Being single and not having a sex life is demoralizing but being married and not having sex is worse.
Sex is fun but sex is also communication and if nothing is going on, that is telling you something. First, you are not alone. Sexless marriages in North America are widespread. Some say up to 40 million Americans are in a sexless marriage, getting it on fewer than 10 times a year. This is a problem!!
Maybe this was always true and we are just hearing about it more; maybe there was more sex before TV; maybe people are asking for too much fulfillment from one person. Maybe in the case of some couples it is a biochemical/medical problem. Whatever the case, more people are opening up about it in articles like this one or this one.
Differences in the structure of sexual attention?
My view is that sexless marriages are the product of differences in the way men and women’s sexual attention is structured. Though women are famously excellent at multi-tasking in most areas, they cannot do it with sex. I can assure you, it is not possible for women to combine worrying with sexual arousal. Men seem to be able to perform at the same time that they worry (sometimes about their performance) and they might even try to distract themselves in order to slow things down to match their woman’s state. Multi-tasking in bed seems to be a male ability. It is not a female ability.
When your wife complains about not having ‘enough time’ or ‘being tired all the time’, this is because it requires a lot of energy to juggle thinking-about-sex and thinking-about-everything else. It makes her feel sort of irritated – not because she is irritated with you – but because women just can’t juggle sexual attention with other things. Women do not float between desire and the normal hubbub of life. For women, sexual attention does not flicker around the edges of our focus, ready to be ignited at any time, the way it does for men. For women, sexual attention is like an on-and-off switch; she is either totally there or totally not-there but she cannot be both.
For women, sexual attention is focused and sexual sensation is diffuse. For men, it is the reverse: sexual attention is diffuse but sexual sensation is very focused.
In daily life, this means that women require a larger window of free time outside the bedroom to get out of the worrying state where they attend to the kids, the laundry, the dinner etc. If your wife does not have free time (or feels she does not have free time), she is not going to be able to get into The Mood with ease.
This is intensely frustrating for the husband and creates an escalating cycle of avoidance, guilt and shame in the woman.
What to do?
1) The problem of chores: Create free time for your wife. This is not about your wife winning the battle of the chores. This is about you creating a workaround to compensate for the limitations of the female sexual attention structure. If you can afford it, hire someone to do household chores. Stop having battles about dishes, laundry, and yardwork. Scrimp on something else eg: car, flat-screen TV, vacations etc. The goal is regular sex . You won’t care about the TV if sex is back in the house!
2) The problem of martyr behaviour: If the two of you cannot afford it, you should try to relieve her of some of these chores or at least do some of them together. She may not actually believe you are serious for a number of weeks so be persistent; women have long memories of missing contributions. She may have adopted a martyr role and might behave bizarrely if you try to lessen her load. Ignore this and persist.
3) The problem of children: If she is at home with small children, she is tired. You will need to enlist other people to get her a good block of time without them. She will want to spend some of it just sleeping or ‘wasting time’. After a few weeks or so, she will remember that she is also a woman and not just a mommy. The obvious option is to trade childcare with another couple; the other couple is having the same problems you are.
You will probably have to organize this since she will not want to seem like a bad mother or a frigid wife. If the children are older, they need to do some of the housework in return for car-rides and lessons. Nagging them should be your job. The goal is to interrupt her involvement so that she can focus on you. You can still get aroused after dealing with chaos;she cannot.
4) The problem of domestic pride: Many women have a belief that they should be able to do everything (at the same time as they complain about having to do everything). They quietly compare themselves to friends, neighbors and relatives. They read magazines that have a thousand ideas about how to do a thousand household things. You must fight your woman’s pride regarding the running of a household. You must fight her impulse to put her needs last, especially her sexual needs – which are connected to your sexual needs!
Remember: the running of the household is less important than the sexual bond between the husband and wife. She will be happier if the electricity between you two is allowed to flow than if her friends admire her ability to juggle all her responsibilities perfectly. She may not be aware of this. Avoid discussing this since it will probably remind her of the shame and guilt she already feels. Just push her in this direction with your behavior. Women can be very articulate in their analyses of relationships but that does not mean their assessments are correct.
Be confident that she needs to feel that sexual flow as much as you do. Just work with the limitations of her sexual attention structure.
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