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Monday, June 16, 2014

The End of Sex

We're supposed to be able to enjoy sex throughout our marriages. The physical relationship is one of the three 'legs' - physical, emotional, and spiritual - which keep the relationship stable.

It's also ordained by the Almighty. Pulling away from our spouse physically is expressly frowned upon, with the exception of mutually agreed periods for prayer and fasting.

And yet...it's been estimated that sex has gone missing for nearly half of married couples over the age of forty, and for a significant number of couples in their twenties and thirties as well.

What's happened? How can one of the biggest attractions during courtship, the promise of physical intimacy, be so easily discarded?

And at what cost?

There are a number of reasons why sexuality in marriage is abandoned- here's a sampling.

Illness - this may be a valid reason to avoid intercourse, especially if it causes pain to one of the partners, or medications make participation either impossible or exhausting. But it doesn't leave an excuse for turning away from other forms of intimacy that may not end in oragsm.

Yes, guys, this means cuddling. Illness does some pretty awful things to a woman's self esteem and self-image, and if you just hold her, and make it clear that you're enjoying holding her, you'll do wonders for her morale.

As she may one day do wonders for yours, if prostate problems put an end to your 'abilities. It happens.

No time / Too tired - this is the famous one that features into nearly every stand-up comedian's routine. It's tempting to dismiss it as a dodge, but really...life can be pretty exhausting, and it takes mutual intentionality to overcome this barrier.

The problem is that when it's seen - wrongly - as a dodge, egos get bruised. "He / she doesn't really want me, and it's an excuse!" Instead of talking about it, the 'rejected' partner sulks. And just how sexually attractive is a whiny, sulking mate? Not very, and the problem perpetuates itself through avoidance.

Boredom - There have been dozens of books written about the best techniques and positions and mood-setting devices that will take the boredom out of your sex life.

Throw 'em away. Sex in your marriage is not about thrills or novelty. It's about your partner. It's about comfort, and love, and closeness, and breathing the same air.

Performance issues - the rising tide of pornographic imagery and themes in literature, movies, and television make sex something of an Olympic event, and if we don't "get the gold" we feel somehow...cheated. or we feel inadequate.

Both are killers of intimacy. Marital sex is not supposed to be performance based. It's supposed to be a sharing of bodies and hearts in a very vulnerable way - yes, the n-word. N-a-k-e-d.

And it doesn't have to end in orgasm, for either husband or wife.

Criticism - criticizing a spouse for what he or she does in your intimate relationship can end said relationship, just like that. (I'm not talking about the husband who starts getting vile ideas from the Internet - that, yeah, criticize, because it's dead wrong, and a form of infidelity...he had to get those ideas somewhere.)

No, this is more about criticism of technique or timing. You can still hint..."I love it when you do that", but saying "Don't do that, I don't like it!" puts your partner on the defensive.

Marital sex has no place for offense or defense. It's about mutuality, and criticism "takes the high ground", in preparation for a battle that should never be fought.

What happens when sex is banished from a marriage? Bad things.

For both women and men, non-exercise of the libido results in its diminution - if you don't use it, you lose it. (Yes, ladies, it does work this way for men, too.)

When libido starts to go away, it's mentally 'discounted', as being somehow beneath one's dignity. Stay away from the bedroom long enough, and you won't know how to imagine going back.

Abandoning sex also diminishes closeness. Couples will avoid hugs that seem 'too intimate', and will soon be giving each other A-frame embraces, with contact only at the shoulders. Or worse...pats on the back.

Wow. Patting your spouse on the back instead of hugging him or her. Really? Yes. Really.

And as physical closeness goes, emotional closeness can follow. We need contact. We're not ethereal being whose hearts are sufficiently stirred by love poetry. We're not made that way.

Experiments have been done on monkeys. Take a baby monkey away from all contact, just give it food and medication and all it needs to survive, and what does it do? It dies.

They repeated that experiment in Romania, under the Communists, in orphanages. A lot of babies died, and a lot more grew up as psychopaths.

We need each other.

As husbands and wives, we need each other sexually.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. Powerful stuff, Andrew. At the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Leadership conference that my husband and I attended in May, Pete and Geri Scazzero (authors and the conference leaders) talked about the need for "skin to skin" time. This meant getting naked and laying with your spouse just to cuddle. There really is something so bonding in physical touch. The less we do it, the less we feel connected or passionate in our marriage. Thanks for addressing this, my friend. As a counselor/life coach I hear about it all the time and the lack of sex is often the best predictor of how far the couple has drifted.

    1. Beth, you're right, the need for 'skin time' on a consistent basis is absolute.

      Stepping back from that can be very dangerous for the Christian; we can begin to think ourselves 'above' the physical side of our nature, through a misappropriation of the ascetic traditions of our faith. We hide behind Augustine and the Desert Fathers because we get scared of something within ourselves, and something in our mates.

      This was a hard subject to write - mention sex, and you don't know quite how a Christian audience will take it!

      But I'm glad I did.

  2. I appreciate your bluntness, Andrew. Sometimes we're reluctant to spell things out so openly, but when someone does, and we relate, it's a good thing. There are so many things that can work against a married couple's sex life, but so many things that we can do right too to keep it as good as we can. Thanks for sharing.