The Importance of Building Sexual Desire in Your Marriage Why inhibited desire is missing in many marriages and how you and your spouse can bring it back. BY IRINA FIRSTEIN, LCSW
It's normal for sexual desire to change in a long-term relationship, but you can do something about it.
The number one sexual problem facing couples in this country is low (inhibited)
desire or discrepancies in sexual desire between spouses. Although it would seem so, this has nothing to do with age, personality types or circumstances either spouse may be involved with.
According to the experts in the marriage and sex therapy field, inhibited sexual desire is the most disruptive sexual problem. It usually leads to a low-sex marriage where one spouse pushes for sex and the other tries to avoid it at all cost. Often with inhibited desire of one spouse, the other spouse becomes pushy and resentful, which leads to lack of affection and closeness.
Sexuality is complex. The four components of sexual function are desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction. Often secondary, inhibited desire is the most common problem facing married couples. What this means is that the desire was there at one point and then, over time, it went away. Desire is at the core of sexuality. It is a difficult problem to admit, since we all are supposed to want sex.
Studies have found that one in three women and one in seven men report inhibited sexual desire. Desire problems are the most frequent sexual complaint in couples therapy and can put a lot of stress on the marriage.
The function of marital sexuality is to create closeness, feelings of shared pleasure, greater intimacy and ways of dealing with the stresses of life. A couple that does not have healthy sexuality does not get these benefits, which will ultimately rob the marriage of the wonderful benefits it should offer.
The longer the couple avoids sexual contact the harder it becomes to break the cycle, as it takes on a life of its own. Avoidance becomes a self-fulfilling trap and you and your spouse begin to blame one other for the avoidance.
All this being said, the occasional lack of desire is normal. In extreme times of conflict, when there is death, financial or work issues, it is normal not to feel sexual. Sometimes partners also don’t feel the same sexual desire—one may want a kiss and the other may want an orgasm. It becomes a problem when it is chronic and when there is unceasing conflict over sex.
Why does this happen? We are socialized and led to believe that romantic love and sexual chemistry are the end all and be all. Indeed romantic love and idealization of the person play a powerful role in the initial stages of a relationship—they carry with them desire and attraction. However with time, especially living together day to day, this chemistry starts to dissipate. Hot sex based on romantic love and passion diminishes as it should. The prescription for maintaining sexual desire in a marriage is: greater intimacy, commitment to pleasure in a relationship, erotic scenarios and techniques.
Couples who are trying to deal with desire issues by trying to "reignite passion" or "rekindle romantic love" are heading into a dead end. The ways to nurture marital sexuality begin with building bridges to desire, increasing intimacy, enjoying pleasuring and creating eroticism. It is a couple issue and not an individual one. Both husband and wife must be committed to facilitating and reinforcing the other's sexual feelings and desires, rather then blaming each other and avoiding sexual connection.
In the next articles I will elaborate in greater detail how to address the issue of inhibited desire and how couples can assume more responsibility for their sexual relationship in a marriage.
Irina Firstein LCSW is a relationship and marriage therapist in New York City for over 20 years. She has helped hundreds of couples overcome problems with intimacy and inhibited desire to reestablish a meaningful connection and achieve satisfaction in their marriages. You can visit her website at www.psychotherapist-newyork.com and follow her on Google+.