The secret to desire in long-term unions lays in your willpower. Photo | Photosearch

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The secret to desire in long-term unions lays in your willpower

What you need to know:

  • People have sex quite often after tying the nuptials but this slows down as years pass by
  • Interest in sex is bound to go down as children, financial difficulties, work stress, wider family interferences, and interpersonal relationship dynamics get complicated


The chairperson of Chama convened an emergency meeting last Saturday. Two members had just walked out of their marriages and two others were threatening to leave. As you may be aware, Chama is a women's only welfare group of which I am the only male member. 

"We have done our investigations and our findings are that the main cause of disharmony in most of our relationships is dissatisfaction with sex," the chairperson explained while starting the meeting.

"Yes, before Jennifer walked out of the marriage she had faced a dry spell of 12 months. Her husband never touched her," a member quipped, "She felt rejected and walked out of the marriage."

"But let us not blame the men for all sexual ills in our marriages," the vice-chairperson cautioned, "how many of you initiate sex? Most of us wait for the man to make a move." There were loud murmurs from members. They disagreed with the vice-chairperson and told her to sit down. 

"I already delivered three children and we should now concentrate on raising them," another member quipped, "what is this madness of discussing sex all the time as if it is the food that keeps marriages alive?" Everyone started talking at once. 

I took to the podium, aware of the difficult topic. The question that needed to be answered was why sex is not satisfactory in many marriages, making it a leading cause of conflict.

First and foremost, let us have some facts right: sex keeps marriages going. No doubt, some couples have sex for physical pleasure and that is fine. The most important thing however is that sex helps couples connect emotionally, which is the foundation of any stable relationship.

"That's interesting, so what happens when sex has not happened for months?" the vice-chairperson interjected.

Prolonged lack of sex in marriage brews emotional conflict. Discomfort and sometimes resentment of your partner becomes the order of the day. This may manifest as emotional outbursts, ignoring each other, avoiding performing acts of kindness that make your partner happy, and going quiet on each other for days. There is always a lingering risk of your partner getting emotionally connected to someone else. Should that happen, infidelity becomes highly likely and the marriage can deteriorate further and lead to divorce.

"Wow, so the dry spells are risky, yeah? And what if one has no desire for sex? We need to be fair," a member shouted. She was getting worked up with the discussion.

The issue of libido in marriage is an important one. People have sex quite often after tying the nuptials but this slows down as years pass by. Interest in sex is bound to go down as children, financial difficulties, work stress, wider family interferences, and interpersonal relationship dynamics get complicated. The mantra in these circumstances is that the willingness to be intimate should supersede its desire. This is what I mean, you may not have the urge but do you have the will to be involved? 

While earlier on in marriage the feeling and drive to get sexual is strong, later the desire has to be nurtured. If you are willing and even try new things sexually then the desire follows. The difference in later life is that one has to proactively initiate and start the process before the desire is awakened in them. Many marriages become sexless because parties involved do not have the willingness to indulge at a time when desire has waned.

"That is why I said that we are our own enemies," the vice-chairperson quipped, "if you always wait for your husband to initiate sex he will soon get tired and things will start falling apart and you should not blame him." Members went silent.

But even worse are cases of rejection. The scenario is always like this: your partner tries to initiate intimacy, you give an excuse and stop him. Sometimes you simply push his handoff. You may also move to the edge of the bed and face away from him. The message is that you are unwilling. This marks the beginning of your emotional disconnection.

"So can you summarise your message as we close the meeting today?" The chairperson quipped looking at her watch. We had overshot our time.

"Sex is important in maintaining emotional connection and should not be ignored or abandoned," I concluded.

Also, sex desire changes as a relationship matures, and the willingness to have sex, which is what you have control over, is the best weapon in managing it. Always leave no room for your partner to feel rejected sexually as this is the foundation of emotional conflict. 

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