Living: Sex in the Modern Marriage
“Make an appointment to have sex? You’ve got to be kidding …” No, I’m not kidding when I say this to couples who come into my office complaining of no sex for weeks, even months. They talk about their busy, demanding lives that leave them exhausted with no energy left for their own relationship, and they’re feeling the loss of the intimacy a close sexual relationship offers. They seem sad that they have let life’s pressure rob them of time for just themselves.
Couples today have so much and so many competing for the same number of hours that have always been in a day, they don’t know how to cram any more into those 24 hours. Often each spouse is starved for a little “me time” after feeling the demands of the day and will wander off after the kids are in bed to read or have some computer time. They are too weary to interact — much less initiate a sexual encounter. They often feel simultaneously rejected and guilty, but don’t have enough energy to correct the situation. Unfortunately having intimate time with your spouse often becomes relegated to the back burner. This may work for awhile — if both spouses are equally busy and individually challenged — but over time, the distance they experience will promote feelings of isolation, loneliness and sadness; and they wonder what has happened to their relationship.
Well, mainly life has happened. Courtship and marriage are vastly different, and it is the charm of courtship that propels most of us into marriage. When you’re courting, your time together is just about being together. Each of you is managing your own life, taking care of the incumbent responsibilities required to keep yourself going — the two of you are not sharing any of those. Since you’re not sharing, there is no need to have to negotiate or compromise — two activities that can put a real damper on libido. Again, courtship is all about “us,” and it’s a glorious interlude that you need to refer back to from time to time. It can help you get some of the old magic of courtship back into your present relationship.
Marriage changes everything, as most of us discover, and the dynamics shift as couples begin to share life instead of dinner and a movie. Almost gradually, time gets eaten up by new roles the couple acquires as they continue to age and meet developmental milestones: a house (mortgage); children; new jobs, promotions; social obligations; family needs; etc. Often both spouses work to help fund their lifestyle, and many times, the pursuit of “stuff” becomes a great vacuum of time and energy. Too many couples come in broken-hearted at the loss of what they had in the beginning and are aware that “accumulating” has deprived them of intimacy. Often I say, “Sell the boat,” meaning get your priorities straight.
So what can help resolve this situation? Well, each spouse needs to consciously begin to make time for each other: date night; a weekend away every couple of months (even if it’s at the Motel 6); have lunch together; text and tweet during the day to let the other know he/she is being thought of; get the kids to bed earlier and declare, “we’re off duty for the rest of this evening and do not knock on our door unless there’s smoke or blood.” By doing so, the couple reclaims their relationship by making the changes needed to put their relationship first, enough of the time that they feel close and connected again. A strong marriage is the heartbeat of the family, so there is no good reason to feel guilty about wanting time for yourselves. The kids may squawk, but they’ll survive. Usually they feel more secure when they know their parents love each other and want time together.
Again, it takes a conscious awareness of how you want your relationship to be different and the effort to make the changes to get there. I’ve said many times, there is no other relationship that can be as comforting and crucial for personal satisfaction than a good marital one. Of course it takes effort, your marriage needs attention and nurturing, but the returns on your investment of time and energy are immeasurable. Trust me on this.