Sex and Stress: Steps to Improve Your Sex Life

sex and stress

Life is full of priorities, commitments and distractions. Each of these creates a unique set of circumstances that pulls for a particular version of ourselves. To capture and appreciate this more fully, try to monitor yourself throughout the day and notice how you react with the different people and different circumstances you come across. These circumstances (the context of a particular moment) have an enormous influence on us, shaping the role we inhabit, along with the attitudes, feelings and values that accompany that role.

For instance, when Steve is at work at the law firm where he is trying to move up, he is hyper-focused and driven. Assertive to the point of being aggressive at times. In this context and in his role of lawyer striving to make partner, Steve exists within a persona that is very different from the way he thinks and feels and acts when he is at home with his wife Tanya, or when he is in his role as a father to their four-year-old daughter. If you were to watch a five-minute video clip of Steve in these three different contexts (career, husband, father), you might think you were viewing a totally different person.

How does this apply to sexuality and your sex life?

Sex and Stress: The Starving of Your Sexual-Self

You can think of your marriage or relationship as creating a particular set of contexts that elicit different versions of yourself. For instance, there is the you that deals with family finances; one that parents and nurtures; a you that is supportive and caring when your partner is in need; a social you when you and your spouse/partner go out with friends; and a different you may emerge when dealing with your family or your in-laws.

And then there is the sexual part of you—your sexual-self that seeks expression, and to do so, this part of you requires a different context. One that allows you to shift away from the constraints placed upon you by the other circumstances of your life. A context that does several things:

  • It closes out the stresses and concerns that weigh you down;
  • It allows you to feel emotionally safe and willing to be sexually and emotionally vulnerable with your partner/spouse;
  • It helps you shift your energies so that you can begin to reconnect with your sexual desires and needs—relationally, it invites mutual seduction and discovery of each other’s sexual needs;
  • It may foster an atmosphere of play, adventure, openness, and if needed, abandon.

Couples in long-term relationships need to appreciate the power of context if they want to enhance physical intimacy or create a more passionate marriage or relationship. This is especially the case because the other areas of your life and relationship may expand over time (for instance, the challenges of parenting, dealing with greater work demands and stresses of home ownership, financial burdens, relationships with extended family); an expansion that can squeeze out the room needed for you to nurture eroticism and sex. Sexual desire can easily buckle under the weight of stress.

It’s important to note that we aren’t simply slaves to context; we can take the steps necessary to remove ourselves from certain contexts that don’t work well for us and we can, just as importantly, take the steps needed to foster other contexts, such as the circumstances required for your erotic self to emerge. Understanding the link between sex and stress (and how stress negatively impacts your sex life) is essential in creating sex-friendly circumstances in your relationship.

You and your partner may already try to do this. When couples talk about creating a “romantic atmosphere” they are altering their environment, creating a space or atmosphere that will help them “get in the mood.” For this to happen, you cannot have any of the stresses of your life close by (try having sex with a pile of tax forms on the nightstand during tax time and see how sexually turned-on you become); you must shift mentally from the person you are in the other contexts of your life to the sexual person that exists within you.

Sex and Stress: Creating a Protective Space for Eroticism

What circumstances would allow you to feel more sexual? Do you need to change the time or place of sex? Do you need a context that allows for greater sexual play or adventure? Or safety? How can you and your partner communicate more effectively about sex and the circumstances you each require?

Remember, the context you create is designed to help you gradually transition from the world of competing priorities and demands to one where you and your partner can have the momentary freedom of becoming sexual beings. It’s not about denying or turning your back on life’s ongoing commitments; it’s about creating a dedicated space for your mutual sexuality to flourish, one where daily demands can temporarily retreat to the background.

As with most of life’s important aspects, balance is key. And when you and your mate take the time and apply the thoughtfulness and dedication necessary to achieve that balance, your union will be richer for it.

Here’s to a stress free sex life!

Rich Nicastro, Ph.D.

(Featured image courtesy of Jesadaphorn at