Recently, my wife and I were part of a roundtable discussion on Marriage and Communication. The discussion brought us to a point where initiation of sexual intimacy became prominent. We’d started talking about how our daily activities would wind down and how couples navigated the murky waters of whether or not there would be lovemaking on a particular evening.
The energy level of the group increased. Notably, physical reactions to the discussion became more demonstrable. Men making points received ‘high fives’ from other men in agreement. Women gave similar acknowledgement to one another. And without exception, the women agreed that sex doesn’t happen for three major reasons. While unscientific and not necessarily representative of married women in general, these reasons are oft repeated to me in private marriage counseling sessions, online forums and elsewhere. While anecdote is not necessarily evidence, we think them important enough to review.
1. Timing is bad. “He asks to late in the evening” or “…too early in the morning” or “…when I’m trying to finish an important task.”
Clearly in this case, the answer is not ‘no’ as much as it is ‘not right now.’ The spouse who responds to such initiation might do well to communicate deferment rather than denial. In other words, communicate that you are unready and then assume the responsibility of offering a better time. The spouse who initiates should take note of what times appear to be ‘bad’ and a.) Offer an alternate time or b.) Determine what can be done to make that time better (i.e. help with the task) and take ownership of making ‘bad’ times better!
2. Approach is bad. “What’s up?”, “Are we doing something to night?”, and “Am I hitting that?” seemed to be largely unsuccessful and/or unappealing approaches by men to initiating sexual intimacy!
More than what words we use, communicating a desire for intimacy may require more or less…tact. Communication is comprised of more than just word selection. It is tone of voice, body language, a measure of effort to woo (sometimes) and a pre-existing judgment by the other party of your motives and designs. The assembled women didn’t particularly like that sex was requested regularly without attempts to build arousal, desire, or romance prior. In these cases, it became clear that the wives viewed these approaches as being indicators that sex was only a physical experience for their husbands. I probably don’t have to tell you that sex is more and that most women see it as such (men too). However, perception can be reality. If she perceives this is going to be a wham-bam-thank you-ma’am experience, her sexual response system will disengage and leave her cold to the idea of intercourse. Guys…pay attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it. Reference concern number 1 to make sure your timing is right!
3. Environment is bad. Conditions were described in which sex was requested on the heels of a fresh argument, after discussing stressful financial issues or with other unresolved issues fresh on their minds.
If we only made love when everything was well with us, well…there’d be a lot fewer births! However, the idea that sexual intimacy can be therapeutic has to be one that is shared. While we really shouldn’t let a sun set on our anger as a couple, there are things that can’t be resolved in a day or evening. An environment can turn ‘bad’ when unresolved issues are left hanging in the air without the promise of resolution. Ultimately, we can find a great deal more comfort as married couples when we are careful to provide a transparent commitment to working through difficult issues with a an equally transparent commitment to growing and strengthening the relationship’s bond. In other words, if the ‘no’ to sex is because there is resentment or lack of desire as a result of problems or stress, each should take the opportunity to assure the other that, as a team, you will succeed and overcome. Schedule a time to come together to resolve the open issue(s). Then, make passionate love in affirmation and celebration of your commitment to one another.
The above observations assume much.
- The marriage is fundamentally strong…outside the bedroom
- Each spouse believes the other’s fidelity
- Each spouse is committed to the other’s satisfaction
- Neither spouse has an unspoken resentment or emotional injury that would prohibit healthy sexual interaction
If you are struggling in other areas of your marriage, sexual intimacy may suffer. See your pastor, a therapist or marriage counselor for help. If you can’t afford to pay for such assistance, speak with an older couple you know for sage advice on how to get your marriage back on track.
Be open to their advice and the idea that you might have to change things about yourself to make your marriage…and sex-life better!