How important is sex for a healthy marriage? Supposedly one in three couples is struggling with a "sexual desire gap" -- meaning one of you wants it a whole lot more than the other does. It's not surprising. All the demands on our lives, the stress, the lack of sleep, can be libido-crushing. And sex is hard to talk about for many couples. But letting your sexless marriage chug along untended could seriously hurt your relationship -- and in ways you may not even be aware of.
There's a lot of great advice for couples struggling to get some sexual healing back into their marriage. But relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis has a novel suggestion for those of you in a sex-starved marriage. Here's how to save your marriage if you're never or rarely in the mood for gettin' it on.
But first, here's why a healthy, thriving sex life is important to your marriage: "It's really about feeling loved, about feeling wanted, about feeling connected," Weiner-Davis says. When your sex life dies, "intimacy on all levels goes right out the door." We need that intense connection, maybe even more than we need food and water. Worse, disconnection and rejection hurt.
So what can you do if you're just not in the mood? Change the way we think about how sexual desire works. We usually think of sex happening something like this:
1. Feelings of desire lead to ....
2. Initiating sex and feeling aroused, which leads to ...
3. Feeling an orgasms, we hope! Which then leads to ...
4. Resolution, that happy afterglow following sex.
What Wiener-Davis suggests is that sex doesn't always happen in this order for everyone. For a lot of people (she says maybe half), steps 1 and 2 are reversed. (And I would say these steps are reversed for all of us from time to time.) Maybe you need to be physically stimulated before you can feel sexual desire. Arousal comes before desire.
So if your partner is in the mood, but you're not, give in to their advances anyway and see if their caresses can get you there. Weiner-Davis says, "Once you get into it you just might remember: 'I like sex.'"
She has advice for spouses on the other end, too -- if you're frustrated that your partner never wants to have sex, you need to manage your feelings of hurt and anger and try to be more understanding. And for both spouses, there are three important lessons Weiner-Davis says we need to remember.
1. We have to become experts in our partners' way of feeling connected to us.
2. Don't tell yourself, "it's just sex." "Sex is a powerful way of connecting and bonding with somebody you love."
3. "When you get your partner's way of connecting with you, you don't have to fully understand it, you don't have to fully agree with it, you just have to do it ... healthy relationships are based on mutual care-taking, plus it's about love."
She's not talking about lying back and just letting someone do their thing while you stare at the ceiling and think about your to-do list. And she's not talking about accepting marital rape. She's talking about treating sex as an act of love, a way to care for your spouse, and a way to feel closer. And I think approaching it with that attitude could make a big difference.
Have you ever tried getting into the mood for sex this way? How did it work?
Image via Corbis