Will One Bad Sex Session Kill Our Marriage?

Judy Dutton headshot

Courtesy of Judy Dutton

One of our CafeMoms wanted to know about bad sex -- specifically if a not-so-exciting romp can kill a marriage.

Question: Last night we had the worst sex we have ever had. Could this strike the last blow to our marriage? My sex drive has been low, but we never had bad sex until last night.

I went to sexpert Judy Dutton, author of How We Do It: How the Science of Sex Can Make You a Better Lover, to get her take on this sticky situation.


Judy Dutton says: "Expecting that sex will always be amazing is unrealistic, and will only set you up for disappointment. This is especially true the longer you stay together. To reset your expectations to more realistic odds, therapists recommend the 2-6-2 rule. Out of every ten times you have sex, twice it’ll be earth-moving, six times it’ll be nice but nothing special, and twice it’ll be so bad you’ll wonder why you bothered. So when you hit a dud night in bed, you can comfort yourself by keeping mind that unless you keep trying, you’ll never get around to those two-out-of-ten amazing encounters!"

Judy's advice is great for anyone. But I worry about the original poster: With so much great sex, why is she feeling so much pressure? There's more to marriage than sex. Of course it's important to feel that spark between you – my first marriage ended because he was more of a brother than a lover. But even the hottest of couples should be able to weather a dry spell without feeling this much anxiety.

Every marriage has its sexual ups and downs. For mine, the post-baby period was worse than most because she spent six weeks in intensive care after her premature birth. I worried horribly that the physical and emotional stress would suck the lust out of our marriage. And for a time, it did.

But what we had, to my surprise*, was an emotional pillow to fall back on. We could talk about how we weren't doing it. We could strategize, look for ways to take care of whichever one of us was wanting more sex at a given time. We could relax and have faith that lust would return. Most of all, we found out that we could keep ourselves connected, emotionally and physically, even when we couldn't indulge in nightly thigh-locks.

Of course, it's always a huge relief when we get through a dry spell; after all, sex is what brought us together. But you need more, and I'd want the mom who posted the original question to work on her self-esteem, see herself as more than a sex object, and look for other ways (Basketball? Salsa dancing? Massage?) to connect physically with her husband, who she obviously loves a ton.

*I had an ex who was brutal about having to have sex all the time. He filled my head with really dumb ideas about sex and relationships, and what a woman has to do to "take care of" her man. Funny how he was never concerned about the other way around. I still hear his voice in my head sometimes, though my husband has done a lot to chase him out of there.

Do you ever feel like bad sex can end your relationship?

Have another sex or relationship question? Ask me in a comment below or send an email here, choosing Love & Sex as your subject. I'll work on getting an expert answer.

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