Do We Owe Sex to Our Spouse?
By Guest Blogger Dr. Myrtle C. Means
When individuals enter into a marital union there are spoken and unspoken promises. Many people take for granted that sex is a part of the commitment. However, there are many sexless marriages. While some couples have no choice because of circumstance, like a spouse who suffers from a chronic or even fatal disease like Alzheimer’s, there are also those who make a choice not to address the various factors that contribute to their sexual dysfunction. These factors may have a physical origin and include diagnoses such as erectile dysfunction (ED), vaginismus (involuntary contractions of the vagina which makes intercourse painful or impossible), or high blood pressure. They may also have an emotional origin: depression, anxiety, anger, and loss of desire for the spouse.
No matter the source of the problem, it must first be identified as something that can have a detrimental affect on the marriage and the individuals in it. When you don’t use it, you lose it. The body begins to have difficulty responding. Furthermore, sex becomes a topic that is fraught with anxiety and insecurity, instead of being as natural and as important as eating and sleeping. When this need goes unmet frustration develops, and often manifests in marriage as hostility, withdrawal, and sometimes infidelity. Lack of physical intimacy can affect the level of emotional intimacy. Both types of intimacy are necessary to solidify and support the marital bond. Part of marriage is choosing a person who is unique, on whom you can depend to meet your needs, including sex. Once you no longer need each other the marriage is in a precarious place.
Couples need to discuss sexuality openly as a normal function of their marriage, not just when there are problems. Therefore, when problems arise the automatic response is to sort it out. They may try experimenting with new tools and techniques: positions, mutual masturbation, oral sex, erotic literature/movies, and toys. If the couple is unable to resolve the problem, they should seek help from someone like myself—a psychologist or sexologist. Together they can find answers to the following questions: Is it a marital issue or a personal one? Is the problem medical or psychological? Is it a choice? It is temporary or permanent? Once the problem has been identified, then you can explore viable options.
If there are marital problems, couples therapy can help to identify them and offer solutions. Sometimes a period of abstinence is required to give a couple the opportunity to reconnect, fall back in love, treat medical problems, or make decisions regarding the future of the marriage itself. Sometimes sex is one?sided (just for him or her). It is rare that two people have the same sexual appetite all the time. Sometimes you meet your partner’s needs because you want to give him pleasure. In this instance, it is not done begrudgingly, but lovingly. Sometimes you fake it, until you make it. I am not talking about dishonesty. Sometimes you invite the mood to come. Staying open to the possibilities is one step towards intimacy.
Sex is one of life’s great pleasures. You owe it to yourself to have healthy loving relationships full of gratification.
Dr. Myrtle C. Means, psychologist and author of The Recipe for Ecstasy, resides in the Detroit area. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Michigan State University and University of Detroit Mercy, respectively. Although Dr. Means provides service to a diverse clinical population, she specializes in human sexuality.