Is Your Marriage a Sexual Catch-22?

The perfect marital Catch-22: I expect you to be monogamous in our marriage, but I am unwilling to have sex with you.

The perfect marital Catch-22: I expect you to be monogamous in our marriage, but I am unwilling to have sex with you. In addition, I don’t want to talk about it, and you don’t have the right to be upset with me. This is the way it is in way too many marriages. If it sounds like yours, I am truly sorry.

And talk about the ties that bind. How is someone who takes their marriage vows seriously, and cares about their family, supposed to handle this? Monogamy is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “practice of having a single mate during a period of time”. If monogamy is expected, doesn’t that imply some form of mating – physical intimacy- is going on?

For me, this becomes a question of what role sex plays in a marriage. Yes, it’s the path to procreation.  But, if that’s its only purpose, humans would be like the animals that only mate a few times a year when they are capable of producing offspring. Because humans can feel desire at any time, and therefore engage in sexual behavior, there must be more to it.

Physical intimacy is about feeling good in so many ways. It can be a form of wild, passionate abandon; a slow, intimate way to make up; and a means of connecting on a deep, emotional level. It is an intricate and important part of what marriage is all about for many.

Therefore, it’s simply heartbreaking to listen to my clients (mostly male) talk about the rejection and despair they feel when they find themselves in a marriage that does not include this very personal way of expressing deeply felt emotion. The sense of loss, confusion, and guilt is almost overwhelming.

The spouse, either husband (occasionally) or wife (usually), who is less interested in a physical relationship maintains the power over the other spouse’s sense of well-being and emotional happiness. This imbalance, if left unaddressed, can lead to resentment, anger, and the eventual dissolution of the marriage.

There are some steps each partner can take to remedy the situation and get their relationship, both physical and emotional, back on the right track.

The lower drive spouse can:

  • Investigate any physiological source for the problem.  A thorough medical exam may be helpful.
  • Address any sexual abuse or violence that may have left some residual effects.
  • Challenge your underlying view of sex and what you learned about it growing up.
  • Analyze the overall health of your relationship for contributing feelings of anger and resentment.

The desiring spouse can:

  • Manage your emotions around this issue so you can be open to your spouse’s challenges.
  • Get clarity about your physical and emotional needs.
  • Define the minimally acceptable level of physical intimacy you can agree to.
  • Identify your options if nothing changes and be willing to discuss them with your partner.

Marriage is unique to the two people in it. As long as it works for both of you, you’re good. Unfortunately, if one of you is unhappy, the marriage cannot be happy. Physical intimacy is one area that most people expect to be part of their married lives. Unresolved issues in this area can cause irreparable harm. It may be a difficult challenge to address, but it will ultimately be worthwhile.

Do you and your partner struggle with your intimacy? What would make this area of your marriage better? What can you do to move things in a more positive direction?

Need help with this? Get a free 15-minute laser coaching session on your biggest intimacy challenge.

This post was previously published on The Hero Husband Project and is republished here with permission from the author.


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