According to marriage experts, there are probably more fireworks going on this weekend outside the bedroom than inside.
Data collected from the General Social Survey indicates married couples have sex about 58 times a year unless you are under 30, then it’s around 111 times. About 15 percent of married couples haven’t had sex with their spouse in six months to a year, according to the survey, which started in 1972 and is conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
Therapist Michele Weiner Davis recently gave a TEDx talk in which she described this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. A marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal? It’s just sex.”
“When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work has been focused on helping resurrect flatlined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”
Many people jump to the conclusion that all men think about is sex but, according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women, it’s just a well-kept secret.
Weiner-Davis shares that it is not uncommon for couples, even long-married couples, to never discuss sex. In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband married 15 years to his wife said there is only a two-hour opportunity on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is: Do you find me attractive anymore? Do you still love me? Do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”
His wife was taken aback. She responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage.
But Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.
“It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things but, when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it and be monogamous,” she says.
Believe it or not, Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is not too complicated to fix. You can move from little sparklers now and then to fireworks by making a few basic changes:
• Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. Spouses need to become experts in the ways that makes their spouse feel connected to them.
• If you have a spouse who wants sex more often than you, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way of connecting.
• When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it, you just need to do it.
• Healthy marriages are based on mutual caretaking. It is an act of love.
“When we learn to be better care takers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” says Weiner-Davis.
Weiner-Davis’s TEDx talk can be found on You Tube searching Sex Starved Marriage.
Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.