Relational aspects of sexuality

Relational aspects of sexuality

Alfons Vansteenwegen

Institute of Family and Sexuality Studies, K.U.Leuven,


In a living together relationship, sex and relationship interact

mutually. We know the sexual frequency decreases and the sexual satisfaction

remains during the development phases of a living together relationship. An

organic dysfunction becomes only a sex problem when a complaint is formulated.

(We all experience healthy erection dysfunctions or healthy decreases in desire!)

This complaint may also be formulated by the partner of the identified patient.

Sex problems are never ‘meaningless’ problems. Most secondary

dysfunctions are a symptom of relationship problems. We describe five levels in

the relation between sex and relationship:

(1) the individual sex problem of A always influences B (‘becomes


(2) the relationship reinforces the sex problem that existed


(3) the relationship is the cause of the sex problem

(4) the relationship needs the sex problem

(5) the relationship boycotts the solution of the sex problem.

A difference in sexual desire is never a sex problem: it is a

relationship problem that needs negotiation or… couple therapy. Partners

living together are different in everything. There is no such thing as a sexual

union or a sexual unification! All sex interactions are the result of a ‘working

through’ of the differences between the partners.

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