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Sex is far from representing the highest value in human relationships, but nevertheless it is often considered an absolute value, that is, in essence, it is considered mythically and thought to be independent from all those conditions that make it truly rewarding. 
Couple sex presupposes that there is actually a couple, that is, there are two people who love each-other and have visions of the World and of the sexuality itself substantially compatible.
Too often couple sex is experienced individually, totally outside of any affective relationship, as if sex could replace an objectively deficient affectivity. I hear very often about the sex experienced only as a form of physical and individual enjoyment detached from affectivity, but I am inclined to think that, at least in the long run, sex meant in this way is substantially depressing and frustrating.
In sexuality there are no standards and saying "gay", in fact, means very little. Each individual has his own personal story, his conditioning, his fantasies, and it is certainly not a common thing that two individuals achieve a truly gratifying equilibrium for both.
Let's now look at the symptomatic elements of a couple's crisis, first of all, we’ll consider the lack of affectivity within the couple.
1) In the life of a couple, because of the presence of an emotional bond, the communication should be complete: each partner should communicate to the other "without filters" whatever happens to him, not only the objective facts but also his personal evaluations connected with those facts.
Confidentiality is a typical value of social environments where a social role is assumed, that is, where one is considered for what he is doing, for his own actions and not for his thoughts and for what he is in his private.
It is commonly said that when you fall in love you do not see the defects of the other and place him in an almost mystical atmosphere. As the age grows, and with the passing of years, the tendency to mythicize the partner, which is evident in the young sweetheart, does not disappear but consolidates on an affective level. This is clearly observed in couples of different age, especially by the mature partner, towards the younger.
The emergence of a couple's crisis can be recognized by the changed attitude toward the partner, which is progressively no longer considered mythically, but is viewed with an increasingly critical attitude.
It should be underlined that, very often, the transition from mythicizing the partner to the opposite attitude does not manifest itself outside and is, at least at first, unilateral. The partner who sees his affective participation progressively vanishing, tries to replace  his less and less affective spontaneity, with voluntary behaviors, assuming the role of the “sweetheart for duty”.
In short, the absence of spontaneity by one of the two partners emerges, for example through controversial and unusual discourses, which are immediately perceived as inconsistent by the other partner. In this way, the decline in the affective tone of the couple becomes bilateral and moves to a later stage, that is, it passes from affective contact (cuddling, even just verbal) to speeches and reasoning.
2) In the now-advanced couple crisis, the dominant element are speeches, speculations, and clarifications. Sexual contact is still present, but it is a contact where disparities and incompatibilities are underlined, a contact in which roles are created and are gradually consolidated.
There is, on the one hand, a dominant (or rather aggressive) partner who asks and sometimes claims for clarity, which detects the partner's inconsistencies, recalling word by word the expressions that the partner used and asking promptly the motivation of each single word, and there is on the other hand, the submissive partner, who accepts, or rather suffers the whole situation, because he somehow is aware that couple relationship is completely over and wants to come out of it as quickly as possible but quietly.
Unilateral inconsistencies are also common in stable couple relationships. Unilateral tone changing within a stable couple, though perceived, is not interpreted as a critical and potentially destructive element, but in the presence of an incipient couple crisis, inconsistencies and tone changings are not only immediately detected but produce the classic aggressive reaction.
I also observe that in some couples where asymmetry is very strong, the characterization in terms of aggressiveness-submissiveness exists even when the couple is not in crisis. The aggressive partner boasts his rationality, his clear talk, his underlined repetition of the same concepts and blames the submissive partner not only for his fickleness and its inconsistency at the limit of deceit, but also for his deliberate refuse of taking into account what his partner says.
Slowly, the talk phase turns into a confrontation. The aggressive partner lists his merits, omitting any reference to his demerits, and thus causes the submissive partner to entrench increasingly in defense positions.
It should be emphasized that there are two underlying reasons behind the couple's crisis: the absence of a true exclusivity (or at least of a strong polarization of affectivity and sometimes even of  sexuality within the couple) and also the fact that each of the partners has a strictly personal life, of which the other partner knows little or nothing at all. Sometimes there is a completely concealed infidelity by the aggressive partner, in other cases the submissive partner gets only vague information and further clarifications are denied with phrases such as: "But you have accepted it!" or "These are my private and I don’t want to talk about it!".
I underline that in some cases the aggressive partner assumes that a "sexual only" relationship can be maintained with the previous partner, even in the presence of an important affective relationship with a new partner. Faced with these behaviors really disruptive of couple's life (because the so-called open couple is a highly ambiguous and contradictory concept) the submissive partner should come to the obvious conclusions, namely to realize that the relationship no longer exists, but generally this does not happen and the remissive partner ends up accepting paradoxical situations in hypothetical as unrealistic hope that things come back as before. These unstable compromise situations can last for years and are actually destructive, because asserting attitudes can transform what was a love affair into a radical devaluation of the other partner.
3) Sometimes one of the two partners asks the other for "a moment of reflection", that is, for a pause more than a break in the couple's relationship. The modes can be the most varied, from not getting in touch for a few weeks to getting in touch occasionally, without meeting, despite the interruption.
The "pause of reflection" is used to reconsider the relationship with a certain degree of detachment, to understand to what extent it is important and also to attempt other ways and to compare the various options.
The pause of reflection does not necessarily lead to the breaking of the couple's relationship, but is useful as a test of the existence of the assumptions of that relationship. In this case the fundamental parameter is the time: the longer the pause of reflection stretches the less is the probability that the couple's life resumes.
Generally, very tight couples interrupt the pause of reflection even before the established period. If this happens, or if the set period is relatively short (up to a month) and after the pause of reflection the couple relationship resumes, the affective motivations are usually strengthened.
If, however, the time elapses to two months or even longer, it is very likely that the underlying affectivity of the couple was superficial from the beginning and that the choice of being a couple was very precipitate or was determined by external factors.
I would like to dwell on a very important concept: "the affective participation cannot be pretended, the sexual one, on the contrary, can." It is for this reason that many couples objectively in crisis because of lack of affectivity continue to exist: sexuality is supposed to overcome the lack of affectivity and for some time it may seem that things can work that way, but the weakness of the affective relationship cannot be covered for a long time by the persisting sexual interest because sex without love stops being a deep human contact experience and becomes a source of dissatisfaction and frustration. At the base of all this there is the idea I mentioned at the beginning: love and sex are different things.

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