Annette Nay, PhD

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Problems With Marital Sex
Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2004

Note: My responses to the writer are in blue.

Ms. Nay,

I am an LDS project manager and troubleshooter for a manufacturer that makes industrial equipment. This often takes me on the road for up to 3 weeks at a time setting up equipment, training end users, and fixing problems when the end users don't use the equipment correctly. I'm typically away from home 15-20 days per month.

The average couple is said to have sex 2-3 times per week. That tells me that some couples do it much more often. Others have sex much less frequently. Of course, my frequent absences would lower our average significantly. However, even when I'm home, we have sex only once every 7-10 days (usually only on the night I come home and the night before I leave for my next trip). That is not enough for me. I really miss the closeness that sex brings between my wife and me. She seems to enjoy sex when we do have it and really gets into it. She seems to have orgasms (2-3 per session). But most of the time when I indicate I'm interested, she seems to be annoyed and nothing happens.

I accept the lack of sex while I'm on trips. I accept it as a part of my job (although I'm looking forward to retirement so I don't have to travel anymore). However, when I'm home, I feel like having sex again not more than 2 days later (and I feel like cuddling, necking and petting a lot more than that, which she also seems to find irritating). Having it seem like a hello and goodbye kiss isn't enough. How do I reconcile this?

When my interest in sex is rejected, I feel the same way I did when I was turned down when asking a girl for a date during my high-school years. (I honestly believe that girls and women don't understand how that rejection feels nor do I believe that they really care.)

My wife is not employed and all of our children are grown. So, I don't think fatigue is a reason for her infrequent interest in sex. Her daily activities are limited to TV, hobbies, and some occasional work on her church calling.

What is your relationship like with your wife at this time? Have you both been working on the marriage by having a weekly date night and taking time to really talk to each other? Many women who have been relegated to the task of child-rearing while the husband plays the bread-winner for the time that children remain in the home, find that when the children leave the marriage has suffered so much there they couple are not close friends and lovers, but in fact have become strangers. These women report that they feel like prostitutes in fulfilling the sexual needs of their so-called husbands. It is no wonder then that they are not delighted to jump into bed with their husbands.

The average couple is said to have sex 2-3 times per week. That tells me that some couples do it much more often. Others have sex much less frequently.

This is the average for a couple within the second to fifth years of marriage at the approximate age of 23 to 30.

Of course, my frequent absences would lower our average significantly. However, even when I'm home, we have sex only once every 7-10 days (usually only on the night I come home and the night before I leave for my next trip).

This is about average for couples with many years of marriage in their fifties.

That is not enough for me. I really miss the closeness that sex brings between my wife and me. She seems to enjoy sex when we do have it and really gets into it. She seems to have orgasms (2-3 per session). But most of the time when I indicate I'm interested, she seems to be annoyed and nothing happens.

I accept the lack of sex while I'm on trips. I accept it as a part of my job (although I'm looking forward to retirement so I don't have to travel anymore). However, when I'm home, I feel like having sex again not more than 2 days later (and I feel like cuddling, necking and petting a lot more than that, which she also seems to find irritating). Having it seem like a hello and goodbye kiss isn't enough. How do I reconcile this?

Have you tried wooing her and treating her like you were trying to win her heart? (Flowers, date nights, love notes in surprising places for her to find) Are you doing sweet kind things to surprise her and show her you love her, or are you just grabbing her and expecting her to have sex? She should not be required to divine your intentions because of a change in your attention you give her. She should always feel that you love her and care about what she thinks and is doing because you love her all the time.

Women love to be loved out of the bed before they hop into bed. They want their men to care about them as a person, not just a sex object. Do caring things intermittently, consistently, outside the bed and see it this improves things in the bed!

When my interest in sex is rejected, I feel the same way I did when I was turned down when asking a girl for a date during my high-school years. (I honestly believe that girls and women don't understand how that rejection feels nor do I believe that they really care.)

Many women feel that men care only care about their own needs. Convince her that you care about her as a person, and you will most likely see a great difference. She may even want to initiate sex herself.

My wife is not employed and all of our children are grown. So, I don't think fatigue is a reason for her infrequent interest in sex. Her daily activities are limited to TV, hobbies, and some occasional work on her church calling.

What is your relationship like with your wife at this time? Have you both been working on the marriage by having a weekly date night and taking time to really talk to each other? Many women who have been relegated to the task of child-rearing while the husband plays the bread-winner for the time that children remain in the home, find that when the children leave the marriage has suffered so much there they couple are not close friends and lovers, but in fact have become strangers. These women report that they feel like prostitutes in fulfilling the sexual needs of their so-called husbands. It is no wonder then that they are not delighted to jump into bed with their husbands.

Best wishes,

Annette Nay, MS

`````````````````````````

Follow-up Letter

Ms. Nay,

I wrote to you a few weeks ago. In seeking your advice, one of the comments I made was, "The average couple is said to have sex 2-3 times per week. That tells me that some couples do it much more often. Others have sex much less frequently. Of course, my frequent absences would lower our average significantly. However, even when I'm home, we have sex only once every 7-10 days (usually only on the night I come home and the night before I leave for my next trip). That is not enough for me. I really miss the closeness that sex brings between my wife and me. She seems to enjoy sex when we do have it and really gets into it. She seems to have orgasms (2-3 per session). But most of the time when I indicate I'm interested, she seems to be annoyed and nothing happens. I accept the lack of sex while I'm on trips. I accept it as a part of my job (although I'm looking forward to retirement so I don't have to travel anymore). However, when I'm home, I feel like having sex again not more than 2 days later (and I feel like cuddling, necking and petting a lot more than that, which she also seems to find irritating). Having it seem like a hello and goodbye kiss isn't enough. How do I reconcile this?

In response, you said, "This [2-3 times per week] is the average for a couple within the second to fifth years of marriage at the approximate age of 23 to 30....This [once every 7-10 days] is about average for couples with many years of marriage in their fifties."

My response to that is, why is there a decline in frequency of sex over time? I suggest that it is a direct result of the different ways men and women view sex. Of course, some men are animals with respect to sex and therefore are selfish. I contend that the majority of men are more sensitive than that and see sex as a spiritual event which bonds them to their mates. Likewise, some women are also animals with respect to sex (although probably fewer than the men). I think that most women appreciate the bonding nature of sex. They use this effect to attract and a mate.

However, it also seems that most women eventually see sex as a duty or obligation once they feel secure in the mate they've secured. This ultimately overrides their appreciation of the bonding and closeness it brings to a relationship. As a marriage ages (I purposely choose that word over "matures") her perception of sex as a duty becomes increasingly apparent to her partner. Consequently, frequency of sex falls off due to her sense of boredom with performing a "duty" and his unwillingness to face her rejection and/or half-hearted participation night-after-night. I am convinced that if women would purge the notion of sex as a duty, sexual frequency would not fall off over time, health problems not withstanding.

You also suggested, "Have you tried wooing her and treating her like you were trying to win her heart? (Flowers, date nights, love notes in surprising places for her to find) Are you doing sweet kind things to surprise her and show her you love her, or are you just grabbing her and expecting her to have sex? She should not be able to divine your intentions because of a change in your attention you give her. She should always feel that you love her and care about what she thinks and is doing because you love her all the time. Women love to be loved out of the bed before they hop into bed. They want their men to care about them as a person, not just a sex object. Do caring things intermittently, consistently, outside the bed and see it this improves things in the bed!"

Of course! I'm no cad -- most men aren't! You seem to be making the same assumption about men that most women do -- that all we want to do is†to "get into her pants." Most of us aren't "just grabbing her and expecting her to have sex." My wife seems to believe that every nice thing I do has but one goal -- to "get into her pants." There is the common perception that because (as mentioned above) some men are selfish with respect to sex, that all men are. 'Taint so! We really want to share a special experience with the person we care most about.

As for "grabbing," I do like to caress her breasts, buttocks, etc. when we're alone -- not necessarily as an overture for sex, but because I appreciate and am attracted to her as a beautiful woman. For the same reason, I even like to caress her right after having sex when all the testosterone has been flushed out of my system and I'm incapable of having sex. She used to similarly caress me, but no more -- she doesn't seem to want do do anything that might lead up to her doing her "duty."

You said, "Women love to be loved out of the bed before they hop into bed....Do caring things intermittently, consistently, outside the bed and see it this improves things in the bed!"

Don't you think that men feel the same? Do you think that we don't want to be romanced and made to feel special? Most women (my wife included), avoid doing exactly what you suggest that I do simply because women want to avoid their "duty."

You said, "...women report that they feel like prostitutes in fulfilling the sexual needs of their so-called husbands. It is no wonder then that they are not delighted to jump into bed with their husbands."

Exactly the point I'm trying to make. The problem is far deeper than getting men to "woo" their partners. Women place all the burden of romance on the man. But regardless of how well he does at romancing ("wooing"), women still tend to view sex as a duty. If he isn't perfect at romance, he is punished because she views herself as a "prostitute in fulfilling the sexual needs of their so-called husbands!"

I sense that because of the way you seem place the burden of getting women into the mood for sex on the man, you likely have a low frequency of sex in your own marriage and are too ready to blame it on your husband and on age. I perceive that, although you are a marriage & family counselor, your own sexual relationship with what you view as your "so-called husband" needs a lot of work. You need to look at your own feelings about whether you are a "prostitute" to your husband and whether sex is but a marital chore for you. You need to talk to your husband about whether you've made him feel like he's imposing upon you when he's interested in sex. When was the last time you sexually caressed your husband just because you appreciate him as a man -- not as a prelude to sex?

However, when I'm home, I feel like having sex again not more than 2 days later (and I feel like cuddling, necking and petting a lot more than that, which she also seems to find irritating). Having it seem like a hello and goodbye kiss isn't enough. How do I reconcile this?"

You may have to reconcile it like you do the fact you cannot have sex when youíre gone. You do not understand that the cards are stacked against you. Perhaps understanding the reasons behind the behavior will help you feel like you are not being dealt unloving or unfairly. Things are the way they are! Read onÖ

My response to that is, why is there a decline in frequency of sex over time?

There several reasons for this:

  1. Generally speaking, males are at their physical peak at about 18. The apex of their sexual peak starts about the same time. It wanes a little bit over time until about age 50, then the sexual libido tends to really go down hill. This seems to happen just the opposite for the female sexual libido which tends to rise to its sexual peak at about age 50. This rise tends to correspond with menopause. This brings about her release of the possibility of pregnancy, making sex, an act that holds no responsibility for her for the first time. It also signals the loss of the female hormone estrogen, in the female system and allows the lesser hormone testosterone (the male hormone) to manifest itself as the dominant hormone. This brings about a change in the females sexual aggressiveness.
  2. Illness or physical problems can bring about a change in sexual libido and the ability to have sex for either sex. The older one gets the greater chance that something physically will not function correctly so that sex is not engaged in as often or not at all.
  3. The newness of the relationship and its obvious perk of sex, is engaged in often in the first year, but like a new toy the excitement wears off. Not that the toy isnít liked, it just isnít used as often. It is said that if one were to put a pebble in a container for each time sex was engaged in for the first year of marriage and remove a pebble each time sex is engaged in there after, that the pebbles would never run out, before death. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it does exemplify the intensity and frequency of sex in that first year and the waning thereafter.
  4. Also there is the cold hard fact that responsibilities tend to take over oneís life leaving less time for pleasurable past-times, both for the female and the male. Children begin to enter the picture. They must be taken care of both physically (traditionally the wifeís job) and monetarily (traditionally the maleís job).

However, it also seems that most women eventually see sex as a duty or obligation once they feel secure in the mate they've secured. This ultimately overrides their appreciation of the bonding and closeness it brings to a relationship.

Now she must maintain the house, cooks, shops, does the laundry, and care for the children. Today many women are forced into keeping a full-time job just to make ends met. Her last job on her list, is to met the sexual needs of her husband. It is not that she doesnít love him, or that she doesnít like sex, but that the others things have to be done and sex is optional. If there is time, and she can gather the energy, she then tries to switch into the ardent lover, to care for the needs of her husband.

If she is take for granted and the relationship is not nurtured, (which many are not and fall into disrepair and divorce, due to time constraints and obligations of both the male and female) the female comes to see the sex act as an obligation, devoid of love. With out the love, she comes to feel like a prostitute.

The male works one or more jobs, repairs the home or anything else that is broken. Sometimes he has time for the children, but most of all, he wants time with his wife. This to his major disappointment, doesnít happen as often as he would like. This is the general state of things.

As for "grabbing," I do like to caress her breasts, buttocks, etc. when we're alone -- not necessarily as an overture for sex, but because I appreciate her and am attracted to her as a beautiful woman.

Tell her this! We females have been taught all of our lives to be wary, men will do anything to get into your pants. We are frightened, not only of breaking Godís laws but of rape, pregnancy, having a ruined reputation so that we cannot attract a decent man. These feelings do not die, but subconsciously guide our behavior. It is part of us. Without an explanation of your motives she will automatically chalk it up to your just wanting to get into her pants.

If she is ill, tired, under pressure because of her workload, when the sexual overture comes it is viewed as one more thing to do and it sets her into to overload, which sets off anger not passion. She wonders, doesnít he realize that I canít do this now? How insensitive. All he cares is about his self and his needs. What about my needs and me? You are lucky that your caress is not met with a resounding slap!

You need to look at your own feelings about whether you are a "prostitute" to your husband and whether sex is but a marital chore for you. You need to talk to your husband about whether you've made him feel like he's imposing upon you when he's interested in sex.

I did just that, many years ago. It is because I know how I felt and I know that we got busy and didnít take care of the marriage, that I know exactly how it got away form us and dwindled into just the sexual act. I was a roommate to a stranger. I now know, since my training in counseling, I was not alone. This situation is more the norm than the exception.

I have since eradicated the problem and I realized I was part of the problem as well as its solution. So must you be!

I know that we are here to learn to control our urges. In fact all Godís commandments are set up to help us learn to control our urges. This is because we will, if obedient, become Gods with all power. It is said by Sociologists, ďAbsolute power corrupts absolutely.Ē If we cannot control ourselves here, there is no way we will do so when there is little or no restraints on our behavior as Gods. Therefore, God has given us commandments to help us internalize restraint.

With this in mind, I have often wondered why a God would allow something as important to all of us as the hormonal peaks to be so misaligned. It just causes so many problems between a man and women. I first thought it must be so things get done. Someone must be the responsible one and put on the brakes or we would all be in bed full time.

Case in point: A study was done with lab rats. The rats were given the choice to push one of two levers or to ignore them completely. One lever gave the rat its favorite food pellet; the other sent a pulse to a wire attached to the pleasure center of its brain, stimulating an orgasm. Within two weeks all the rats died of starvation. They continued to push the pleasure lever and forgot to eat.

The thought of someone having to be in control to put on the brakes, placated me, but it never seemed right for two reasons.

  1. It looked to me as if the marital union was doomed to be in crisis all the time because one of the most basic urges (sex) was being waylaid. Why would the Lord want to cause problem in a marriage that He says we have to have to the Celestial Kingdom. Isnít life going to present the marriage with enough problems to have to overcome, without allowing such an obvious friction?
  2. After all the Lord said, ďMen (and women) are that they might have joy.Ē The situation described with all of its inherent conflict, doesnít seem to be a joyous one, from the get-go!

At this writing, I have gained a greater insight. I realize that this life was set up, not so much for us to prove ourselves worthy to come back to Heavenly Fatherís presents, because He already know which of us would be willing to follow his commandments and would return. Instead it is a time of refining ourselves.

The Lord gives us trials to force us out of our comfort zone of mediocrity, to deal with situations causing the growth of Godly behaviors such as restraint of our desires, dealing appropriately with disappoint, and to understand and have compassion for another and what they are going through, instead of demanding our rights. The Lord backs up this idea I had of the problems that the sexes having with each other, being the plan of God to bring us to Him. In Ether 12:27 He states:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble

He goes on in that same verse, to make a promise to those who humble themselves before Him:

Öand my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

If you are sealed in the temple to your spouse, the marriage is not between just your wife and you, but between her, you, and the Lord. He is your ultimate marriage counselor. Work between the two of you as if it were all up to you both to settle differences and come up with a plan, but take the Lord with you in these endeavors and things will work out! I know this because the Lord it there to help you two to keep your marriage together, when you include Him in your marriage, and He will help with insight and other things as needed.

The Lord has set guidelines for both sexes having to deal with marital sex. He states: The wifeís duty is to her husband. The withholding of sex is never to use, especially to get her way or as a punishment. The husband is not to force the wife into sex if she is unable to do so because of illness, etc.

So we are to care compassionately for each otherís needs in the way that is needed at the time, even though it is not what we want or need. This all equals the Godly attributes of restraint of our basic impulses and empathy for the needs of others! It also may help you understand and reconcile the differences of the way things are and the way you would like them to be.

With these things in mind, it is time for an open, honest, and compassionate dialogue with your wife on the subject. Talk about the points on this letter. See how she feels. Tell her you want her true feelings on the matter so that both of your feelings are not hurt, but instead accommodated.

Use these tools of Mediation to help you hear what each other is saying:

This dťtente, if done with active listening and compassion for the otherís position, and in the presence of the Spirit, you may get what you both want and need.

Good luck on all your righteous endeavors.


 


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