All Work And No Play: Don't Turn Your Sex Life Into Labor Day

hard hat

If you don't want sex to be a hassle, have fewer rules. Here are some common ones you don't need.

If you and your partner both want to, it's fine to have sex on Labor Day. Just don't turn your sex into Labor Day.

Sex is neither complicated nor simple, and it's neither play nor drudgery. It can be any of these — it just depends on how you approach it. Too many people unintentionally make sex complicated and full of anxiety, effort, and disappointment, and then they blame "sex."

Here's how various people use rules to turn sex into a laborious thing:

1. We have to climax simultaneously

When couples share a meal, they rarely finish their last bite at the same time. And when they shower or brush their teeth together, one of them almost always finishes before the other. Imagine the problems, the resentments, the hurt feelings, if couples decided they had to start and finish these activities at the same time.

There's no advantage to climaxing together. Patients sometimes tell me it's the "most intimate" kind of sex. But if one or both people are struggling to make this little miracle happen, that undermines intimacy pretty dramatically. And whether you pull it off or not, it can leave lovers feeling more relieved than satisfied. Pleasure? Who can focus on pleasure when there's serious work to be done?

Climaxing separately (I don't mean separate rooms or separate weeks) can allow both partners to focus on the person who's orgasming. And the lack of distraction from your own orgasm can allow you to maintain an intimate connection with your partner while he or she climaxes. Sounds like a much better deal all the way around.

2. We each have to climax from intercourse

Unless you want to conceive—and most people having sex, don't—there's nothing special about intercourse. If you feel it's especially intimate, or it's your favorite form of sex, that's fine. But there's nothing inherently better about intercourse, nor climaxing from it.

Most American women don't orgasm from intercourse alone, and when a man is anxious, drunk, or shy, he may not either. As men pass 40, it often becomes more difficult for them as well.

Orgasm isn't necessary every time you have sex. But if you (or your partner) are going to experience this treat, don't demand that it come from intercourse. That isn't realistic, and you'll be depriving yourselves of the richness sexuality offers.

3. One of us feels insulted if a sex toy, lube, or game comes out

Driving without sunglasses, sleeping without a pillow, gardening without kneepads, travelling without a book or iPad—you can do all these, but why? Why deprive yourself of the means to make your experience richer, easier, more personally tailored?

Some people feel that toys and other things are only for those who "need" them. This is terribly short-sighted. We don't use lube because we "need" to, but rather because it makes sex easier and more enjoyable. We don't use toys because sex is boring, but because they give it variety and make it more interesting.