Have you stayed just because of the sex?

When midlife daters have shared about their unfulfilling multi-month or -year relationships, I’ve asked why they stayed. After complaining about their former sweetie’s selfishness, immaturity, miserliness, controlling, and/or downright meanness it seems to me you’d be a fool to stay in this relationship. I’m astonished when I hear a commonly cited reason for staying: “The sex was good.”

What is this hold that good sex has over many people that they will stay in a bad relationship just because of it? Are they so fearful they won’t find a good mate and good sex that they languish with someone who’s not a good fit because of this scarcity mentality?

Before online dating, many midlife daters report it was difficult to meet someone to go out with. After the usual sources of friends, work, church, gym, classes, singles events and the grocery store produce section, there was not a steady stream of potential mates to be found. So it seems people would cling to whomever met at least a minimum standard. And for some that minimum standard was good sex.

Both men and women have told me they want to be in the sack with someone early on to see if there is sexual compatibility. (See “An excuse to seduce.”) While I think this is important, I believe it is more important to have overall compatibility. As I shared in “Would you like the recipe to seduce me” and “Sharing your sexual owner’s manual with him,” “good sex” is something that is different for everyone so, to some degree, must be learned.

So why would you stay with someone just because of something that can be learned — and taught — assuming your partner has an interest in learning as well as teaching? To me it would be like staying with someone who is a good cook. While it’s great to have someone who already knows how to cook your favorite dishes, if he doesn’t but is really interested in learning, most can learn what will please you.

I better understand why people have an eight- or ten-date, or 3-month sex rule. It helps you know if you are really a good fit before making the plunge. And it will prevent you staying with someone who isn’t a good match just because of the sex.

Have you stayed in a not-great relationship just because of good sex? If so, share what your thinking was.

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2 responses to “Have you stayed just because of the sex?”

  1. Mitsy Avatar

    I have not ever stayed in a relationship because of sex. The reality is I have had very FEW sexual partners in my 45+ years of life. Far fewer than most people my age. However, on some level, I understand wanting intimacy and closeness with someone–sometimes that is more important than the actual sex act itself. It’s also very hard to find suitable people to date (much less have sex with), so I understand, to a degree, the thought process that you might not find someone else who measures up. But, I think you have to look at a lot of factors in a relationship (and sex is only part of the equation). You have to weigh the balance of other qualities, such as kindness, common interests, ethics, morals, etc., along with their sexual abilities. For me personally, the first qualities are more important than the sex quality as you have stated that that can change for the better with time.

    But, once again, it’s hard to find anyone suitable for dating when you reach my age. Dating is oftentimes a crapshoot and is unsettling when you go through the process. I’m dating someone now, but it’s not without its own pitfalls. I’ve decided nothing is really ideal when it comes to dating.

  2. Ally Avatar

    I recognized a few years ago that this was true of the bulk of my relationships – it was the sex, or the hope for good sex, that kept me in. It’s the ‘bird in the hand’ theory, and it is about wanting intimacy and closeness, even if it is only biochemical. It is scarcity thinking.
    It was jarring to recognize this at 43, but better late than never.
    I think this is why I have decided on the 3-monthish rule. Can’t risk having the oxytocin override good sense.