In the last posts I considered non-sexual marriages which were either asexual (no actual sexual desire – ever) or homosexual (one or both spouses is closeted or unconsciously homosexual).
Today I’ll talk about marriages which once were sexual, but are no longer. Often more psychologically convoluted than the other types, this type has very good prospects for change, i.e. to become sexual again.
First, a visit to relationships which are sexual.
Sex as a psychological weapon
Example 1. He is angry with her and so he ensures that he orgasms early (or, less wilfully, he notices that when he is angry with her he orgasms early).
Example 2. She is angry with him and so decides that – because her orgasm is important to him – she won’t have and orgasm (or she notices that when she’s angry with him she doesn’t reach orgasm).
My point here is that if couples can consciously and unconsciously use sex in their emotional battles, it should be no surprise that they can and do use no-sex in these battles too.
Most commonly this is to punish the other. It can be flaunted (“You can forget about sex tonight!”). Or it can be passive aggressive (“Not tonight, I’ve got a headache/I’m too tired”).
Sometimes it’s not because the other spouse must be punished but rather a spouse withholds sex because he or she doesn’t deserve it themselves (low self-esteem, poor body-image, guilt…).
Non-initiation of sex
A spouse has had their sexual advances turned down often enough (sometimes once is enough) and is now too hurt/angry to try again for fear of rejection.
A man in this position might resort to:
~passive aggressive game-playing (“Of course you’re happy because you don’t enjoy sex anyway”)
~insults and put-downs (“Who’d want to have sex with you anyway!”)
~pleading (“Can’t we have sex, honey?”)
~threats (“If we don’t have sex soon I’m out of here!”)
In other words he resorts to a boyish solutions – bullying or whining. The problem is that for her these are not sexy! If she is to be sexually re-ignited it needs to be by a man, not a kid.
Of course, it takes two to tango. The spouse who turns down sex must have good faith. He or she must investigate what problem not having sex is ‘solving’. I say ‘solving’ because it’s no solution at all – it’s helping to deaden the marriage.
No healthy person wants to have sex with an unwilling partner – we’re not talking about forcing oneself. But, there is a danger of getting into the habit of turning down sex because of not feeling 100% up for it.
Each spouse must honestly ask themselves whether there isn’t a small, low-burning flame of desire. If there is there’s hope – it can be fanned into life. And the more one does that the more ardent it is.
If there has been no sex for some time – slackness, laziness, taking the marriage for granted, time apart, etc. – spouses are sometimes too shy to begin again. Everyone carries some shame around sex (that’s the downside; the upside is that if sex wasn’t too some degree naughty, fun, etc. there probably wouldn’t be enough friction to ignite the flame).
The couple has slipped into being more like flatmates, cousins, or friends and suggesting getting down and dirty seems somehow wrong.
One way a gap happens in the sexual relationship is because of having a baby. This is a tricky one. On the one hand there are physical reasons why a woman might not feel like having sex – depression, tiredness, physical effects of the birth.
But again, she must have an honest self-investigation. Sex is far too important to simply omit from a marriage. As soon as it can be recommenced it should be.
Sometimes the wife’s changing from lover to mother freaks the man out (apparently Elvis Pressley couldn’t have sex with his wife once their child was born).
Incidentally, do be careful about the man-must-be-present-at-the-birth ideology. In principle it’s right, and in practice it’s very often a wonderful thing. But now and then a man has been so horrified by seeing his wife’s sexual organs apparently traumatised that he loses his potency. If you have any doubts, mate, don’t.
Myths in the magazines, etc.
Several ideas foat around which are half-truths and lies but which do stick damagingly in married people’s minds.
Myth 1: Sex is down-hill after the honeymoon period.
Truth: Sex isn’t as constantly urgent after the honeymoon period, but that’s just quantity. The quality constantly improves. If not, do something about it. Want it!
Myth 2: It’s boring having sex with the same person.
Truth: Besides the excitement of the one-night stand, there is no way in hell that sex can be better than with one’s spouse. It gets better and better – believe me – and if it doesn’t the couple needs to set about ensuring that it does. And the first thing to do is give up the myth of greener pastures
Common psychological factors
All of the above share the fact that they are the result of emotional and psychological difficulties. Don’t worry, that’s the good news. Every one of these can be resolved.
Simply reading an article like this can be enough to begin a conversation which leads in the right direction – after all talking about desire can begin to feel sexy….
It may be that some sessions of couples-therapy is needed. The therapeutic task isn’t doc-save-our-marriage, it’s we-care-a-lot-for-each-other-we-want-to-get-the-desire-going-again.
Actual sexual difficulties
Example 1: She wants harder, longer intecourse, but he has sexual disfunction
Example 2: He wants oral sex, she doesn’t
And so on.
Again these should be addressed. Physical difficulties can be solved with sex therapy and/or medical treatment. Everyone knows about Viagra. But how many people think to get testosterone prescribed? While Viagra works miracles for erections, testosterone helps generate sexual desire, assertiveness, etc. It is prescribed for women too, by the way (the dosage is much lower). Happy quote: “Now, I know what it’s like for men!”