Tag Archives: men’s sexual desire

At the End of Sex and My Marriage

WHOLE-winter

Let me set a few ground rules, as this is a 100% positive blog, sex and sexual dysfunction is a partner thing. It wasn’t her fault. It was our fault. And sex, in my opinion, and the opinion of a lot of relationship experts (though I’m not one), is very important to a marriage.

For me, sex bonds me, it makes me feel connected, close, warm, loving, proud. Sex is like the glow on the relationship. It’s both reward and gift. Sex can be about giving and focused on the other partner. Or sex can be about receiving, and doing your best to shut down the mental rap sheet of expectations and performance. Or sex can be a dance between two people, like a tango, or waltz, or punk rock slam dance.

It’s all good. It’s all about sex, baby, it’s all about you. and. me. Let’s talk about sex.

Early in my courtship sex was magical. The moment my  emerging girlfriend candidate told me, “I went to the doctor today.” She was grinning ear to ear. She knew what she was about to give me. “I got a prescription for birth control.”

The moment we decided, and had newly unprotected sex again, with the intention of bringing a child into the world, well, the sex took on a whole new level of awesome.

Oh my. I might have been hooked in to marrying her from that very second that the warm glow rushed into my body. “We still have to wait about a month, for my cycle, but it’s a start.”

I was thrilled. We were thrilled. She was saying YES PLEASE, let’s do it.

And things early on were just as good as that first rush. Playful. Exploratory. Loving. Fun. And somewhat frequent. All was right with the world, with my sex life (as a man), and all was heading in upward direction. The “Life is Good” shirt applies here, and was worn frequently, as was my just-done-it smile.

Another magical milestone was crossed on our honeymoon. We were getting married in an ancient church in a tiny French town, and the night after a major lunar eclipse, we decided to start having sex unprotected and without birth control. She had been off the pill for two months or so…

We knew what we wanted. But the moment we decided, and had newly unprotected sex again, with the intention of bringing a child into the world, well, the sex took on a whole new level of awesome. It was as if a spiritual purpose had taken the joy and expression of our love to another level.

Onward we sailed into the newly married bliss of frequent and unprotected procreational sex. It sounds like a mouthful. It was heaven.

Our son was born less than a year later. And with a few months of off-limits self-reliance, we were back in the bedroom making up fun stuff to do with her newly arrived breasts. More joy. More interruptions and laughter and coupling. And more unprotected, sure-let’s-have-another-kid, sex. More play, more connection, more fantastic sex.

I’m going to skip the drama around our daughter’s medical issues, and the fact that 9-11 ripped out all the joy from the world. I covered this elsewhere. But the stress of the world took its toll on our joyful sex. We still attempted it, we were told not to go for a third child, and we were okay with a perfect pair, boy and girl. And the closeness was still there, when we found the windows for alone time, when neither of us was too exhausted to do it.

And of course that’s a thing. Marriage, kids, financial obligations and chores really wear down both parents. And it’s typical for one parent to take on the worry and stress more than the other parent. (Often men are picked on for being less responsible, or not growing up, but I can assure you that’s not what was going on between us.) I was 100% present and accounted for. I did the working-for-a-living dance. I mowed the lawn, picked up toys and rooms, did some cooking, and loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, and we were both still tired.

Marriage, kids, financial obligations and chores really wear down both parents. And it’s typical for one parent to take on the worry and stress more than the other parent.

Now, more often than not (a lot more often) any indication of sexual readiness on my part was met with a sigh or an eye-roll depending on her level of exhaustion.

I learned new ways to ask. The playful, “Hey, how about I give YOU a blow job tonight?” The suggestive, “I’d love to give you a back rub as soon as I get the dishes done.” And the supportive, “Is there anything I can do to make things less stressful for you, at this moment?”

But somewhere in her hard wiring, the stress had shut down her sensual response. We went to counseling, but mostly that was about some crisis or another that we needed to work through. We never really addressed the sex thing, I was trying to be a standup and self-less husband in support of his wife. I have no idea what she was doing. But we were doing it together and not “doing it” very much.

And then one last magical thing happened. With the full-insurance of my job, I got a vasectomy. Hallelujah. It was like a new ON switch for our sex life, perhaps not how you might think.

The mechanics of a vasectomy have one similarity to birth control for women. Once you have the procedure (get on the pill) you have several months to wait before enjoying your newfound freedom. In the case of a vasectomy, it’s not time, but ejaculations that count down towards the miracle of unprotected non-procreational sex.

And it was as if my then-wife’s libido had suddenly been jump started back into gear. We didn’t have a schedule or chart or anything like that, but the mental count in our heads, once I was healed enough to be back in action, was like a shining green number above my head. 40 ejaculations. Then you had to see the doctor again, give a specimen and have it examined for viable swimmers.

It was as if the mythical Spanish Fly was being introduced to my wife’s tea and coffee every day. We treated it like a sport. In the shower. BOOM. In the morning before getting out of bed. DING. And any time the kids had dropped off before us. BINGO.

It couldn’t have been more than 45 days and we were making our appointment with Dr. Let’s-Get-It-On again. We leapt into the world of parents with small children who can now do it as often as they like and not worry about having any more kids. It was a maturing process for sure. I was pretty young to be getting a vasectomy. WE WERE INTO SEX, AND WE WERE GOING TO HAVE A LOT OF IT. That’s what I imagined the vaz was saying about us and our future love life.

But…

If I have demanded that my wife find her sexual center again, rather than being so nice and self-consoling, I might have penetrated the fog that had taken her intimacy out of the relationship.

Well, I’m sure you can guess the story. Things fizzled after a few months with no goal. We joked about setting another objective, a milestone to “shoot for.” But it never happened. And, in fact, without going to far into the intimate details, it started to go way South rather than back towards loving, touching, squeezing.

We checked everyone’s meds. I read a few books, tried a few things, asked in more creative ways. Nothing.

Now, the real story, is probably much deeper than the sex. And I have tried to ask, both in real-time while the collapse was happening, and later in therapy when things were really bleak. We didn’t talk about sex anymore, even in therapy, because the “issues” have become seemingly insurmountable.

But I still wonder, if I had protested more. If I have demanded that my wife find her sexual center again, rather than being so nice and self-consoling, I might have penetrated the fog that had taken her intimacy out of the relationship.

Again, please understand, I AM taking responsibility for my part in the dance that began to come apart. And again, I’m really not saying that sex was the primary ingredient that caused us to get divorced.

What I am saying is at the end of sex our marriage was also closing down. The sex might have been a conduit for us to rekindle the loving feelings for one another. The love-making was certainly a part of my DNA (see Love Languages) and the primary way I felt loved. Well, not just sex, but physical touch. And we did have some of that. But when a back rub is the only way you get to be touched by your beautiful wife, even when you are jumping through every hoop introduced, things can begin to get a bit off track, distant, disconnected.

I believe there was some fracture that happened during the course of our financial and medical struggles that broke some trust inside my wife. And while I can’t put my finger on it, and I am merely projecting my hindsight reflection, which is most definitely NOT 20/20, I know she closed down her sexuality. She might not have done it consciously. But as she began to contemplate or imagine life beyond our marriage, it was necessary for her to stop giving herself to me in a sexual way.

The first time when we were making love during this period, that I noticed things were off, I caught her looking out the window, seemingly bored. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She napped back. But the moment was despairing. And we were done. And maybe, in some internal way, for her, we were done at that moment. Done in a much bigger way.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: snow’s back, mark tighe, creative commons usage

Sexual Desire: Men & Women, the Chemistry Between Us

sexual desire differences between men and womenAccording to science, testosterone is what regulates sexual desire. And, as expected, men have a lot more of it than women, both the hormone and the desire for sexual activity. That’s a fact of our biological evolution. Men hunt for food and available mating partners. It’s in our DNA. But in the modern world, can these sexual differences cause problems or be the key to opening up a better balance in our sexual compatibility?

One place to look for the variation between men and women is a 2009 study on masturbation.

masturbate-650

If we take self-pleasure as an indication of sexual desire, we can see some stark contrasts between men and women. About 1/3 of the women list their masturbation frequency as “Not in the past year” between the ages of 18 and 50. After 50 that percentage jumps to 50% and on up to 70% for our elder ladies. Now comparing that to men who show the same tapering off with age, but look at the men listing masturbation over 4 times per week. (PER WEEK!) 19% – 15% of men between the ages of 18 and 50 report masturbating over 4 times per week. Wow.

No wonder my masturbation-related posts seem so natural to me and are kind of icky to some of my women friends. Fascinating. And perhaps masturbation is not the perfect indicator of sexual desire, but the contrast between men and women is fairly dramatic, don’t you think?

The suggestion from a woman for women, was instead of saying no all the time, to say, “Let’s see how you might be able to get me in the mood.”

So we men are walking around with testosterone raging around in our veins and brains at a high level into our fifties. We are constantly driven towards release. And it must be fatiguing for the women in our lives to have to deal with that much aggressive sexual pressure. Thank goodness men (and even monkeys) have learned to release the raging hormones via masturbation.

So what do you do with a relationship between men and women when the request for sex is constant and unrelenting? Well, of course, the man needs to figure out a way to pleasure himself, or he’s going to be frustrated a lot of the time. And it’s really not the woman’s responsibility, even in a marriage, to pleasure us. It’s a dance. We men are constantly asking for, thinking about, and craving sex. Women, not so much.

I read recently about how women need a bit more ramp-up time to get in the mood. Sexual desire is not something that drives their daily motivations. And the suggestion from a woman for women, was instead of saying no all the time, to say, “Let’s see how you might be able to get me in the mood.”

In my experience the imbalance is manageable as long as the relationship is in good shape. If the conversation and trust is still intact in the marriage, the constant pressure from the man can become more of a game, rather than an irritation. When things were working for us, sex was just a part of our play. Sure I was in heat more of the time, and she was able to pleasure me efficiently and quickly in the shower as we were getting ready for work. And it was easy, often involving contact and rubbing rather than penetration.

I was aware that the lack of touch was killing me. There was no amount of masturbation that was going to make up for the distance between us.

But when the relationship begins to go south, the sexual communication becomes more and more strained. And sure, women cannot satisfy our every craving. That’s not their responsibility. But the dynamic is there either way. If you’re not talking about it, or playing about it, it’s getting built up and the imbalance may become more and more painful.

That was the big indicator to me that things were not working at all in my marriage. I was fine with self-pleasure for long periods of time, but ZERO sexual connection over a month, that began to get my attention. And ultimately this is the pain that I woke up to and began expressing in my marriage as complaint and dissatisfaction. Again, I’m not talking about daily or even weekly sex. I’m talking about going a month without so much as an encouraging touch. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Something was out of whack, and my whacking was not going to repair it.

Sex is an important part of any relationship. And for some of us, more “touch-oriented” a lack of sexual connection is akin to starvation. In the last year of my marriage I was not just sex-starved, I was touch-starved. There was so little affection coming from her, that when she said, “I love you,” one night, out of the blue, I felt an immense pain. I realised for the first time how infrequent her expressions of affection of any kind had become.

That was the beginning of my campaign to either have her return to the marriage or divorce me. It wasn’t my idea. But I was aware that the lack of touch was killing me. There was no amount of masturbation that was going to make up for the distance between us.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

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reference: This is how often women masturbate – Huffington Post Women

image: physics is like sex, son of groucho, creative commons usage