The Sex-Starved Marriage

If you are married, do you have enough sex?
How much is “enough” in marriage?

These are big questions that many women wonder about and most are afraid to ask. I have been in many, many discussions with married women on sex. Informal, just amongst friends type of discussions. This topic often dances on the edges of our conversation and generally never get’s brought in to the center. It can feel too personal and daunting to openly discuss. But it seems to be the conversation many of us want to have.

This is especially relevant for “sex-starved couples”. These are couples where one is wanting significantly less sex compared to the other. The other spouse feels unloved, shut-down or frustrated with the lack of sex in their marriage. They go weeks and weeks with no sex. Perhaps the couple started marriage with a commitment to talk openly about sex and have it often! But, reality, is a different story.

I recently came across Michelle Weiner-Davis and her TedTalk on The Sex Starved Marriage and this article she wrote. I would highly recommend you look at both!

Here are my thoughts on this important topic with a few stolen ideas from Michelle Weiner-Davis.

Who wants sex?

It is generally assumed that women have a lower sex drive than men. But this is not always the case. Many times it is men. Often, women want lots of sex, equal to or exceeding their husband. For this discussion, I’m going to talk to the women. Whether you are going through a season of wanting much less sex or it has always been that way, here are some thoughts to consider.

4 Reasons Women Don’t Want Sex

Season of Life

Young children, those precious little angels. Eating us out of house and home and consuming our desire for sex along with it. Let’s be honest, young children can be a huge killer of sexual desire, especially for women.

I remember when our boys were younger. They were energetic, loud and 18 months apart in age. They were up in my grill ALL the time. The only thing I wanted at the end of the day was no one to look at me, talk to me, touch me, or ask me for anything… basically I wanted to be on a planet where no other person existed. Just me, an episode of Good Wife and popcorn. That’s it. I hated to break the news to my husband that he was not wanted on my planet called “Just-me-and-no-one-else-including-you”. Sound familiar?

Children, specifically young children can suck every bit of sexual desire out of you. Other things can do it too. Perhaps job stress, financial hardship or personal crisis. It is good to recognise and communicate this in order to make a plan for your season of life.

Your Stages are Reversed

Sex has four stages: 1. Desire (mental desire for it), 2. Arousal (physical excitement and desire for it), 3. Orgasm (no explanation needed!) and 4. Resolution (back to normal). Previously, it was believed that these stages also went in this order. More and more research is happening that for many women, Stage 1 and 2 are reversed. Desire only comes after physical arousal.

Practically, this means that many women don’t feel like having sex until they have actually started having sex. When it comes to women and sex Weiner-Davis says, “Just Do It”.

If women wait until they “feel” like it then they will never have sex because “feeling like it” only comes after they have started doing it. This is why so many women say, “Well, I didn’t feel in the mood when we started but by the end I really enjoyed it! We should do this more often!”

I have recently been sharing this with women friends to see their opinion. I found that almost every single woman said they completly identified with this the majority of the time.

Intimacy Avoidance

Having very infrequent sex can be a sign of something deeper. It can be a way of avoiding intimacy because of hurt, pain or some other dysfunction. Some reasons:

  • Undealt with hurt or pain in the marriage.
  • Undealt with hurt or pain in your personal life. From a past relationship, abuse or other situation.
  • Immature intimacy skills. Some of us simply never learned how to be intimate with others. Perhaps our family of origin was extremely unhealthy or we had emotionally immature examples all our lives.
  • Current dysfunction in the marriage. If we are keeping secrets, harbouring unknown addictions or being emotionally unavailable then these will all affect the sex life.

The only way to deal with this is to get outside help! Find a trusted mentor, counsellor or married couple that can explore these issues with you.

You See Sex and Love as Two Different Things

What if you you replaced the word “sex” with “love”? How would that change the conversation for you?

Saying, “I don’t feel like loving you tonight” might be an honest admission but what if you said it every day? Suddenly you would feel selfish or a little unsure about your words. This is what our spouse often hears with repeated avoidance of sex. We can’t make sex and love two totally unrelated issues.

No one should be forced in to having sex, that’s not what we are talking about. Consistently denying sex to your husband might feel like a holiday to you but it feels like a rejection to him. It feels like you don’t love him… no matter what you say otherwise.

Scientific studies show that rejection is felt the exact same way as physical pain. That is how men’s brains process sexual rejection. It is like a physical wound.

Sex, mutually given in marriage, is an act of love. It is not optional extra benefit some people get. The love, when given, is received deep in to our souls. When withheld it is a rejection of something deep in our souls… in our husbands souls. Sex and love are not two different things.

I’m not saying this to cause guilt. It is just reality and we do well to take the care to say, “Let’s look at this because I love you too much to just pretend it’s a trivial issue.”

4 Things to Do:

  • Talk about it. Simply ask your spouse, “Do you think we have enough sex?”. That little question should get the conversation going fairly well!

  • Change the language: Stop asking “Am I in the mood?” or “Do I feel like sex?”. Start asking, “Have I loved my spouse recently?” or “Can I give love to him tonight?”

  • “Just Do It” Women, you will be surprised how the initial “I don’t feel like it” turns in to “That felt great” more often than you realise. Make a pact to “Just Do It” more often for your own enjoyment and his.

  • Make it mutual. If one is wanting sex and the other doesn’t, what do you do that night? Make it a practice to mutually serve one another. Some nights you “just do it” and other nights you just don’t. Just make sure the the “no’s” aren’t winning all the time. If you have said “no” too often in the past you might need to ask the above question to get things started again.

Lindsey