Keeping the flame alight
In her book 365 Days: A Memoir of Intimacy, Charla Muller charts the year she had sex every day with her husband, which she gave him as a present for his 40th birthday. The book touched a nerve for many married couples when it was first published in the USA in 2008.
Muller admits that, like many people juggling work, children and domestic chores, she’d become an expert at dodging sexual contact with her husband – even dreading the wandering hand in the bed at night.
‘My husband was constantly thinking to himself, “I wonder if today’s the day?”, and I was thinking, “I wonder if I can hold off till tomorrow?”’
Muller considered herself happily married but admits, like a lot of married couples with kids, that sex had got lost along the way. ‘Its absence becomes a presence in the marriage, a silent tension hanging in the air. It certainly was in mine’, she says.
Sex and intimacy
Although they didn’t manage it every single night for a year, Muller says the effect of having sex nearly every day had a great effect on the intimacy of their marriage. Though she admits it did sometimes feel like a chore, she says that having to find the time for sex meant it stopped becoming a big deal. Her husband Brad put it this way:
‘Sex every day is not a long-term sustainable model, but neither is sex hardly ever. The key was to land somewhere in between’.
Just do it
A controversial suggestion but it seems that sometimes it’s worth just getting on with sex even when you don’t particularly feel like it.
The book suggests that men and women are wired differently and that sex tends to play a bigger part in men’s lives since they are more easily stimulated by imagery and touch. This may, however, be a generalisation.
It may be more useful to look at it as though some people are more easily aroused than others, but that deciding to give it a go can sometimes help you to warm up and get in the mood. However, it’s very important to trust your own instincts and desires. If you try this and it still doesn’t feel right for you, stop.
Psychologist Janet Reibstein suggests seeing it a bit like exercise – it can start off as a physical effort but gets better the more you do it. ‘It’s not wrong if it’s not erotic from the start. [Couples] should never blame [each other] for that difference between them’.
Why it’s worth it
Reibstein says that some people only express intimacy through sex – it may even be their main way of expressing love. So, if their partner goes off sex, they feel rejected and unloved. For those people, it might seem like the solution is to have sex outside the relationship, but that won’t stop them from being upset by the lack of intimacy within the relationship.
Others prefer to create intimacy by talking and then start to feel like having sex because of the intimacy they have built. When one partner finds it hard to talk, and the other needs this to feel intimate, it can become a vicious circle.
What to do if you don’t feel you’re having enough sex
If you and your partner have different levels of sexual desire, you may start to feel that there is not enough sex in your relationship. However, there’s little value in getting angry about it.
The onus is on both partners to recognise each other’s sexual language, but either of you can take responsibility for starting the conversation about what you’re going do about it.
However the conversation starts, it’s important that you both recognise and accept the differences in your sexual desires and, rather than seeing that difference as rejection, to enter into each other’s language. That can mean talking, and creating a mood of intimacy, and working to fulfill each other’s needs, as well as your own.
Suzi Godson: www.suzigodson.com
Donnelly, D., and Burgess, E. (2008). The decision to remain in an involuntarily celibate relationship. Journal of Marriage and Family 70(2):519-535.
Sex and the Psyche: The Truth About Our Most Secret Fantasies, by Bret Kahr, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, and Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Arts at Roehampton University