No, it’s not beyond repair.
Remember when you first started dating your SO? You were all over each other, all the time – in the car, in the kitchen, in that hotel room you spent most of your paycheque on just to enjoy a night of hot sex…
Now you’ve been married for a few years and you can’t actually remember the last time you did it.
It’s tough to keep sex in long-term relationships hot AF, but if the mere thought of getting down and dirty is anxiety-inducing, you could be in the throes of a ‘sex-starved marriage’. Marriage therapist and author Michele Weiner-Davis, who coined the term, classifies a sex-starved marriage as one in which couples have sex no more than 10 times a year. Here, we take a close look at the scourge to determine what causes it and how to fix it before it sends you running to a divorce lawyer…
What exactly is a sex-starved marriage?
“A sex-starved marriage is one where one spouse is desperately longing for more touch, more physical closeness, more sex, more physical affection, and the other spouse is thinking ‘What is the big deal? Would you just get a life – it’s just sex’,” explains Weiner-Davis.
“But to the spouse yearning for more sex and more touch, it’s a huge deal, because it really is about feeling wanted, about feeling loved, about feeling connected, about feeling masculine or feminine and attractive.”
What causes it?
According to clinical professor Dr Rosemary Basson, there are four stages of the sexual-response cycle in humans. In order, these are desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution. However, for millions of people, the first two stages are reversed, meaning their bodies actually have to be physically aroused in order for them to feel sexual desire.
So if you’re the spouse who doesn’t crave sex, it’s not easy to just get in the mood to have sex before experiencing desire, and this is the crossroads that can break a lot of marriages, affecting both women, and yes, guys too.
“I’m convinced that low desire in men is one of our best-kept secrets,” says Weiner-Davis.
What are the consequences of a sex-starved marriage?
As much as we might like to deny the fact, sex plays a big part in a mature relationship, so sexual starvation can and does have a ripple effect on a relationship.
“Intimacy on all levels goes right out the door. They stop sitting next to each other on the couch, they quit laughing at each other’s jokes, they don’t spend time together, they stop being friends. And it places the marriage at risk or infidelity and divorce,” explains Weiner-Davis.
“What’s really amazing to me about this unilateral decision-making is that one person decides ‘no sex’ and expects the partner to accept it, not complain about it and – oh, yes – they still have to be monogamous. This is an unworkable arrangement.”
So then, how can it be fixed?
Once you’ve identified you’re in a sex-starved marriage, Weiner-Davis strongly suggests you do not follow your first instinct – whatever your role.
“Very often, the very thing couples do to deal with a sex-starved marriage actually makes things worse. In the early stages of dealing with a sex-starved marriage, the person with higher sexual desire usually approaches his or her spouse with open-heartedness and vulnerability, saying things like ‘I miss you’ and ‘I want to have sex with you’. But when those pleads for connection are met with unresponsiveness, like they often are, that vulnerability quickly turns into anger and contempt,” she explains.
“Anger is not an aphrodisiac. Anger leads to sexual withdrawal. Sexual withdrawal leads to heightened anger. Heightened anger leads to sexual anorexia. And then both people wait for the other person to change. And that’s how marriages go down the drain.”
Instead, Weiner-Davis recommends getting a grip on your anger – regardless of whether you feel short-changed or not – and making an effort to be more present in your partner’s life, as it’s these things that will help reignite the spark. If you’re the partner with low sexual desire, Weiner-Davis advises adopting the Nike philosophy to ‘just do it’, because jumping into what you may consider the deep end and allowing yourself to be aroused again will have a flow-on effect, actually prompting you to experience a feeling of desire again. Like any muscle, your libido needs to be used regularly to stay strong. The good news is, once you’ve used it a few times again, it’ll start to fire up more frequently on its own.
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Comment: What do you do to get yourself in the mood?