Imagine that you have a weekend pass to a huge waterpark. The waterpark has every sort of slide you can imagine, including the straight-shot one that drives your bathing suit into a giant atomic wedgie.
You have plans to take your kids and watch their joy as they skip off to their first of many slides. You pack everything up in the car, herd your cat-like family along and arrive at the park, ready for action.
But when you go to present your pass to get into the park, you realize that you forgot it at home. The park is really expensive: without the pass you must turn away and hope you can make it all happen next time.
This is a way to look at sex in a marriage.
We can have it all together—a home, careers, children who are blooming into beautiful young adults. As a couple we can be a great team, we can laugh, we can be the best of cheerleaders for one another. But. If you don’t have that pass to the waterpark (sex) you don’t get to go on any of the fun rides. You may get to look at them through the fence, but it won’t be the same as shooting down the tube and standing up, exhilarated, when you reach the bottom, with your bathing suit jammed up into your ass crack.
Something is missing.
There are so many reasons that a relationship turns into a sexless one—resentment, other areas of disharmony in the relationship, illness, apathy, exhaustion…so many. If both parties are satisfied with the amount of sex going on, then SUPER, but if there is any disagreement it’s something that will build and could benefit from being addressed.
I was in a relationship like this. We would sometimes go months without really touching each other. Yes, I said months. I remember feeling rejected, frustrated and angry a lot of time, hoping to be thrown some sort of bone and to get the affection that my body so craved. It was a very lonely way to live.
I worked with a client who had basically been abandoned in his relationship when his partner wouldn’t engage in physical intimacy for more than 4 years. It drove such a wedge between them that he sought affection outside of the marriage. It wasn’t the most moral way to deal with it, and it caused a lot of hurt, but I can’t say I don’t appreciate his feelings of emotional bankruptcy.
I just think it’s sad. We shouldn’t have to live in this “sex-starved” way.
Touch is one of the things that humans actually require to exist, along with water, shelter, food and sleep. It’s critical. And yet, some people don’t get that from the one person they have chosen to team up with in the world.
I have long-ended the relationship that was so lonely and have gone on to enjoy a very satisfying intimate life with my current partner. Still, we do have to work on making sex a priority at times. We had a few weeks where medical things, circumstances and schedules seemed to be conspiring to keep us apart; when we were in the same city, we would both land in a heap at the end of the day, barely wishing each other good night before slipping off. It became easier to not engage than to dive in.
It was so easy to see how weeks could have snowballed into more—how we could have fallen into the pattern of just not doing it.
In that period, I found myself missing the intimacy of that naked connection, and it made me feel “off”—I was quick to snap when I was frustrated, I wasn’t as kind or compassionate as I usually am and I didn’t feel close to him at all. This prompted me to bring it up and ask for what I needed. We talked about it and got things back on the right track.
But what if you aren’t me and aren’t hyper-aware of this sort of thing? What if you decide it’s “just the way things are” and continue on? What if you can’t look at this as the energy between yourself and your partner, but instead take it on as personal shame and rejection?
I don’t have a simple answer here. There are as many reasons for a marriage to become sexless as there are ways to address it. I could probably write a dozen blog posts about this alone, and I could easily interview a hundred couples who have either had this happen in their relationship or are dealing with it right now.
I feel like my job here is to crack some of this open and be the place where relationships get real.
I assure you, this is real.
I would recommend tiptoeing in with a little assessment: ask yourself how satisfied you feel with the intimacy in your relationship. If the answer is “very unsatisfied,” maybe it’s time to look at that a little more. What are you envisioning for your intimate life? Is it more actual sex, is it more connected sex, or is it intimacy and connection outside the bedroom? Sometimes a short session (with a coach like moi!) to get on track is all you will need and you can do this without your partner having to agree to join you.
Our relationships are so complex. The layers we live in give us many places to play, but if they are missing these components of touch and intimacy, then we are missing the thrill and holy-cow-this-is-exciting! part of relationship that is like the glorious drop-off of a water slide. And I think we all want that bathing suit wedgie of joy.