I’ll just come out and say it:
How many of you have a sex life that has been bad lately?
I'm talking about stable relationships and marriage. Many see a drop in both the quality and quantity of sex they after the second year.
One reason is obvious and pretty easy to talk about. Couples deal with a lot of external stress, mostly from work. As sexologist and couples therapist Maj Wismann expresses,
“Stress and sex drive do not mix. You simply cannot have a head full of 120 worries while also having great sex.”
The other reason is more difficult for couples to discuss. The change in routine and eating habits that come with marriage can lead to becoming less active. Either one or both have previously worked out much less than they do when they was single, and it shows. I know many are not alone in this—jokes about “mom and dad bods” and people letting themselves go after marriage abound.
For example men resist expressing that their attraction has waned, fearing that their partners will interpret it as rejection. However, this leads to unwanted and inexcusable frustration. The gym would have previously been used as one of many sanctuaries, a place where you could physically and mentally recharge, and when we become settled we miss that outlet completely. For months or even years you go on to ignore the issues, and the distance between you both only grows larger. Like so many couples, they struggle with how to talk about sex.
"Sex is not the foundation of a good marriage or partnership. "
In fact, according to research by sex educators Barry and Emily McCarthy of American University in Washington, D.C., happy couples attribute only 15 to 20 percent of their happiness to a good sex life. However, bad sex can feel like a curse, especially when the foundation of a marriage has already begun to crack. The same study found that disgruntled partners said bad sex accounted for 50 to 70 percent of their problems.
The disparity makes sense when you think about it.
Happy couples see sex as only one of many factors influencing the success of their relationship. They have built a Sound Relationship House and are reaping the rewards. They have well-developed Love Maps, they admire each other and nurture that fondness, and—perhaps most important when it comes to sex—they have developed a habit of turning toward each other instead of away.
Unhappy couples, on the other hand, have lost touch with each other. The GPS on their Love Maps is out of whack. Contempt and defensiveness creep in, causing them to turn away from each other. With that foundation gone, it’s no wonder people lose perspective of what really matters.
Sex is one of the first things to suffer in a crumbling relationship because it is where we are at our most vulnerable. Desire evaporates when we no longer feel connection. And this becomes an easy, glaring thing to blame.
Compounding the problem is the fact that we live in a culture where sex is still taboo. Fifty years after the sexual revolution of the 1960s, our culture still talks about sex in either crude, adolescent tones or clinical, scientific jargon. And that’s if we talk about it at all.
This unhealthy approach to sexual conversations seems to be the great equalizer. It afflicts all political persuasions, socials classes, and sexualities. Socially conservative people are embarrassed to admit they ever have sex, and socially progressive people are embarrassed to admit that they might not be enjoying it.
Within the context of a marriage, our resistance to discussing sex is symptomatic of a larger problem: a lack of safety and intimacy. This is where the other elements of a solid relationship become crucial.
Sex requires vulnerability and honest communication. For this to work, both partners must feel safe to voice their insecurities, needs, and wants. Safety is built by turning toward each other, listening to one another, and providing affection. Try to have honest conversations about your feelings and our fears, not to change each other but to grow closer regardless of the state of your sex life. It makes a world of difference.
Don't pretend you’re out of the woods yet. But at least you can be committed to talking about this safely and openly, and you can both say with confidence that the sexual rut you’re in doesn’t define you or make you fear for the future of your relationship. That alone has goes a long way in rekindling your intimacy.