Arguing about Sex

I’m writing a series of articles about fights in marriage and this week's topic is sex. That got your attention, didn’t it?

When it comes to marital fights, sex is the topic with nuclear fire power. It has great potential to unite a couple, but it also can attack and destroy on many levels. Sex arguments have a multitude of subparts that can fan a flame of disagreement into a conflagration: frequency, quantity, quality, pornography, infidelity and lack of interest are all common sources of fights in a marriage. And it’s important to remember sex is not just a “physical thing”. Sex involves more than just your body. Michele Weiner-Davis writes:

I've been a marriage therapist for two decades. I've been privileged to hear the real stories of people's lives- the joys, the pain, the challenges, the payoffs. I've had a bird's eye view of what truly happens to marriages in which one spouse has little or no desire for sex and the other yearns for it desperately. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that a marriage void of sexuality and intimacy is a marriage doomed to fail.

On her website, , Davis shares excerpts from people (not married to each other) struggling with the lack of sex in their marriage:

A man writes: Please, please help me. I am going through hell!! I am twenty-eight years old, married with a three-year-old daughter. For the past three years, my wife has avoided being sexual with me, my wife is not interested in sex. It has slowly gone from having sex maybe twice a week to now, if I'm lucky, once a month. And even then, it's not really having sex. It's more like her saying, "Hurry up and get in here and let's do this before our child wakes up." There is no foreplay. She doesn't even kiss me. I'm the one who always is initiating any sort of affection.

A woman writes: I have a husband who is a good guy; great father, good provider, but I have no lover. This lack of sex in my marriage is more than just a lack of physical attention... It goes deep into a woman's heart. I think in a normal marriage, a couple can fight about anything, but then they can make love and soothe the bad feelings... sort of like a sexual rebirth, a forgiving ritual. But when you are deprived of even that, bitterness and sexual resentment and desperation accumulate. I'm angry about the wasted years, the years I could have been loving, but spent agonizing about why I was being sex deprived. It's so much more than sex. It's feeling wanted, and sexy and desired by the man that you are committed to for life.

See? The woman says “It’s so much more than sex.” This goes back to my original observation. Sex is not just a physical thing. Sex engages us on a physical, emotional, mental and even a spiritual level. Sex is “good” (check out the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament if you’re a doubter). But like every good thing, it can be twisted and misused.

If you’re having fights about sex in your marriage no glib list of suggestions will smooth out all your waves. But try one or more of these tactics:

1. Try Weiner-Davis’ “Great American Sex Challenge”. Weiner writes: “For the next two weeks, do an experiment. Whether you're completely in the mood or not, make your sexual relationship a bigger priority. Initiate sex. Flirt. Be sexy- fondle your spouse when you pass in the hall, send sexy emails or pager messages, compliment your spouse on the way s/he looks, get out of your dumpy, sweat pants and put energy into how you look, be more creative during love-making. Then fasten your seatbelts. You are about to see your grouchy, withdrawn spouse transform before your very eyes. If you don't believe it, JUST DO IT and watch what happens.

2. Try talking through your sex related issue using the “speaker listener” technique. Here’s a link to a youtube video that gives some instruction on this communication approach. It’s a good way to talk when you encounter “hot topics”.

3. If these “do it yourself” approaches don’t work, seriously consider getting counseling. It is especially difficult to be unemotional and thoughtful when talking to your marriage partner about sex. Sometimes a third party counselor is needed. Push yourself over the speed bump of hesitation (Oh no! I don’t want to talk to a stranger about our sex life!). It will be worth it.

Remember, sex has great potential—for uniting or dividing. Do the hard work necessary to make its potential result in good things for your marriage.

By Jim Priest

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