Contrary to what you might be thinking, saying that a marriage is "sex-starved" tells you virtually nothing about how much or how little sex a couple is actually having. It's not about numbers. It's not just about sex-less couples who have slept in separate bedrooms for years.
In fact, it includes couples who, according to national surveys, have an "average" amount of sex each month. Since, unlike vitamins, there are no recommended daily requirements to ensure a healthy sex life, a sex-starved marriage is more about the fallout that occurs when one spouse is deeply unhappy with his or her sexual relationship and this unhappiness is ignored, minimized, or dismissed. The resulting disintegration of the relationship encapsulates the real meaning of a sex-starved marriage.
Sex is an extremely important part of marriage. When it's good, it offers couples opportunities to give and receive physical pleasure, to connect emotionally and spiritually. It builds closeness, intimacy, and a sense of partnership. It defines their relationship as different from all others. Sex is a powerful tie that binds.
As with Debra and Tom, when one spouse isn't interested in sex, the touching, kissing, and other forms of physical affection and intimacy often cease as well. Spouses distance from each other emotionally. They carry on their lives together in much the same way that two toddlers might engage in parallel play -- involved in similar activities in close proximity but without meaningful connection. Marriage becomes mechanical. Friendship often evaporates. Anger bubbles just below the surface. Misunderstandings abound. Emotional "divorce" becomes inevitable.
More highly sexed partners such as Tom feel confused and cheated by their spouses' lack of interest in their sex lives and try to figure out what's at the root of their partners' rejections. Unfortunately, they often assume the worst: "My wife isn't attracted to me," or "He must be having an affair," or "The kids' needs are more important than mine."
When people believe that their spouses aren't attracted to them, that their marriages or their feelings aren't important, or that an affair is brewing, they feel rejected, suspicious, hurt, resentful, and unloved. They start doubting themselves and their abilities to satisfy their spouses. They often feel deeply depressed about the void in their marriages.
When they try to explain these feelings to their partners, their explanations are often flatly dismissed. "You don't have the need to feel closer to me, you're just a sex maniac," or "If you would go to work in the real world rather than be home with the kids, you would understand why I'm so tired all the time," or "If you weren't so controlling, you would just accept that I'm not as physical as you are and you would leave me alone!" or "It's only sex. What's the big deal?"
However, to someone like Tom -- the partner yearning for a better sexual relationship -- being lovers is a big deal. It's much more than mere physical pleasure. It's connection, intimacy, closeness, and affection. It's about feeling attractive, feeling masculine or feminine, and feeling whole as a person. It's about being in love. It's about a feeling of oneness. But since people with low sexual desire aren't hungering for a sexual connection, they're not overly empathetic to their spouses' feelings and do little to make significant changes in their relationships.
Eventually, feelings of rejection become increasingly difficult to manage. Sadness turns to anger. Those yearning for more physical closeness vacillate between being distant and unpleasant. And although these behaviors are merely symptoms of underlying hurt, people with low sexual desire don't perceive their spouses' behavior quite so benevolently. Empathy is in short supply. Arguments about sex, or the lack of it, become the norm. Blame-slinging disagreements add to the already icy distance between spouses. Then, like a runaway train, it's not long before their bitterness and animosity collide head-on with every other aspect of their relationship. Nothing seems right anymore.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you felt starved for a better sexual relationship with your spouse? Are you desperately yearning to be touched, held, fondled, and caressed? Have your pleas for closeness and more sexual connection fallen on deaf ears? Do you tell yourself that your spouse will never understand your sexual needs? Do you sometimes feel defeated -- times when you've considered divorce or satisfying your needs for sexuality and intimacy outside your marriage?
Or on the other hand . . .
Are you someone whose sexual desire has plummeted out of sight? Do you feel mystified by your apparent disinterest in sex? Are you frustrated and angry about the never-ending arguments with your spouse? Have disappointment and hurt between you made intimacy an even less likely prospect? Or do you find yourself wishing that this whole "sex thing" would stop ruining your otherwise decent marriage?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I implore you to keep reading because your marriage is at risk. Unsatisfying sexual relationships are the all-too-frequent causes of alienation, infidelity and divorce. Given our sobering divorce rate -- one out of every two marriages dies -- you cannot afford to be complaisant about the wedge between you and your spouse. You need to address this very important aspect of your relationship, and you need to do it now.
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