I believe "sexual incompatibility" is often the catch-all excuse many couples use because they don't know how to work through their outside-the-bedroom couple issues.
It raises the question: Is the fall-out from a divorce really worth it because a couple wants to believe they are sexually incompatible? I would bet my mortgage those couples contemplating divorce are sexually compatible, they're just not willing to invest time and energy into making their sexual relationship work.
What spurred this on was the Huffington Post article, "'Sexless Marriage' When Sex Ends at I Do". The author's ex-husband, "was generous, helpful, grateful, respectful, tender and attentive -- and not in the least bit interested in sex with me or anyone else." So she divorced him. What didn't surprise me was there were over 4,100 comments; the article struck a deep chord on both sides of the should-we-get-a-divorce-because-we're-not-having-sex debate.
Admittedly, it is hard to live with someone who is for all intents and purposes a roommate. And, of course, I acknowledge and appreciate the frustration, shame and hurt that comes from a marriage lacking in intimacy. It can affect self-esteem, bring on depression, self-loathing and anxiety.
Not surprisingly differences in sexual wants, needs and desires within a long-term relationship is a confusing topic. One of the top three questions I answer in interviews is "How much sex is normal?" I believe what people really want to know is if what they are experiencing in their own relationship is "abnormal."
For the record, there is no normal amount of sexual interaction; no research to validate that there is an appropriate frequency for the average couple.
That said, in 2003 Newsweek noted that 15 per cent to 20 per cent of couples have sex less than 10 times a year which is defined as a "sexless" marriage. It is estimated that 15 per cent of marriages become sexless and is the norm for some.
I'm not sure where this "research" is derived, but, unfortunately, it is now held as a media-fueled truth.
I have a love/hate relationship with the "sexless marriage" moniker. It makes couples who are trying their best but not having a lot of sex to feel inadequate; it also gives ammunition to a spouse who doesn't think they are getting enough sex. And yet it is a starting ground for a couple to understand whether they are mutually satisfied with their sex life.
The question remains, if you are in a "sexless marriage" or one where you feel sexual incompatibility, is it worth getting a divorce? Here are some my thoughts.
When a Couple Truly Is Sexually Incompatible
First, there is no concrete definition to what sexually incompatibility means. It is impossible to give concrete parameters as it is a couple by couple situation. For some people sex is extremely important and integral part of the relationship; for other couples not so much (as you can read in the comment section in the above "Sexless Marriage" sex article).
Most people assume sexually incompatibility means there's a disparity in preferred sexual frequency -- i.e. one partner wants sex once per month while the other wants it every day. However, I believe frequency discrepancy is superficial. Sexual incompatibility falls more in line of, for example, one partner wants to enter a sexual "lifestyle" such as swinging, BDSM, etc., while the other partner is completely against it.
There's Been Too Much Fighting About Sex
Sex can easy become the trigger to power struggles within a couple. A fight over something unrelated triggers a fight-loop over the lack of sex.
When a couple has fought too much about sex -- for years -- it can be extremely challenging to get their sex life back on track. First it requires them to get a third party -- like a counselor -- to help sort out their couple issues. Once couple issues are sorted, they can then work on their sexual compatibility.
When a Couple Is Sexually Compatible but Sex Is Boring
This is by far the most common sexual conundrum couple's get trapped in. Where sex was once effortless and satisfying, it has become a mine-field of negative feelings. As well, fragile sexual egos confine a couple into over-repetitive sex techniques and positions whereby sex becomes mechanical and boring.
For the majority of busy couples, having a mutually satisfying sex life takes too much work and effort. The couple's motivation to have sex dampens -- creating frequency discrepancy. Sexual lackluster feelings come across as if the couple is sexually incompatible.
There is an easy fix to this type of "sexual incompatibility" but only if the couple wants it to be an easy fix. There is a plethora of information every where on "how to spice up your sex life." What it really means for most couples is re-prioritizing their relationship and spending time -- perhaps 10 minutes a week -- on their relationship.
Ten minutes a week to a better sex life isn't complicated. But too many couples are too shy or intimidated to start a conversation how to make sex more exciting. This, understandably, brings the relationship to a breaking point and many couples come to the conclusion that divorce is the best solution.
But in my opinion many divorces over "sexual incompatibility" aren't necessary. It comes down to whether a couple is willing to invest in themselves, their partnership and their sexual happiness. And understanding their sexual compatibility is more of a barometer for what's going on outside their bedroom.
According to a Brigham Young University study, couples reported <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/16/is-online-gaming-messing-up-your-marriage/">lower marital satisfaction</a> when one spouse's gaming interfered with bedtime routines. Seventy-five percent of gamers' spouses wished their partners would put more effort into their marriages; however, when both spouses gamed, a majority reported greater satisfaction in their relationships.
It turns out couples are happiest <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/marriage-research_n_2234804.html?utm_hp_ref=marriage">AFTER their first year of marriage</a>, according to an Australian study. Newlyweds were found to have a lower happiness score than couples who had been married longer. Researcher Melissa Weinberg attributed this to a "wedding hangover," or the depressed feeling couples get when the wedding is over and the marriage begins.
Florida State University researchers discovered that short-term angry discussions can <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-08-21/news/33307414_1_relationships-forgiveness-successful-marriage">actually be beneficial</a>. Getting angry can help signal that certain behavior from your partner is unacceptable, said lead researcher James McNulty.
A study released in January found that while married couples exhibited health gains (most likely due to marriage benefits such as shared health plans), unmarried cohabitating couples experienced <a href="http://news.health.com/2012/01/23/living-together-may-be-mentally-healthier-than-marriage-study/" target="_hplink">greater happiness and self-esteem</a>. Clarification: Language has been amended in this slide to represent more accurately the findings of the report.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that having sexual intercourse at a later age corresponded with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/19/virginity-and-marriage-_n_1981755.html?just_reloaded=1">less dissatisfaction with relationships</a> in adulthood. Higher education level and household income also corresponded to a later age of first sexual experience.
Not only are <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/16/us/interracial-marriage/index.html">more interracial couples marrying</a>, but interracial marriage is more widely accepted than ever before. In 2010, 15 percent of new marriages in the U.S. were between spouses of different races; in 1980, only 6.7 percent of marriages were interracial.
<a href="http://cleveland.cbslocal.com/2012/11/14/study-married-couples-live-longer-healthier-lives-than-singles/">Studies show</a> that married couples experience lower levels of cancer, heart disease, depression and stress. The health benefits are even more pronounced for marrieds than for couples who are simply cohabiting.
A survey found that 86 percent of single and married people aged 18-29 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/17/marriage-expectations_n_1784371.html">expect their marriages</a> to last a lifetime. Researcher Jeffrey Jensen Arnett told HuffPost that young people tend to have a romantic view of marriage and go into marriage determined to make it work.
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/marriage-alcohol-study-wives-drink-single-women_n_1810133.html">study on marriage and alcohol</a> found that women drink more after getting married, possibly because they are influenced by their husbands (on average, men drink more than women). Men, on the other hand, were found to drink less after getting hitched.
Here's another reason to get along with your in-laws -- unless you're a woman, that is. A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/in-laws-and-marriage_n_2199637.html">26-year longitudinal study</a> found that when a husband reported having a close relationship with his wife's parents, the couple's risk of divorce decreased by 20 percent. Conversely, when a wife reported having a close relationship with her husband's parents, the couple's risk of divorce increased by 20 percent.
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