“Ask Dr. Bukky” is ELIXHER’s bi-weekly column that offers advice to queer women of color on relationships and mental health wellness. Got a question you want Dr. Bukky to tackle in the column? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Dr. Bukky,
From the “lesbian death bed” to men “wanting it more,” I’m so over stereotypes and myths that minimize the meaning of sex to women. How important is sex in a lesbian relationship?
Dear Simply Lit,
The answer to this question completely depends on the couple i.e., the importance of sex differs for each couple. Generally speaking, sex is one important way of bonding in intimate adult relationships, whether it is a lesbian, gay or straight relationship. Sex is one way of knowing and being known—a way of seeing and being seen. In healthy (i.e., safe and secure) relationships, sex allows us to show our vulnerabilities to our partners and surrender to the experience that comes with doing so. Sue Johnson, a renowned researcher in the couple’s therapy world, describes sex as intimate play when couples have the three factors that promote relationship safety (accessibility, responsiveness and engagement), which I’ve discussed in past posts.
Couples in a secure and satisfying relationship typically describe sex as one of the many ways they derive happiness and fulfillment in their relationship, whereas couples in distressed relationships describe sex as accounting for many of their problems. That being said, partners in all types of relationships commonly report differing levels of interest in sex, but how they deal with these differences is what matters.
Couples in a safe and secure relationship are able to navigate these differences in a way that works for both partners. Alternatively, in distressed relationships, these differing levels of interest become polarized and serve as a major source of conflict. Rather than understanding that the problem is a result of differences in their needs, partners in distressed relationships tend to see each other as the problem and blame each other (e.g., ”what’s wrong with you that…”) or the self (e.g., “what’s wrong with me that…”). Regrettably, these types of exchanges are rarely the beginning of a supportive dialogue that ends in “let’s figure it out together.” Too often, couples engage in these exchanges in a way that exacerbates difficulties and creates additional anxieties rather than motivating any sort of change.
What many couples do not realize is that sex is often the first thing to be affected when partners feel disconnected from each other. Oftentimes, difficulties in the bedroom are symptoms of underlying relationship problems. When this is the case, couple’s therapy can be helpful; in essence, you kill two birds with one stone.
– Dr. Bukky
Dr. Bukky Kolawole is a NY-based licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in helping lesbian and gay couples cultivate the healthy and fulfilling relationships they deserve. She has offices in SoHo (Manhattan) and Park Slope (Brooklyn) and offers late evening hours to accommodate the needs of professionals. For more info about Dr. Bukky, visit her website at www.drbukkyk.com.