Stress isn’t a bad thing. It’s not. It is designed for a purpose: to give us the best survival chance in a dangerous situation. Evolutionists would say this is a holdover from evolutionary ancestors. I believe that God created humans to be able to survive a world with lions and bears as much as exams and stressful jobs.
The problem is that we often don’t know how to deal with stress appropriately. With a bear, it’s easy. We wither get a flight response (run away) a fight response (kill the bear) or a freeze response (maybe it will think I’m dead). Once the threat passes, we feel safe again, and our stress releases.
Stress in the modern world
It’s a little more difficult in our modern world. If we have stressful job, we might procrastinate (flee) or use maladaptive behaviours to avoid the feeling (freeze) or get angry (fight). But the job is still there. So our stress doesn’t release.
And so many of us live lives full of unreleased stress. We go on vacation, maybe feel some relief, but then we go back into our stressful lives.
Women in particular tend to suffer from this. If they are a stay at home wife, then they work all day to keep the house, mind the kids, etc., but then they don’t get to leave the workplace. If they work, often they come home to then do more than a fair share of the parenting, cooking and cleaning.
So, it’s hardly a surprise that many women live with chronic stress day in and day out. For 80-90% of people, stress is a sexual inhibition system trigger. That means stress tells their sex drive “This is not time for sex!”. It’s like trying to be sexy while being chased by a bear. The brain acts the same way.
For the other 10-20%, it actually increases desire. I think this is because your body knows it wants to feel safe again, and our spouse is supposed to be our safe haven. It’s trying to manufacture relaxation. Our brains are smart, because having sex does release natural relaxation hormones and antidepressants.
Stressful sex is not as good as stress-free sex
The problem is that stressful sex, while it still might feel good, will never be as good as relaxing sex.
It’s like when your child is scared and crying and wants to be picked up and hugs you tightly. Sure, it’s a hug…but it’s not the same as if they’re calm and just give you a nice, warm hug. It’s a frenzied, panicked hug. They just need to feel safe.
Plus, stress produces cortisol, the stress hormones, which counteracts dopamine, a hormone needed for arousal and orgasm. In just about every way we measure sex, stress is seen as a negative factor. Whether it is ability to be aroused, to orgasm, subjective enjoyment or how intimate the experience felt, stress always plays a negative role when it comes to sex.
So, the best sex is stress free sex. That’s one reason why vacation sex is so good. Or the-kids-are-away sex: the stress of them hearing is gone.
My point is, just as relief sex isn’t the same as enjoyable sex, stressed sex isn’t the same as relaxed stress.
So, find ways to relax. Give your spouse a massage, go for a walk, have a shower, comb your hair, listen to some music or read a book. Find a way to tell your body that you are safe, that the lion is gone, and it’s time to show your spouse how happy you are to be alive.
7 thoughts on “Stress is bad for sex”
Sex is good for stress.
Yes, but stress-free sex is better 🙂
I wouldn’t say better but I would say different. It’s pretty hard to have what we call ‘fun sex’ when stressed. (meaning we are lighthearted and joking with each other and laughing). But when I was going through a very stressful time, being intimate with my wife and having that ease my spirit so much was something I found strengthened my emotional bond with her more than the times life was easy. I had a far greater appreciation for the love she gave me.
Yeah, that’s a good point.
Great thoughts, thank you!
Completely agree with this article. When my wife is under a lot of stress, I know not to initiate sex with her. For her, sex adds even more stress…not a good thing!
Stress in a marriage allows for true growth. As your comments remark, various couples adjust to the other partner’s stress.
Stress is different for men and women as well. We react or respond in sometimes opposite emotions based on infused stress.
It is possible for stress to make or erode a relationship due to how the couple decides to communicate.