Recently the question was raised by some of my colleagues as to whether there can be happiness in a sexless marriage. An article on the subject refers to the research of Robert Epstein, a psychologist who reports that 10 to 20% of the romantic relationships in the U.S. are sexless.
According to Epstein, a sexless relationship is defined as one in which the partners have had sex less than once a month or less than 10 times a year. Others writing in the field take the word more literally – suggesting that many couples happy with that schedule would not describe their relationship as sexless.
Maybe the question of how sexual a marriage is and whether or not the partners are happy is a far more complicated one than the rate of sexual intercourse over time.
Work with couples would suggest that happiness from sexual relating must account for the trust and special connection partners feel for one another, the way they hold, touch, laugh, tease, celebrate, walk together, worry about, lean on, cry with, nickname, argue, text and call each other — the many dimensions of sexual intimacy.
Is the marriage between partners having weekly sex likely to be happier than a marriage with little sexual contact, but with a great deal of shared time and communication?
It depends … If the weekly sex is obligatory, it may not be a source of intimacy or happiness. If sharing time and communication without sexual intercourse really satisfies both partners’ intimate needs, they may be quite happy.
The real issue then is not how often a couple has sex, but how mutually satisfied the partners are with their sexual intimacy.
Do you think you and your partner are mutually satisfied?
If you are not sure, you are not alone.
Most partners would rather have sex or avoid it than TALK ABOUT IT!
Although we are inundated by sexual images in the media and saturated with sexual innuendo in prime time sitcoms, research and clinical work suggest that most men and women find it difficult to speak with their partner about their sexual relationship.
The reality is that silence, the avoidance of talking between partners, jeopardizes mutuality and erodes sexual intimacy because it is rarely interpreted in a positive way. A sexless marriage is often an unhappy one because the lack of verbal exchange makes it sexless by default.
The reality is that the more comfortable a couple becomes talking about their sexual connection – the more intimate they feel. The more likely they will find mutual satisfaction.
Becoming More Comfortable Talking about Sex
To be known and to know each other as partners need not turn a couple’s sexual intimacy into interrogation, over exposure or a Woody Allen Movie – it is meant to lower the fear of rejection and enhance the mutual satisfaction.
Photo by Garry Knight, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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MyHappy » Happiness Research News Digest for September 29, 2011 (September 29, 2011)
Sexless Marriages: A Closer Look | Ze Multimedia Blog (September 29, 2011)
From Psych Central's website:
Should I End My Relationship? Important Considerations | Healing Together for Couples (January 28, 2012)
Last reviewed: 30 Sep 2011