Poisoning Sexual Desire in Marriage Bring back the desire for one another by expressing yourself openly with your spouse. BY IRINA FIRSTEIN, LCSW
Don't let poison infiltrate your marital bedroom.
“ Guilt needs to be confronted and it is important to take responsibility for negative behaviors, apologize, make amends and do everything possible to stop the behavior.”
Sexual desire, when strong, seems indestructible. However, desire is easy to kill. Inhibited desire—as we therapists call it—is the main problem in marital sexual disorders and probably the number one complaint in most marriage counseling sessions.
Sexual desire is quite fragile and many feelings whether relational, emotional or sexual can slowly start to poison it. The core issue is identifying, understanding and addressing these factors. I like to think of these as the poisons a couple needs to understand about one another in order for them to move on.
The Importance Of Anticipation
In order to get on the right track, couples must remember that anticipation is key to desire and, if it’s not positive, it will have many adverse affects on the entire sexual response cycle. In order for anticipation to be there, it needs to be nurtured, cultivated and reinforced. When there is anger and conflict, avoidance sets in and desire is undermined.
Sadly, the "hot," romantic, premarital sex you enjoyed as a young couple is not the same sex you share down the road after many years of marriage. The major influences that once played a part in attracting your mate—newness, a strong attraction, the chase, trying to win their affections, adventure—are not really sustainable over the long haul. If these feelings are not replaced by a more "mature intimacy" the marital sex suffers greatly.
Of all poisons, in my professional experience, anger and unresolved resentment are most detrimental to marital sexuality. Chronic anger poisons the relationship in general.
Avoiding Anger and Guilt
Each and every day, many couples will find something wrong or something they wish they could change about their marriage; one of the most typical cases I see is anger over sexual coercion, which is mostly felt by women and is usually not expressed. Sexual coercion is a demand for sex at an inappropriate time and with the wrong intentions. Men typically feel resentful about their spouse’s avoidance and rejection of them sexually.
Anger is best dealt with outside the bedroom, it should be talked out over the dinner table, on walks or with the help of a professional.
Guilt is very problematic for sexuality, as it erodes self-esteem and does not make a person feel sexy. It disrupts the process of sharing intimacy and pleasure. It isolates. For example, men often feel guilty for indulging in pornography or spending money in a strip club, while women may feel guilty for spending money on unneeded shoes or fantasizing about an affair. Guilt needs to be confronted and it is important to take responsibility for negative behaviors, apologize, make amends and do everything possible to stop the behavior.
Sexual poisons need to be confronted and dealt with. As a couple, each partner needs to understand what poisons he or she is contributing, as well as what they, as a couple, bring to the experience. Identify the sources of anger in your relationship and address them. If you feel guilty about something and are doing something that subverts the desire, and you cannot stop it, tell your spouse and deal with it together. If you feel inhibited or anxious, understand what is going on and confront it together. Taking these steps will nurture your bond and will get rid of the poisons.
Irina Firstein, LCSW is a relationship and marriage therapist in New York City. She has been working with individuals and couples for more than 20 years and follow her on Google+.