Prescription for Love: The sexless marriage

Prescription for Love

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - There are many couples living without a sexual relationship, or in a relationship that is not sexually satisfying.

Some studies indicate less than 10 percent of marriages rate their sex lives as highly satisfying. Weekly sex seems to be the “norm” and about 20 percent of married people are in a marriage that would qualify as a "sexless."

In the beginning of most relationships, there is so much excitement, it is almost like being high on a drug. People talk for hours and dream about the next time they can touch and be touched by their newfound love.

How does that get lost?

Today’s guest, Remi Spicer, LMSW, has more than 20 years of experience helping couples identify how they became disconnected and how they can get un-stuck and increase marital satisfaction.

Ms. Spicer explains that “there are many things that can contribute to a relationship that’s become void of true emotional and physical intimacy, such as:

  1. Myths or faulty expectations. The widely held dysfunctional belief in our culture that people need to both be craving sex in order for sex to happen. In fact, sexual activity is actually what precedes sexual interest and arousal, instead of the reverse.
  2. Avoidance of touch/communications problems. Excuses: headache, Facebook, tired, feeling fat, hormones. Fear about telling the other person your frustrations or disappointments in the sexual relationship. Interestingly, affection received from one’s partner plays a key role in marital satisfaction. In 72% of happily married couples, partners report being satisfied with the affection they get from each other, versus only 28% of unhappy couples. Many people avoid opportunity to be touched altogether when they are anxious about the sexual opportunities.
  3. Imbalance of responsibility for keeping the sexual connection alive. If one person has had all the responsibility for initiating sex and is repeatedly denied or rejected, their resulting hurt leads to feelings of being unloved and unwanted. To protect themselves from the pain or the fears of divorce, they may stop trying.
  4. Giving the least possible. Allowing sex to occur, but no enthusiasm or energy put in to the experience. For a woman that might mean laying still cooperating with being penetrated, but for a man that might look like focusing on orgasm rather than trying to build her arousal and pleasure. This kind of mechanical sex can be so emotionally painful that they cause a partner to avoid sexual experiences altogether and become vulnerable to an affair.
  5. Waiting for the perfect day. When sex occurs only when both feel like it, the frequency can deteriorate quickly. People who demonstrate love do so by giving- even when not in the mood, including in the bedroom.

The bottom line is that a sexless relationship is one that is susceptible to affairs and divorce. Being emotionally and sexually available and attuned is extremely important for a satisfying marriage.

Note: If a couple has stopped all positive, emotionally intimate conversation…they may need to start at ground zero. Flattery, compliments and “noticing” good things about their partner, in order to reboot the marital system.

One thing they can try is an exercise the Imago Therapists call “flooding.” That’s where they tell each other, “What I see about you that I really like and admire is...” (flooding each other with compliments, positively reinforcing statements, or appreciation).

If they have a hard time with that, they could try, "When I first met you, the way that I saw you was...” (positive statements only).

And, “The way that I hoped you saw me was... ”I’m worried that you see me now as...”

This structured dialog should help open up vulnerable, loving conversations. If it doesn’t, this couple may really require help of a trained professional because it is likely the couple has become engaged in Stonewalling, relationship or partner sabotage, any and all positive exchanges. This often is reflective of deep past hurts and current resentments that need to be addressed.

For more tips and ideas or to contact Ms. Spicer, please visit http://www.anintimatemarriage.com.

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