March 04, 2008

A Sexually Incompatible Marriage

CNN has an interesting article about sex and marriage. It caught my eye for any number of reasons.

Just judging from the responses to my old post Does Having Children Prevent an Active Sex Life this is something that many couples wrestle with. (The comments on this post were made using Haloscan. Since I disabled and removed it from the blog you obviously won't see them there. But trust me, there were plenty.)

Let's take a look at the article.

(LifeWire) -- He's a 38-year-old executive. She's a 34-year-old homemaker. He says they never fight, and in many ways they're compatible -- but not when it comes to sex.
"It's almost like a checklist," says Jon (who asked that his real name not be used) of their once-a-month lovemaking. The problem, he believes, is a lack of desire.
Sexually unfulfilling marriages aren't limited to new parents or aging baby boomers with hormone imbalances. They can ensnare even the relatively young and the recently married. When they are unable to blame kids, stress or physical issues, many couples struggle unhappily to identify -- and resolve -- the problems behind their lackluster sex life.
Couples end up in sexually unfulfilling marriages for a variety of reasons, says Marty Klein, a licensed marriage counselor and certified sex therapist in Palo Alto, California. One reason, he says, is America's obsession with marriage.
Laura Berman, a Chicago sex therapist and relationship expert, agrees. "We put the blinders on when we're dating," she says. "We focus so much on the wedding, we don't notice the warning signs."
Those who believe passion inevitably fades may downplay the sex factor, picking someone they think would be a good father or a good wife even if they're not an ideal lover, Berman adds.
"I chose her because I thought it would enhance me in some way," Jon says of his wife.
Berman has seen it before: "People choose partners who have the right resume but maybe not the entire package."
Other couples enter into relationships with so-so chemistry because they think they're in love and overlook key differences, says Klein.
Bobbie Jonas, a holistic health practitioner in Calistoga, California, acknowledges she ignored obvious warning signs during her courtship. "I was more interested in a way out from home," she says of her first marriage. Poor communication compounded the effects of weak chemistry. After 10 years, they divorced.
"Couples wondering where the sex went should be asking if it was ever really there," says Berman.
That explanation makes sense to Jon. Although he said he and his wife, who live on the West Coast, started off with great chemistry, the cracks in the relationship began to show before they traded rings. After a four-month dry spell during their engagement, his wife brought up the idea of canceling the wedding. "I just really wanted to get married," Jon says. "I felt that it was what I was supposed to do."
Now Jon is having an affair with a woman -- also in a sexually unsatisfying marriage -- for whom he feels intense passion. "I didn't realize the importance of sex," he says.
I know from conversations with the boys that several of them are less than happy with the state of affairs in their bedroom. It is kind of a funny change. During our single years the guys didn't spent much time bragging. You might hear about who they were dating, but in general there wasn't any talk of conquests.
And now I look at what we talk about and I have to shake my head and smile. There is the guy who complains that before marriage his wife loved oral sex and now hates it. There is the guy who complains that his wife is never in the mood and then there is the guy who says that he can't keep up with his wife's sex drive. And let me tell you, he receives an enormous amount of crap about his complaints.

I can also say that I know of two couples who intentionally did not have children because they were convinced that it would kill their relationship. Kind of reminds me of a guest post that ran here last year called Pressured into Parenthood- A Guest Post.

So dear reader, what do you think?

6 comments:

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

Lest we think that it's all her fault, I also want to add that as a rabbi I hear with some great regularity that it's just as often the other way - in particular, medical problems - or their solution- leading to inability to do, or dampening interest in, sex (and btw, gentlemen, just in case you're wondering, Viagra not only doesn't fix everything, sometimes it can't be taken in concert with other medications of various sorts - ah, the things one learns in the pulpit...).
And, what's worse, I think that for women it's considered totally unacceptable to talk about problems with sex either because the assumption will be that it's her fault (she got old, she gained weight, she's not exciting, she doesn't talk dirty, she shaves her legs, she doesn't shave her legs, whatever) or because what's her problem, she's got everything and she's complaining that she doesn't get enough? - At least partially because women still (sigh) aren't really supposed to care, whereas there's sort of an expectation that men will care about sex, and that if there's a problem it's her.
Very frustrating for lots of women - kids or no kids.

jd clampett said...

KRG, the article is clear that if both partners in the marriage think there's no problem with 10 times a year or less (1 in 5 couples!), then there's no problem. But if only one of them thinks it's a problem, then that's what it is. So the blame-game isn't really the issue, it's as Jack said - a matter of compatibility. If you take the 1:5 who are getting practically no sex out of the equation, the average amount of sex per month according to the article is about 10-12 times. For religious Jews who follow the laws of taharat mishpacha, that's about once per day during their permitted days!

That's a pretty healthy sex life. I wonder what percentage are fortunate to have this - in your experience as a rabbi, do you think this is more than average based on what you hear?

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

Once a day - the average? Well, maybe if you're counting people married under a year heavily into the sample....
Er, no. IMO that's not even vaguely close to the average. I think that the average is about (and granted I'm not an expert, nor did I ever send out a survey to congregants on the topic) about 2-3 times a week.

But my point was not the blame game so much as that when women have the greater sex drive, it's really not okay for them to feel bad about it in our culture - and that in my experience, it's *not at all* rare for it to be the guy who is lacking interest - I think that it's possibly equal going either way, and a lot of this has to do with the way our society has completely lost the 40 hour work week.

Richmond said...

Having kids is a HUGE factor. For women, sex is as much about being in the right place mentally as having just the basic privacy to feel like being intimate.

I can remember telling my hubby once when our girls were very small, "You know what Dude? I have been touched ALL DAY. If you can find a way to have sex with me without touching me?? Knock yourself out...."

Therein lies the fallacy of the increased female libido after 40 - note how the age coincides with the kids heading off to college... *That's* why she is suddenly in the mood!

Jack said...

And, what's worse, I think that for women it's considered totally unacceptable to talk about problems with sex

I don't know if I totally agree with that.

JD,

10-12 is fair.

and a lot of this has to do with the way our society has completely lost the 40 hour work week.

That makes sense to me.

Richmond,

There is still a disconnect, somewhere there is a happy medium.

The back of the hill said...

10 times a year or less

Lordy! And boruch Hashem.

Savage Kitten and I have been together for two decades. She's 40, I'm 48.

There has been no dampening; she's still as delectable as ever - and as blind to any physical flaws that rumour (and the mirror) has it I might have.