Relational Sex vs. Recreational Sex

By Amanda Linan
There is a big difference between relational sex and recreational sex. While both can be ok depending on your circumstances, recreational sex happening too often in a romantic relationship can be a sign of bigger issues.
Recreational sex is sex that is done purely for physical release or fun. There are little to no emotions involved. There is little to no aftercare when sex is finished. There is also likely little to no concern for the partner’s pleasure or experience of sex beyond basic consent. It is more of a quick exchange.
Relational sex is sex that is not only a physical release and fun, it is emotionally connecting and unifying. It serves to build a bond between two people. While desire is inherently selfish, there is also a reciprocal feeling of “I want to bring my partner pleasure”. Elements of romance may happen as a prelude, and there is typically some sort of relationship or connection that exists prior to the sexual act.
As you can imagine, relational sex is the goal for most people. People tend to want to bond and find a connection in a relationship. Sex can be a great way to build and maintain an intimate connection as well as communicate feelings of love and desire. It is deeply intimate and is about being known, something that people tend to crave.
Recreational sex most often happens between strangers, acquaintances, or friends. While it can be fun, it is usually not sustainable long-term because people “catch feelings” or want more. And a larger issue happens when recreational sex begins to happen in a long-term relationship.
When a relationship built around relational sex turns or returns to recreational sex consistently, it is typically a sign that something is amiss in the relationship. This often happens in these kind of circumstances:
In all of these cases, sex is not seen as a connection opportunity between partners. It is seen as a duty or obligation. It is done because it is something one “should” do. Or in the event of the last one with porn or affairs, sex is not seen as special or unifying anymore. It is something their partner has chosen to get elsewhere.

So how do you recover?

It depends on the underlying issue. But ultimately, one has to choose to find the connection BEFORE having sex. Emotions first, because that is how we connect as people. Take the time to get to know your partner again. Take the time to build some romance and flirt. Find the joy in your partner outside of the bedroom so you can both find more joy inside the bedroom. Work on conflict management together. There are books, seminars, workshops, and counseling to help you get there because, yes, it can be hard, but, yes, it is worth doing. Ditch the porn. Betrayal recovery may be necessary as well, particularly where affairs are involved because that is a huge breach of trust that can totally shut the hurt partner down.
Relational sex is a beautiful, pleasurable place two people get to occupy together. Sometimes it takes some work to get there or stay there, but it is always worth it.