Sex more often than not

Sexuality in marriage

Sexuality is not something that we talk about very openly. There are really good reasons for this, and one of them concerns the level of respect that we have for our marriage partner. We know that it is not our job to talk to others about things that are very personal to the wife or husband. Added to this we have a layer of shame or guilt in relationship to our sexuality, partly from our cultural context and partly because it is one of the areas that comes from an autonomous response that we barely control.

So Geoff and Maria were having pretty standard sexual difficulties, albeit with somewhat more serious consequences than most couples experience. In principle it was easy. He would like more sex, and the more he wanted sex the less Maria was interested in the physical relationship. A fairly common scenario, but what can we do?

As is frequently the case, their past histories were dotted with inappropriate sexuality, suspicions of abuse, and a general non-dialogue on the subject. Their ideas about how sex should happen were strongly influenced by films and pornography. None of this is unusual, but it makes for a hazardous climb.

Curiously, one of the keys to moving forwards is to separate the idea of sexuality from desire (or lack of desire). Let’s not have sex because we want to (or don’t want to), let’s just have sex because that is what we do as a married couple. This sounds a bit odd at first, but as with many couples in the situation of Geoff and Maria, planned, regular, frequent sex turned out to be a game changer for their relationship. Just a few weeks later they described their experience as “night and day”.

This does not mean, of course, that some of the painful and difficult memories had been erased, or that their concepts about sexuality had been instantly transformed. They simply discovered that by putting aside the question “do we or don’t we?” they were able to move into a much better flow of intimacy that would lay a safer foundation for further growth. This kind of approach really only works with a couple who have a strong level of relational commitment (otherwise it can easily be perceived as abusive) and an absence of direct physical problems. But for those who are committed yet have become stuck in no-mans land, it offers a way forwards.