How a sex detox could change your perspective on dating forever

Whether single or in a relationship, some say they have benefited from a temporary spell of celibacy

Olivia Blair
Friday 20 January 2017 14:01

In the era of dating apps and relaxed sexual attitudes, an intimate encounter is just a swipe away.

It can be fun and exciting, often so much so that the desire to leave behind casual fun and enter a relationship fades.

However, for some single people ready to settle down, a 'sex detox' has been suggested as the way to break out of a dating rut, according to some relationship counsellors.

Clinical psychologist Dr Megan Fleming said “there's something to be said about taking a break and getting that reset” for those who find themselves more interested in sex than a relationships.

She told Broadly: “It's always important to look at the function of any behaviour and how it's working for you. Do you feel it's not working for you? Or you're not getting what you want, or your needs aren't getting met? Then I think stepping back and taking a break makes a lot of sense.”

Relate counsellor Denise Knowles told The Independent that for single people looking for a relationship, a sex detox will not necessarily help them find a partner but if they have already met someone it could prolong the 'getting to know each other' phase and judge how compatible they are.

“If you are single and considering a sex detox, consider what you are doing it for. If it’s a lifestyle choice or for religious reasons that’s your own personal choice but I wouldn’t necessarily say it will help you to find somebody," she says. "If you are meeting somebody and saying 'I’m not going to jump into bed with them until I’ve got to know them' there’s nothing wrong in that. By taking time to get to know somebody you are finding if you are compatible.”

Earlier this month a writer called Tom Young wrote about his experience of a year without sex in an article for The Washington Post.

He wanted to evaluate his emotional needs without sex “clouding my judgement”, and said he found a “clearer sense of what he’s looking for in a partner” as a result.

Artist Molly Soda told Broadly that “the way that we talk about casual sex allows a lot of people to escape accountability when it comes to relationships and defining them”.

One thing she found that the casual sex she had been having wasn’t casual at all.

“For me, I found that a lot of [the time] I wasn't having sex because I actually wanted to have sex, but because I wanted validation or because I was bored and I wanted some sort of distraction.”

The idea of having a ‘sex detox’ can also be applied to people in a relationship, according to some.

Relationship counsellor Ian Kerner released a book in 2007 in which he said: “When it comes to sex and relationships, sometimes we get in so deep the only way out is to start over again" and suggested those in a relationship should “take sex off the table for 30 days” to “give yourself over to the thrill of the chaste”.

Knowles says Relate often suggest 'sex bans' as part of their sex therapy sessions for couples in order to restore intimacy without the pressure.

"It may seem counterintuitive to ask people who are having sexual issues not to have sex, but the reason for taking sex off the table altogether is so they can rediscover touch and intimacy without feeling anxious that it is going to lead to full sex. If there’s a sexual problem, the very thought of having sex can create anxiety in people. The anxiety can override their enjoyment of the intimacy and the sensuality so we encourage them to explore their likes and dislikes, leading to full intercourse. That way, they are able to overcome any obstacles that are getting in the way of enjoying a full sexual relationship."

However, she advises that if two people in a relationship are considering a sex detox it is important to check in with each other to check both parties continue to be on the same page. She also warns of the potential risk a sex detox will end up having an adverse affect and could decrease sexual desire.

“First of all think about what you are hoping to gain from it. Is it that one person has gone off sex and you want to get things back on track? Or are you both perfectly sexually satisfied but wanting to try it as an experiment or as a lifestyle choice? Every couple is different so you’d need to try this to see if it works for you. It’s important to talk about it first and make sure it’s what you both want. It’s also important to check in with one another during the process as you may find one person isn’t finding it is working for them. How long you go on your sex detox for depends on what you want as a couple. Having a sex detox when you are already sexually satisfied could be useful as it may encourage you to focus on touch and sensuality again and ultimately increase desire and intimacy. Having said this, it’s often the case that the more sex you have, the more you want. There’s a danger that if you ‘sex detox’ for too long, your desire may decrease."

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