment, bonding and closeness.
"I can't stress enough that this function is crucial, particularly in a long-term relationship," Schwartz explained. "Orgasms are something the body provides that helps relationships."
Orgasms don't have to occur during intercourse. They can be reached through touching, oral sex or whatever works for you. No matter the method, they're important to have.
"Relationships are vulnerable. I think you want to anchor them with everything you've got," Schwartz added.
But knowing an orgasm is healthy and achieving one are two very different things. People have access to a lot of misinformation about sex, pleasure, orgasms and what's normal.
Misconceptions about relationships and orgasms
Lawless is quick to dispel three common misconceptions about orgasms in relationships.
1. All orgasms are intense or mind-blowing
Orgasms are different every time: sometimes intense, sometimes mild and sometimes somewhere in between. The intensity can depend on the following factors:
- Your mood
- Where you are
- How comfortable you are
- Who you're with
- The buildup
2. Men should always orgasm before women
There is no reason for men to orgasm before women, but something to be aware of is the "orgasm gap."
According to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, women orgasm less frequently than men during sex in heterosexual relationships: just 65 percent of the time for women compared with 95 percent for men. A lot of miseducation about women and orgasms over the centuries may contribute to this gap.
3. Women are easily able to achieve orgasms without clitoral stimulation
It's a common misconception that women can easily orgasm through vaginal stimulation alone. In fact, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found just 18.4 percent of American women orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Additionally, more than 36 percent of women reported clitoral stimulation was necessary to experience orgasm.
If you think there is an orgasm gap in your relationship, or you just don't feel sexually satisfied, there are many ways to broach this subject with your partner.
How to speak to your partner about an orgasm gap
Mentioning that you're not having orgasms regularly, and you and your partner might need to change your sexual routine, can be a sensitive topic to bring up. It might make your partner feel insecure about their sexual performance.
Broaching the conversation needs to be done delicately. Finding an appropriate moment is important, Schwartz said.
"Try to pick a time such as when you're having a cup of tea, [when] you're both in a good mood and things are going well," she advised.
Don't add it to the end of an argument you're already having, as that could make the situation worse.
It doesn't have to be scary if you approach the conversation practically and use affirming language, according to Lawless. For example, you can say, "I love having sex with you, as I find you so attractive and sexy. However, I am finding it difficult to orgasm lately. I need your help to find some sexual techniques that can help me relax and orgasm more easily."
A top tip from Lawless is to already have ideas of what you want to change and positively suggest them. Examples include direct stimulation to the clitoris through certain positions, manual stimulation with fingers, or adding a vibrator or a clitoral suction sex toy.
"Bringing up this conversation during a time that is not sexual will prevent your partner from feeling pressure to perform something new right away or that they did not satisfy you after you just had sex," Lawless added.
Tools and methods to achieve sexual satisfaction
Communication is vital to maintaining a positive sexual relationship. Life can be stressful, and in order to orgasm, both your mind and body need to be present. If you are under a lot of stress and it's affecting your sexual relationship, talking about it with your partner can help.
"There are various reasons a couple can feel out of sync with one another, so exploring those factors and discussing how to work through those challenges as a partnership is essential," Lawless said. "Household, work, child responsibilities and other stressful areas are necessary to address, as they can undoubtedly impact intimacy and libido."
Schwartz said good communication includes talking to your partner about what you like and don't like as part of the sexual experience. It is also vital during sexual encounters.
"You have to tell them, and often this needs to happen during sex, because it's in the moment that you need to relay if they're being too hard or too light or whatever the problem is," she said.
Once that communication is open, Lawless said couples could then discuss exploring new approaches to their sexuality, such as trying different techniques, times, places and sex-enhancing products.
Remember, too, that what you enjoy one day might be different the next day. Our bodies and emotions change regularly, so you need to be able to talk to each other all the time. You need to feel safe and free to discuss these aspects.
"Open and frequent communication is what it takes to have a great or orgasmic relationship," Schwartz concluded.
For some couples, talking to a professional might be beneficial. If you don't have a therapist, finding one is not difficult thanks to telehealth. Video visits are a viable option for most people, and more physicians and therapists have added them as a service. They provide a low-pressure way to get introduced to a new healthcare professional. Giddy telehealth makes it easy to connect to a qualified healthcare professional who can help with various conditions and relationship issues.