By Nordine Zouareg.

 Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.”
– Marquis de Sade

I grew up in very a conservative North African family where the only accepted context for sex was marriage. It was our only pathway to adulthood. If we didn’t tie the knot, we couldn’t move out of our parents’ place and we weren’t supposed to be having sex. So I was a virgin until my folks decided it was time for me to be a “man” and get a wife whom they chose for me. I was 19 at the time of my first and arranged marriage. 

 Growing up sex was a forbidden topic to speak about; we weren’t allowed to watch any TV program with even a hint of sexual content.

Hell, we couldn’t even watch couples kissing. I was experiencing a culture shock: Living in France where sex is common was very challenging for me as I was very tempted to have sex many times with girls as a teenager.

Mental Health Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life - Blog Post Image - Picture of Couple Holding Hands in Bed - Mental Health Foundation

Back then, even though I didn’t agree with it, I understood why my parents believed in abstinence; it was something that was rooted in their Berber culture.

I was not, however, a big fan of arranged marriages, it was a concept that had no place in an occidental society like the French society, which they had partly embraced for sake of making a living. For me, having sex with my wife then felt more like an obligation, a responsibility. My wife and I lived with my parents for the first couple of years and it was very uncomfortable to be sexually active. After my divorce was final in 1995, I went through a very difficult transition. I was now free to have sex whenever I felt like it and with whoever I wanted to, but it felt so wrong at first so I abstained from having sex altogether.  Eventually, I started dating and things got better, I got more confident and I could follow my heart.

Sexual Dissatisfaction and Inactivity

Most married couples that were sexually dissatisfied were also unhealthy and miserable. During an Oprah show on sex and couples, former Miraval sex therapists and authors Dr. Lana Holstein and David Taylor along with several couples were invited to share their expertise and stories. Most of them were fairly young individuals but weren’t having sex for years. I even heard a couple that refrained from sex for 18 years.

Dr. Holstein argued that sex is an important element for people’s health and well being. She said there is an enormous dissatisfaction out there and that most folks are not getting what they want. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon that’s kept silent for many who are too afraid or ashamed to talk about it.

 Sexual dissatisfaction and inactivity contribute to frustration, anger, resignation, rejection, and despair — not to mention the physical ramifications.”

Some of you who are reading this may know what I’m talking about; sexual inactivity has been and continues to cause many broken relationships or marriages. It is shameful and unnecessary.

I’ve had my personal share of sexual dissatisfaction during my second marriage.

After only two years and due to a lack of communication with my wife, the passion for one another had grown dim. We grew apart. The facts that I was  raveling a lot didn’t help our situation. So to cope with the emotional pain and my own sexual needs and temptations I buried myself with work for fear of being unfaithful. It was an absolute hell. We both tolerated one another. We tried to work it out for the kids’ sake but soon realized that it was a stupid idea. No one should ever use their kids as a reason to stay in a failed relationship. We had serious issues and couldn’t work it out; that was reason enough to call it quit. After many attempts to make things better, we both decided it was time to move on. Miscommunication can kill sexual desire and can lead to a disastrous outcome. A healthy sex life requires that we discover new ways to reignite the flame when it dims out. We need to be creative instead of giving up on each other.

Emotional Connection & Physical Attraction

Mental Health Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life - Blog Post Image - Picture of Couple Kissing in Bed - Mental Health Foundation

But often, the desire to have sex vanishes because we neglect ourselves; we don’t realize that physical and emotional fitness can play a huge role in sexual attraction. Sometimes we dedicate way too much time to do other things like business or work we forget to take care of our partners and ourselves. I’ve had many men and women tell me their stories on how they sabotaged their relationships because they thought they were no longer attractive or sexy and that they felt rejected by their partners. Some told me they couldn’t even look in the mirror because they were horrified at what they saw. They felt like being on an emotional roller coaster ride. So rather than asking for help, it was easier to just not have sex, sleep in different rooms and hope for a divine intervention.

In our society, it is widely accepted that men can get away with a few extra pounds but when a woman gains weight, she no longer fits the profile, and she is not sexy enough. How can a man even understand what’s going on in a woman’s head and body after giving birth or when going through menopause? They can read about it but they’ll never be able to feel the emotional and physical pain women feel. How about some support, some understanding, some compassion? We, men, are quick to retreat and wait until the storm has passed. Weight gain and emotional instability are common symptoms of pregnancy, post pregnancy and menopause. Taking the journey together with your partner can eliminate problems such as sexual dissatisfaction and moribund relationships.

Here the some of the health benefits of having healthy sex:

Mental Health Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life - Blog Post Image - Picture of Couple Playing in Bed - Mental Health Foundation

Unfortunately, with the easy access to Internet porn, many married men are seeking “porn” to satisfy their sexual needs and fantasies with the virtual fit and sexy females. Using Internet porn as a substitute for a committed sexual relationship can make matters worse. Not only these unhealthy behaviors can turn to sex addiction but also destroy the relationship or marriage. It is unrealistic to expect your partner to look or even behave like a porn star (with all due respect for the people in the industry who work hard to get where they are). So instead of the “easy path” be mindful that couples need to re-evaluate their sexual relationship as soon as issues arise.

Great and healthy sex is a real possibility for every committed and loving couple. It is an important contributing factor to happiness and has some incredible health benefits.

Helps Boost Your Immune System
People who are sexually active compared to others that have sex less than one time a week have higher levels of antibody that protect your body against virus, germs and other intruders. A combination of the right amount of sleep, healthy eating habit, and exercise along with a healthy sex life can keep you from getting sick.

Boosts Your Libido
If you want to have sexual desire, you have to build a habit of having sex. It takes effort and practice. Sex is fun, and the more often you have sex, the more you’ll want sex. When you shift from thinking of sex as a chore and more as a treat (or even as a reward for good behavior), then you’ll know you’re doing well. Having sex regularly will improve your libido, increase blood flow, and increase sex hormones that make you want to have more sex.

Reduces Stress
The effect of touching and cuddling helps you soothe stress and anxiety and makes you feel happy. When you are sexually aroused the brain chemical that stimulates your brain’s pleasure and reward system is released.

Improves Sleep
You may drift off to sleep more quickly after having sex. After having an orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for making you feel relaxed and sleepy.

Increases Women’s Bladder Control
Good sex is a great workout and strengthens your pelvic floor muscles. A strong pelvic floor is important for avoiding incontinence, something that will affect many women. Research suggests that sexual intercourse lowers systolic blood pressure.

Lowers Your Blood Pressure
A normal blood pressure lowers your risks of having a heart attack or stroke.

It’s a Great Workout
Sex counts as exercise, and when it’s performed with vigor and passion (If you know what I mean) it’s even better for you. The more you make it last, the more calories you burn. When you have sex your heart rate increases as you use various muscles. Depending on your personal choices of position, you can expect to burn about 150 calories per half hour. So have at it! Like exercise, make time for it regularly. Being consistent helps in building a good habit.

Mental Health Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life - Blog Post Image - Picture of Man and Woman Laughing - Mental Health Foundation

There are many more health benefits to having sex. 

Mindful tips: If you are married or committed to a relationship, be creative and find new ways to play when the passion starts to dim. For everyone else, please take part in healthy sex and use protection if you have multiple partners. Think of sex as a spiritual activity. Have sex as often as your body needs it and don’t get obsessed with it.

Mindful warning: In light of the recent sex scandals and the emergence of the “Me Too” movement, I invite you to exercise awareness and respect your partner’s will and preferences. As sex specialist, Emily Nogosky, said in her Ted Talk: “The thing about sexual arousal, your genitals don’t tell you what to do, you do!”

~ Nordine Zouareg