No article on marriages and relationships would be complete without a discussion of the role of sexual intimacy in marriage.
Sexual intimacy in marriage is the one thing you share with your spouse that you don’t share with anyone else.
It provides the physical and emotional intimacy that sets you and your partner apart from simply being roommates.
Some couples have an intense physical connection – chemistry – and are able to make love under any circumstances.
It is possible, but rare, to have little else left in your relationship but sex. If this is your situation you may want to skip this article.
But I believe that’s not the case with 99 percent of married couples. If there are issues there will be lack of physical or sexual intimacy in your married life.
The far more common situation is that the frequency of lovemaking wanes over time which eventually destroys the main purpose of your marriage which is long lasting love.
There are many reasons for this, the main ones being that the novelty wears off; couples get busy with jobs, children and social lives and no longer have much time or energy; poor body image due to aging or weight gain; and relationship difficulties.
Physiological factors such as chronic illness, medication, depression or addictions can also lower sexual desire.
Although many couples initially believe they can live without sex, maybe due to no sex drive, a lack of spice, romance, sex and intimacy is generally a death knell for a marriage.
If you’re reading this post you’re probably experiencing a downturn in the quality and frequency of sexual relations with your partner, or you may even have stopped having sex altogether.
This is understandable, because it’s hard to want sex when you feel emotionally detached.
Conversely, it’s hard to feel emotionally bonded without physical intimacy.
It’s a frightening cycle – the less happy you are, the less sex you have / want; the less sexual intimacy you have the less emotionally attached you become.
As much as it may feel impossible at the moment, it’s important to get passion and intimacy back into your relationship.
It is very rare to have a healthy relationship without it – that’s why sex is also known as “making love”!
It’s not at all unusual for one person in a couple to have a greater desire for sex than the other. There can be a myriad of reasons for this, some of which I’ve listed above.
Another physiological reason can be hormonal – testosterone has been linked to sexual desire.
While testosterone is generally associated with men – as is an assumption that men are more interested in sex - women’s sexual desire can also be linked to fluctuating testosterone levels.
As both men and women age, their testosterone levels change and their interest in intimacy may change with it.
When we look at the dynamics of desire and differences between men and women, it becomes clear that generally speaking, men have a greater desire for sex.
I am well aware that the opposite situation is very possible, that the male partner has a lower sex drive than his wife.
But what I’m going to address is the more common situation of husbands wanting physical intimacy and wives “not being in the mood”.
Besides the reasons outlined previously for disinterest in sex, there is a big difference in the way the two genders think and react emotionally.
As the author John Gray would say, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” – we think differently and our needs are different.
Women tend to need an emotional bond before they’re interested in having sexual intercourse. They need their husbands to be attentive, thoughtful and loving.
They want to share their emotions and spend time together. If their partner has been distant, disinterested or absent, the last thing a woman will want to do is make love.
If the man has been complaining or criticizing his wife for not wanting sex more often, the wife is likely to feel completely turned off and any shred of passion will be lost.
Men, if you wish to enjoy a more satisfying physical relationship, you must fulfill your wife’s needs to. Talk to her, care for her, love her, do little things that she admires, surprise her occasionally and spend time together.
Being absent from her life is a turn off, taking her on a date is a turn on!
Men generally don’t need as much emotional bonding to desire sex – they have a lot more testosterone!
This means they think about and desire sex more often and require a lot less bonding and emotional closeness prior to having sex.
In fact, men tend to be just the opposite of women – the more sexual relations the couple have, the better the husband feels about his wife and their marriage.
Since men’s sense of self- worth is linked to being a good provider, including satisfying their wives sexually, they get their emotional bonding needs met by having sex.
Often men simply can’t understand why their wives don’t think about, and want, sex as much as they do and are completely baffled by their wife’s disinterest.
So women, if you are even a tiny bit interested in having sex, do it! The intimate bond you want with your husband will follow, and you will both be more interested in sexual intimacy in the future.
A sex therapist can help couples whose intimate relationship is in big trouble.
If you will not be seeing a therapist, or even if you are, here of a few things you can try on your own before you seek help.
The first thing I suggest, if your relationship is in trouble, is to work through the rest of this book and try to improve your relationship and your ability to communicate.
If your marriage has been sexless for a long time, it’s very hard to start with intimacy.
You need to overcome your anger, frustration, apathy, or whatever you and your spouse are feeling before trying to rekindle any kind of romance and intimacy.
Once you’re ready, and maybe as a small part of working on your marriage, you should significantly increase touching. Increasing the amount of touching you do will definitely increase your intimate connection.
Touch his arm fleetingly when you pass in the hall; drop a kiss on the back of her neck when she’s standing at the stove; kiss good morning, good night, hello, and good bye; sit cheek-to-cheek watching TV; if not “spooning”, at least always have a body part touching in bed; hold hands whenever possible, and so on.
Some therapists even suggest suspending sexual intercourse while you become closer through touch.
My final solution, one that is shared by sex therapists, is to talk about your sex life. Many couples fail to talk about sex because it’s just too intimate and they’re embarrassed.
Instead they say nothing and hope that their partner gets it right. If the partner fails to read their mind and get it right, they’re disappointed.
Worse yet, saying “it’s all good” when it isn’t just perpetuates your partner doing things that aren’t working for you.
Bonus Note on Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.
Doesn’t it make more sense to overcome your embarrassment with the person with whom you’re most intimate and vulnerable and talk about what you like so that your sexual relationship and satisfaction are improved? Again, another snowball cycle.
If you speak intimately with your partner, excitement, romance and passion will grow!
“What if our sex life is completely dead?”
Sex is a complicated thing. It is beautiful and fun and special and feels good but is also tied up with self-esteem, emotions, intimacy, health, and personal history.
In the context of a relationships, especially a relationship that is suffering, sex can be the source of a lot of tension.
The fact is that most people cannot have a satisfying sexual relationship with someone when either or both partners are angry, suspicious, resentful or otherwise unhappy.
It is likely that your dead sex life is a symptom of the overall problem.
I am not a sex therapist but there are some basic principles that may be helpful here.
First of all, think of sex as part of your relationship as a whole rather than focusing on the physical act as a problem of its own -at least for now.
As you identify different problem areas in your relationship and work through them you will both likely start to become more comfortable being physical and intimate with each other.
Give it time and be willing to move slowly. One amazing technique for couples having tough time with sexual intimacy is to hold off on intercourse and focus on enjoying other kinds of touch first.
If, as your relationship as a whole improves, you find that your sex life is still lagging far behind, don’t be afraid to consult a professional, whether a relationship or sex therapist or a physician.
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I will stop here. I hope you enjoyed reading this article on sexual intimacy in marriage. If you really loved reading this article, please share it on your favorite social media.