In her article “Are You Living In A Sexless Marriage?” Cathy Meyer,About.com/Divorce Support, defines a sexless marriage as “one in which one spouse feels there isn’t enough sex or there is no sex at all.” She further states that the expectations about frequency may be an underlying issue that causes some people to think their marriage is sexless. She follows this definition with lots of good reasons why some people may not have the same sex drive as their partners.
AARP statistics state that 65 percent of mature couples still have sex, as reported by Jeanne Lee Davis’ article on WebMD. Another interesting quote from “Get it on or Get Divorced?” by Vicki Larson,Huffington Post, is that “61 percent of men aged 45 to 55 say a good sex life is a critical part of a healthy relationship, [while] just 47 percent of women in the same age group agree.”
It’s interesting in all these articles that they seem to all be how to instructions on how to get more sex. It’s a fact that sex plays an important role in marriage. However, each marriage is unique, and a one-size-fits-all solution may not be right for everyone. Sex is an intimate experience, more so today in some ways since the AIDs scare and the loss of the free-love adventure of the 60s. Sex demands within marriage have also changed tremendously with the advent of birth control. It is not so far back in our cultural history that arranged marriages and marriages of convenience occurred. It is also not really that long ago that some religious cultures did not even allow men and women to view each other’s bodies, even when they were married. Ever seen a picture of the old Victorian pajamas that had holes in just the right places so that married couples might engage in intercourse without having to take off their clothes?
Somehow in our ever-changing world, we have taken a very intimate detail of marriage and created additional expectations, somewhat similar to the way the media has set up expectations about the way men and women should look. In older small cultural groups, women used to speak with other women about pleasing their husbands and doing what was necessary to stabilize the marriage, to protect the integrity of the entity which was established to provide for children. The same thing happened between men. What is missing in some of the current literature is the validation for couples who do not fit the expected norm, do not consider their sex life to be on par with an exercise schedule, and who have a deep and enduring love and respect for each other, no matter what.
Research of all kinds has shown that men and women show up for sex from different perspectives and with different expectations and needs, especially at different times in their lives. The common thread in the research that is helpful is that sex without intimacy and trusting relationship may not be sustainable. While sex can have health benefits pertaining to reducing stress, keeping fit, and increasing overall well-being, the effect of sex without intimacy and a trusting relationship is more harmful.
Yes, sex is a physical function that most people are driven to participate in as part of being human. Hormones and all that accompanies our human sex drive are natural, and sex is a wonderful experience. It is also a physical release that some folks get addicted to for real reasons, such as the release of natural oxytocin that can feel like a high, the experience of exclusive and deep intimacy, and the simple fact that it is one thing that can take one’s mind off of everything else for awhile. Such a powerful activity is wonderful and great to share. In this cultural day and age, it is frequently one of the powerful drives which brings people to contemplate marriage. Yet, it is not what marriage is about, in and of itself. A frequent and consistent sex schedule should not be the goal of a marriage. There are lots of cases of domestic violence that have this component.
If sex within a relationship is not what one hopes or was expecting, it is and should be a conversation topic. It may be a result of one partner not feeling safe, health issues, personal hygiene practices, willingness or lack of willingness to try different things during sex, beliefs about sex and marriage, or any wide assortment of discussable topics. Discussion, another form of intercourse, is what is needed to begin to determine whether or not there is a possibility for change — change that may feel necessary to one person. Being able to communicate and listen to each other are the keys to a strong and intimate relationship, not how frequently a couple has sex.