Monogamy Brings Responsibility
Often the issue of monogamy in marriage is discussed in a vacuum. One or both attest to their desire for monogamy, but the conversation doesn't include an honest examination of the primary sexual relationship between the two partners. Is it not relevant to include the fact that one partner is withholding sex if the other partner is being judged for going elsewhere to meet his sexual needs? “With monogamy comes responsibility” means that if you want your partner to be monogamous, you have to be willing to participate in a sexual relationship. One husband in marriage therapy once expressed his feelings this way: “My wife expects because she is not hungry, that I should not eat.” He has a good point: Simply saying “no” cannot be the end of the conversation about sex in a marriage.
Compromise is still the best route to marital happiness. As Dr. Deborah Newman wrote in Then God Created Woman, “In every marriage, someone is having sex more often than he or she wants, and someone is having sex less than he or she would like. In good marriages, couples compromise and are able to give and receive in order to satisfy both partners.”
Once sexuality is dormant in a relationship, the problem needs to be addressed from several perspectives. One route to a solution is through communication. The woman and man need to express needs and desires, and eventually within a monogamous relationship, compromise must be found so both feel satisfied with the sexual union. While lack of sex is never the sole reason for the end of a marriage, a lack of intimacy — including having sex — can derail the best relationships if not attended to.
Here is one couple's experience with these delicate issues.
Jim and Susan were in their early forties and hadn't had sexual relations in over two years when they first came for marriage therapy. After the birth of their second child, Susan couldn't lose the thirty pounds she'd gained during her pregnancy. Meanwhile Jim felt frustrated, lonely, and unloved. The strain of his wanting sex and her repeatedly saying “No” had taken its toll on the relationship. He rarely asked anymore. “But he didn't have to,” Susan said, “it's always in the background.” On weekends, the two dealt with the household and kids, rarely doing anything alone as a couple.
“The problem is I don't feel sexy,” Susan said after Jim shared his feelings.
“But I still think you're sexy,” he said. “Isn't that enough?” Susan looked away as tears started to fall down her cheeks. “You're just saying that,” she said. Clearly it was not enough.
Jim and Susan still loved each other and wanted to stay together, and they were way too young to give up sex. What could they do?
It's important for a couple like Jim and Susan to know that their situation is a common one. Many wives who no longer like their bodies refuse to believe their husbands still want them sexually. As a result, a woman in Susan's spot takes her anger and mistrust out on her man. It's a dangerous point in a marriage, one that can lead to a husband having affairs, or it can cause the couple to become permanently estranged.
First, they both had to recognize and accept what was actually happening in the relationship. In the language of self-growth, they had to “accept what is.” Then, each had to both come to a clear decision to fix what was wrong. Clearly, Susan had not yet done either of these things.
To help his wife move past her insecurity about whether she was still sexually desirable to him, Jim would have to convince Susan that he found her attractive; essentially, he had to woo her back enlisting the same feelings and using the methods he'd employed to win her love in the beginning of their relationship.
Ultimately, for their relationship to thrive, Susan had to decide whether or not to lose the weight for herself, not for Jim. At the same time, if she expected Jim to remain faithful in the marriage, Susan had a responsibility to continue their sexual relationship. With honest communication, and several weeks of working at creating romance, time alone, and playing with (non-goal-oriented) sensual touch, Jim and Susan slowly rekindled their emotional and sexual connection and resumed a satisfying sex life.
A good sexual relationship takes a real commitment to the relationship, a willingness to move through uncomfortable feelings, and good old-fashioned effort. Part of this effort involves a reclaiming of some of the feelings that each of you experienced during your initial courtship. Not to go back in time, but to enrich the present with some of the adoration that enchants the early stages of the love relationship but falls away as everyday life takes hold.