Sexless Marriage: Is Intimacy Still Possible (yes, duh)

I don’t even know where to begin with the Wall Street Journal’s article about sex in marriage. I am honestly completely disgusted by it, but I’ll do my best to express all of the harmful things that it manages to compress into a few pages.

 

The gist of this article is that if a couple has different expectations of sex, particularly if the man wants to have sex more than the woman, then it can be horribly emotionally harmful to the man to be denied that sex, and the woman should “step up her game” to keep him happy. The reasons it cites for this are that men need orgasms to stay happy, men can’t express their feelings verbally so they need sex to express feelings, and men don’t know how to feel intimate without sex.

 

Now the first and absolutely most important response to this piece is that no one owes another human being sex. Ever. Even if you’re married, even if he wants it, even if you told him you would. There is no circumstance in which you have to have sex with someone. It is your basic right as a human being to say no to sex whenever you choose. I don’t think this should have to be reiterated, but apparently it does.

 

To move on to the actual content of the article, the problem with a lot of the conjectures cited (things like “men express themselves through action not word”) is that they are a.unsubstantiated claims about an entire gender and b.not necessarily natural states of things, but probably socially influenced. Because of these things, a more reasonable solution to a man feeling hurt due to a lack of sex would be for both parties to try to come to some understanding of how to both get their needs met. The man could practice being open with words more often. The woman could practice intimate gestures like hugs or kisses. You can meet halfway. The woman is not obligated to solve all of these problems by “making the man happy”.

 

In addition, this whole article is demeaning to men, to the intimacy of marriage, and to relationships in general. If the only thing you feel your wife is good for is sex and you’re depressed because she isn’t meeting your need, then you may need to do some soul-searching about your relationship. If the only time you feel loved or intimate with your wife is when you’re having sex, you might need to make some adjustments to your expectations or ask your wife to do other things that indicate love (like maybe saying “I love you”). There are thousands of ways to express intimacy. There are thousands of ways to express love. Instead of trying to shame your wife into having sex with you, maybe pick up “Love Languages” or some other form of idiotic communication drivel and figure out how to talk to your wife because apparently you never learned communication.

 

Finally, the whole premise of this article is a bit terrifying to me. It seems to advocate emotionally blackmailing someone into having sex with you. If you ever watched an after school special as a kid that dealt with sex and losing your virginity, the boyfriend would always say “if you loved me you’d have sex with me”. And every single time the adults around you said that that was a really bad reason to have sex if you didn’t feel comfortable with it. This still holds true even when you’re grown up and married. “If you loved me you’d do it” is still a very horrible reason, even if it’s couched in terms of “I feel unloved when you don’t have sex with me”. Guilting someone into having sex with you is highly unethical and extremely scary. When people have tried to use this tactic on me, I have felt sexually violated. The fact that people are promoting the idea of doing this is almost as bad as promoting emotional abuse in a relationship.

 

All of the man’s actions in this story were incredibly passive aggressive. Keeping a journal of their sex record made it absolutely clear to the woman that she was not living up to his expectations and that he was keeping record of it. Telling her he felt unloved was guilt-tripping her. These things are not acceptable. His wife had just gone through a traumatic event, of course she wasn’t interested in sex. Maybe he would have felt more connected with her if he had taken the time to help her process the miscarriage and support her through a difficult time. Maybe he would have felt more loved if he had taken the time to really talk to her about what was going on and what they could do. Instead he chose to make it clear to his wife that he was unhappy and she was responsible for his unhappiness. But no one is ever responsible for another person’s feelings. If he feels unloved then it is his responsibility to figure out how to rectify that situation. It is not his wife’s responsibility to become his fuck-bot so that his hormones can spike and he can feel better about himself. She’s committed to helping him deal with his emotions, but she has not committed to taking on the role of a mother who fixes every situation that hurts her husband. No one can do that.

 

(The Funkes are not the ideal image of how to deal with a sexless marriage. Do not take your life lessons from Arrested Development.)

2 thoughts on “Sexless Marriage: Is Intimacy Still Possible (yes, duh)

  1. Angela says:

    I am interested in this topic! I was wondering if you have any info on the psychological reactions to a husband that does do this to his wife and does this lead to resentment! My feeling is that it may affect you for a long period of time and make your sexual Experiences not an emotional binding one after so long of being made to do it, you may altogether detach yourself emotionally, in other words, put up a wall or go numb!

    • Al says:

      Oh, I can tell you plenty on this subject, but I’d rather not bore you with pages of text. I’ve been with my husband for 18 years and we’ve almost split on several occasions because of differences in sex drive and how we both handle the problem. His drive is much higher than mine, seriously higher. He masturbates every single day to porn, often more than once, by his own admission. Throughout our marriage, he’d punish me with silence or outright yelling and demeaning words if I refused him. Sex went from a lovely expression of love between us to something I dreaded, but did like clockwork 2-3 times per week just to keep him from making everyone n the house miserable. We eventually sought counseling, which has helped him learn to contain his anger. The problem now is that, after enduring it for so long and having my words ignored, I feel nothing but anger and disappointment towards him. He’s been trying to pull back on his anger, but I still feel no attraction to him anymore and he can’t understand why. He just accuses me of “not trying” hard enough to work on our marriage. I’m still with him because we have children and a wonder home that they love and neither of us could maintain it if we split. The bottom line is that this kind of thing does massive amounts of damage to a person’s self esteem and to the relationship.

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