So, you haven’t had much sex with your spouse lately, huh? Well, one in five couples are living in “sexless” marriages, sex experts say, meaning having sex fewer than 10 times a year. And one-third of married couples struggle with the problem of mismatched sexual desire. It’s the main reason couples seek counseling. And here in Silicon Valley, [California] where couples are working long hours to pay high mortgages or are desperately searching for jobs during a recession, fatigue and stress only make matters worse.
“I’ve been married 10 years. There were times when once in three months was a good thing,” said a 33-year-old Santa Clara County employee who didn’t want her name used. “It’s feeding the kids, getting them to bed, all after putting in a full day and commuting. I have a ‘no-sex-after-8 o’clock’ rule. When I crawl into bed, I want to go to sleep.”
Low sex drive is such a problem, said Al Cooper of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre, that it’s considered the “common cold of sexual issues of the new millennium.”
Whether sex drives are lower in general now than in years past is uncertain. But one thing is sure, Cooper said: “Women are complaining more.” When it comes to seeking counseling, it’s the women who are dragging the men into sex therapy offices. And in these instances, contrary to popular belief, it’s the husbands with low desire. “In our society, it’s more culturally acceptable for the woman to have no sex drive,” Cooper said. “When the man has no sex drive, it’s more upsetting to both of them.”
Sexless marriages seem to be the constant talk these days, from Oprah and Dr. Phil (who calls it an “undeniable epidemic”) to numerous books climbing the bestseller charts, including “The Sex-Starved Marriage” by Michele Weiner Davis. New York Magazine wrote a recent story about “Generation Sexless” —young New Yorkers so busy with their careers and demanding toddlers they have little time or desire for sex.
So, how much sex is “normal?” Sex experts are reluctant to quantify how much sex is enough sex (it could make some couples feel wholly inadequate, and some couples get along just fine without much sex). But while fewer than 10 times a year is considered sexless, having sex once or twice a week is considered average.
“Unlike vitamins, there are no daily minimum requirements,” said Weiner Davis, who wrote The Sex-Starved Marriage. “If both spouses are satisfied with having a sex-lite marriage, that’s great. However, it’s much more often the case that couples are polarized, that one person is unhappy with the quality and quantity of their sex life and the other is saying, ‘What’s the big deal? Get a life.'”
Only 40% of married couples say they’re very satisfied with their sex lives, Weiner Davis said. While medical problems and some medications can cause loss of desire —including some antidepressants and some birth control pills —most problems revolve around differing and unfulfilled expectations.
Heather and Jarad, who have been married for 5 years and have a 6-month-old daughter, say it’s hard to squeeze in time for sex, or even work up the desire, in their hectic lives. The couple, who commute to San Jose from Hollister each day, say they’re lucky to have sex twice, maybe three times, a month. “It’s the game of trying to slip it in when the baby’s sleeping,” Jarad said. “It’s a fight for time.” “There are times when I may want to and he may not,” Heather added. “It’s important for me to have that time to remember I’m not just a mother, I’m his wife.”
Dramatic changes in men’s and women’s roles over the past decades also have altered expectations of marriage —and corresponding feelings about sex.
“I look back to my parents’ generation; they had it a little easier. Their roles were carved out,” Weiner Davis said. “Now in relationships, although we have a lot more freedom, it’s hard, because everything is up for grabs: Who takes the garbage out? Who gets up with the baby? In a sense we have to invent our marriages, and with that freedom comes conflict.”
In addition to stress and exhaustion, experts say, anger and resentment can build to the point where sex stops. Other factors in sexless marriages include subverting one’s sex drive to, say, pornographic Internet sites or affairs with other people. “I saw a doctor last week who wasn’t having sex with his wife but was looking at pictures of big-breasted women on the Internet,” Cooper said. “We see this a lot in the valley.”
In general, however, a couple’s problems are often less about sex, per se, than getting to the sex, Cooper said. No couple’s willingness for sex at any given time lines up perfectly, he said. The key is how well a couple negotiates the times when one initiates and the other refuses.
“If it becomes a major battle every time, the person with the lower sex drive feels constantly barraged and harassed about sex. The one with the high sex drive feels constantly deprived, and the fights get more intense each time,” Cooper said. “We see there that the sex just drops away.” And when the sex stops, often the casual affection stops: the hand-holding, the laughing at each other’s jokes, the sitting next to each other on the couch. When relationships become that icy, they risk infidelity and, ultimately, divorce.
About half the population needs to make a real effort to feel desire, Weiner Davis said. A reluctant spouse must make a “decision for desire,” she said. “If you wait for the feeling to sort of wash over you, when the dogs are out of the house, the phones are not ringing, the kids are in bed, you’re never going to have sex.”
Couples need to put as much energy into their sex lives as their job and children, she said. Set the mood early in the day with simple flirtations around the house, a patting on the rear end, complimenting the spouse’s appearance. And of course, avoid bickering before bedtime. Couples with more deep-seated problems should seek counseling.
“I wish I had a dollar for everyone who said ‘I wasn’t in the mood when I started, but I really got into it,'” she said. “One of the best ways to make it happen is to be receptive to your spouse’s advances.”
It’s advice that the 33-year-old woman with the “no-sex-after-8” rule didn’t take. She and her husband are separating. “The world is just very busy,” she said. “You need to have a two-income household. You pay a price for it.”
The above article came from The Mercury News— Feb. 14, 2003, and was titled, Is it the New Epidemic? written by Julia Prodis Sulek Mercury News. It’s not written from a Christ-follower’s view point but we think it’s very sound advice.
We, at Marriage Missions, don’t feel that God would have us “pay the price” of sacrificing our marriages because we’re too “busy” to have sex. Scripturally we feel that God wants us to work with each other, as long as it doesn’t go against scriptural grounds, to accommodate each other’s sexual needs.
The scriptural basis we see for this can be found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 where it says,
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Filed under: Sexual Issues