Preventing an Affair: Sex is the “glue” in a marriage

Sex IS the “glue” in a marriage!! It is fundamental. A leg of the chair that is your relationship. Sex is certainly not everything, and in the greater scheme of a marriage, it’s actually a pretty small part of the overall interaction between two people, but, truly, sex is what holds all the rest together.

This is a subject I’ve been ruminating on for a while, based on numerous things I’ve read. And I don’t want you ladies out there to be angry, but there seems to be a blind spot for a lot of married women out there — that somehow sex isn’t that important once you get married.  That somehow it’s just a “thing that guys like.” Or, “I’m too tired/too bored/too pissed off” to have sex.  Some just don’t seem to get that a marital relationship is still a romantic, living thing that must be nurtured like any other relationship, and that sex is a healthy, normal part of the nurturing process — that it’s far more an emotional than physical experience for men (despite the clichés to the contrary).

Why is sex the glue in a relationship? Not because the only thing men care about is sex, but because it’s how, even with the kids and the jobs and all the other crap that goes on during day to day life, a husband and wife can unite and rejoin, keeping alive the sense of oneness that existed when they were newly in love.

breakups_pictureAround 15% of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage”, which is sexual intercourse occurring 10 times or less each year.  While some accept their fate and do nothing about it for myriad reasons, there is no doubt that the lack of sex can create tension and resentment within a marriage and can threaten its very existence. Usually, only one of the couple loses his or her sex drive. The other still craves sex and feels deprived. When this happens, the chances of divorce in the near or far future may increase dramatically.

Millions of people with low desire are simply not concerned about or troubled by their lack of interest in marital sexual intimacy.   Nor are they particularly motivated to do much about it. Just ask their spouses!

Being complacent about ho-hum or non-existent sex is a formula for marital disaster.  When one spouse is sexually dissatisfied and the other is oblivious, unconcerned or uncaring, and has no interest, sex isn’t the only casualty; intimacy on every level becomes non-existent. Spouses stop touching affectionately, having meaningful talks, laughing at each other’s jokes, or connecting emotionally. They become like two ships passing in the night. Infidelity and/or divorce become all too real threats.

So what happened to the sex after we got married?  It’s like that old joke —

Q: How do you cure a nymphomaniac?  A:  Marry her!! 

We laugh because it’s funny, but we also laugh because it’s true.  It’s a story I’ve heard from friends in real life and read about on line over and over again.  In the beginning, your wife was charming and quite appealing. You had no problems with intimacy. Your wife couldn’t keep her hands off of you. You felt desired, cherished and loved. Before long, the atmosphere changed. Your wife became less and less interested in sex. Your wife is still charming and appealing and your level of desire hasn’t changed but that person who once seemed so giving sexually has now become rather stingy with her affections. You find yourself wondering, “what happened???”

It leaves many men feeling bewildered, alone, unloved, unwanted…and vulnerable.

Sex is a bonding, emotional experience for men too.  For most men, sex is a way of connecting to your wife emotionally and physically. It builds a bond that promotes closeness and emotional intimacy.  The sharing of intimate pleasure in a marriage enables couples to bond more deeply as friends. That friendship will sustain the marriage as we age, our bodies change and our need for the sexual connection lessens. This is an important point, ladies — Men, more than women, are prone to view their self-esteem through their sexuality.  So if sex isn’t happening, self-esteem in most men plummets…and they then become vulnerable to someone else…someone who boosts their self-esteem by seeing them as vital, sexual, desirable beings.

Sex is what separates a couples relationship from all other relationships. A marriage without sexual intimacy will eventually eventually sputter and die.

What does sexual rejection feel like for a man?  Sexual rejection, especially by someone who vowed to “love, honor and cherish” you is devastating. It leaves you feeling unattractive and undesirable. You may internalize her rejection and blame yourself by thinking you are not attractive enough; sexy enough, thin enough, smart enough. Her actions will give root to unhealthy beliefs about yourself and your value as a person. There is the danger of depression, loss of hope, you may feel old before your time and there is certainly a sense of shame over the fact that your own spouse does not desire you.  You become vulnerable to someone else — someone who makes you feel the opposite of your wife – loved, wanted, desired, desirable…a man.

This is such a simple concept. So why don’t a lot of married people get it?  And why are they so surprised that, when they no longer show much interest in sex, that their partners get discouraged and leave them? Or have an affair? Or both?  This is a surprise??  Not when you consider how important sex is as the glue to a partnership.  That to men it’s far more than just “sticking it in a warm place because it feels good” 3 times a week.

At the risk of generalities, I know I can say this. If you exhibit any of the following feelings or actions, your marriage may be in serious trouble:

  • If you see sex as something to be avoided
  • If you see sex as something that you don’t desire but your partner does
  • If you see sex as something you do like a chore — something to be checked off, where you basically give minimum effort, and exhibit little to no satisfaction during the act.
  • If you use sex (and withholding it) as a method of punishment or control.  Tying sexual activity to the extent to which your spouse does their chores at home, or as reward for something, is not romantic, very passive-aggressive, and will tend to irritate and discourage your spouse.
  • If you never initiate sex.  If your spouse has to ask for/beg for and/or always initiate sex, it’s unlikely they will see you as someone who desires them. And if they feel undesired, unwanted, and not cherished, you could be headed for trouble.  Is it so hard to flirt with your spouse and write them a naughty text about what you’d like to do to them tonight? To come at them at night a little aggressively and coquettishly?  Is it that much of an imposition on your time and psyche?  It works wonders for most men.

We all hear about husbands or wives who are workaholics, and inevitably the spouse is unhappy.   And the workaholic spouse is  now too tired for sex or uninterested in general. Their job becomes their spouse and their real spouse becomes a roommate, a second class citizen.   How can someone work 70-80 hours a week and avoid sex with their spouse and assume that everything should be just fine?  Marriage is not the end — “well, I have them now.  I don’t have to work so hard on nurturing the relationship. Case closed” — it is just another stage in the growth in the relationship.  Too much work and no time for sex will cause the couples downfall and the rotting of their marriage.

Marriages that value sexual intimacy will generally do better than those that do not:  These couples make the time to be sexual, they talk to their partners about sex, they view expressing their love physically as exquisite. These couples know an important secret: that sex is a gift. It is healthy and natural and a vital part of the human experience. It is a unique way to express your love, unlike in any other relationship you’ve been in. In a committed relationship, it is a means of experiencing the closest emotional intimacy of our adult lives. There can be safety, love, and acceptance in this connection. The fun you share in sex (playing, learning about one another, sometimes making mistakes and laughing at ourselves) is bonding you together as well. Beyond expressing love for one another and having fun together, sex has a powerful positive impact on each partner.

Most men want to feel competent and capable. One way they feel this is in their ability to please their wives sexually. This is a powerful force for a husband and when he feels competent in his marriage, he tends to feel the same in other roles in his life. Also, for many married men, sex is much more than physically feeling good. It is emotional and spiritual. It is a way for a man to express his love for his wife. This connects to what his wife is longing for.

Most wives want to feel desired, cherished, and connected. When she is an interested and enthusiastic partner, her husband will desire and cherish her and do just about anything for her. And she will feel a profound connection to her husband. A sexually fulfilled woman will have less stress and more joy in her life. And these feelings will overflow into all areas of her life.

man-bored-in-bed1What was my situation?  Different than most. I was not in a sexless marraige. Far from it.  My wife and I had stubbornly regular, predictable sex for 20 years. 2-3 times per week on average.  Similar in duration. Similar in approach.  Predictable to the point of tears.  She didn’t seem into it at all and her body betrayed her semi-interest, yet I think she did it because she thought I needed it, or that’s what you do in a marriage. We didn’t flirt in between. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t try anything new or different.

And I was bored out of my mind.

I masturbated frequently on the side in order to feel satisfied (although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with masturbation, even if you are sexually satisfied in your relationship. It’s normal. But I did it much more often then than I do now). I usually fantasized about others during sex just so I could climax and “get it over with.”  It was never unpleasant, but it was mostly just plain vanilla and uninspiring.  I often felt like I was on “auto-pilot” during it.

And of course, as a result, I felt unwanted, undesired, and undesirable.  And I became vulnerable to women who DID find me openly desirable.  It fed a long unmet need to even HEAR that I was a sexy, desirable man.  Something I never heard from my wife.

Now? it’s much better. It took me a long time to realize that our sex life was so tied to the rest of our emotional connection.  The happier she was, the more sexual she became.  And the better the sex was. And we both started to talk about it more. She started taking the initiative.  We watched some porn together at times.  We tried it in different places. At different times of the day.  Is it all fireworks, passion and shouting “oh God! Oh GOD!” every time? No.  But even at it’s most routine, its far better than it was for the first 20 years ever.

This is not to say that sex in a marriage can’t be overstated as well – for some couples, low libido and low sexual activity is normal, mutual and accepted.  And certainly in any long term relationship, it can be difficult if not impossible to maintain the type of raw intensity and urgency of what sex was like during the early part of a relationship. And age will certainly begin to take its toll on sexual desire and activity.

The point frequently is that mismatched sexual needs within a normal range (eg, one partner wants regular, satisfying sex, and the other one barely wants any or none) can spell doom for a marital relationship. It can create the type of emotional void and chasm within which an affair becomes more likely. Or divorce. Or both.

For most couples, if sex is not seen as a priority, these marriages are usually, at minimum, highly unsatisfying, and at worse, are frequently doomed.  If you have vastly mismatched sex drives or needs, I would tell ANYONE — for God’s sake, do NOT get married.  It won’t work!!

But for the rest of us, if sex is not a priority — not the glue — don’t be surprised that the marriage falls apart. It’s human nature to get critical needs met and this, especially for men, seems to be a big one.

PLEASE NOTE:  I am writing from the MALE perspective  – the frustrated married male perspective,  only.  I know there are women out there who are frustrated by the lack of desire by their husbands.  But I can’t write from their perspective. Maybe what I’ve written below may also strike a chord with the, but I can only write from a perspective that I understand — the “deprived married male” perspective. So allow me that point before jumping on me.  I’m not anti-female, nor am I blaming females for affairs and divorce. Far from it.  I love women! Most of my friends are women.   Certainly the health of the overall marriage is frequently tied to the sexual feelings within the female and there is certainly blame to be given to the male and what he is not doing to nurture his relationship.  But that’s an article for someone else to write.  what I wrote here was just one side of the marital story.  🙂

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8 thoughts on “Preventing an Affair: Sex is the “glue” in a marriage

  1. Great read and I believe most men who are married would agree 100% with you. It is something you hear most married men lament over time and time again. Wives do not typically initiate–in fact we mostly try to avoid it all together–and when we do have sex, it is to “get it over with”, so we can move on to more important things–like laundry–lol.
    Here is the thing–I love sex too, but not as much with my spouse. I have been married for 18 years and in most long term marriages sex is viewed by women as a chore.
    Married women talk together. We are not dead inside. When we go out and see a “hot” guy we still get a rush and think about how sexy it would be to rip off his clothes and just “go at it”. But married sex does change and it can get very boring and routine. Even if you do try to “spice” it up with toys, vids and outfits, it is still the same body and person. We can love the other person very much but still desire sex from others.
    My affair sex was HOT–so powerful that it created the “affair fog”. Afterwards came the feelings of guilt and shame but nevertheless, we craved it like an addict and would do anything to get it.
    So my question–how do you get the affair sex out of your head? How do you not compare it to married sex? I want nothing more than my marriage to work and thrive. I know how important sex is for my spouse but there is still something inside of me that hesitates to initiate–and is even slightly turned off by it. I love my spouse very much and I know it hurts him when I don’t want to have sex with him. It is not as if he is physically repulsive and we do not enjoy it, but its not the same.
    I am envious of couples who have been married for years and still have a really hot sex life. Not sure if that is possible. It worries me that I will always be comparing and ultimately place our marriage in jeopardy.

  2. Believe it or not, the affair has knocked things with your husband off-kilter, and made him seem less desirable to you. You can’t go back to being swept away by excitement at the prospect of making love with him, because you don’t consciously think he has anything new to show you. But the truth about your boring sex life is that you were an equal partner in it, and if he’s really boring in the sack, then so are you. If your AP thinks you were an amazing lover, then that means you’re capable of doing better with your husband. I wouldn’t recommend letting this go until he gets so tired of feeling rejected & undesirable that he has an affair of his own & you’re the one feeling devastated & betrayed, so I would suggest therapy, with a great deal of focus on restoring intimacy & rekindling some of the spark in your relationship. Don’t kid yourself, if you’re bored, so is he. Long term marriages, any marriages, are never going to get back to the “brand new” relationship/courtship stage where all you think about is how, what, when & where you can have sex. But you can have better, more satisfying sex than you have had in the past. And yes, it can still be hot. It just requires some effort. There may be no more thrill of the unknown, but old dogs can still learn a few new tricks.

  3. rbducky – I am interested in what you have said. I think as the WS I find it hard to initiate or suggest new things in that department because I am scared he will think it is something that I did with my AP. I almost feel obliged to act the same with my husband as I have always done as I think that being different is just risking add more to the mental pictures he has in his head.

    • I totally get that, and yes, there is some danger of that happening. But listen, you have got to do something; I’ve read your other recent posts, so I sort of understand the situation you’ve gotten yourself into. One thing I do know is that you can’t let your guilt cripple you. If this marriage is what you really want, then you’re going to have to work on making it the relationship you’d never have considered straying from in the first place. Equal responsibility rests on both of you for where your relationship was when you cheated, but as someone who HAS cheated, you bear more responsibility for getting things back on track; your husband has all he can deal with right now just processing the pain. You need to be loving and supportive beyond the guilt. Patient through the anger & detachment (that’s a defense mechanism – he’s terrified of what you’re capable of doing to him, and afraid to let you close enough to do it again). Committed to moving forward and making a better marriage.

      Sex is an important part of re-bonding. You need to re-establish intimacy in your relationship. Be open and honest, transparent in the things you do that don’t include him, so that he feels safe and encouraged to let you be close to him again. I had a hard time initially with putting those thoughts out of my mind – of him with his AP, and was he trying things with me that he’s picked up or perfected with her – but I did make a conscious effort to do that. And counseling helped with that. It helped to reinforce that what was going on between us was all about him and me, and had nothing to do with her. He had to take special care to help me feel that way though. A lot of very close, personal touching and words that somehow conveyed that he very much knew who he was with, and that’s exactly where he wanted to be – with me. You’ll have to find a way to make it like that for him too. And that’s just the best advice I can give you. Get into couples therapy. Show him you’re contrite and committed. Show him you love him even when it feels like he’s pushing you away. I can tell you firsthand that I pushed my husband away out of pain, when the last thing I wanted to do was be distant from him. Bonding again is anything but easy, and it takes more patience than you may sometimes feel you have. But it is so worth it.

      • Thank you rb. I’m sitting here crying my eyes out but you are honestly one of the most insightful people I’ve encountered in this horrendous journey.
        We are in couples counselling but we’re still spinning around not moving forward. I know I need to make more of an effort – it’s hard and I just don’t have the inner strength at times. And yet you are right – the things he says and does are from his hurt and because he’s scared. I need to find better ways to respond and show him I do care. Which I do. I’m just really scared too.

  4. saddespressedlonely –

    There wasn’t a reply tab for your post, so I’m just putting this out here in comments & hoping you’ll see it. I said a prayer for you and your husband this morning, asking God to bless you both & your marriage, to watch over you and help you find your way through this, and to help you be strong. You pain has touched me deeply, and I wish only the very best for you both. I believe with all my heart that there is light at the end of this tunnel, and I truly hope you find it. As broken as you are, try as hard as you can to lift yourself up from the sorrow and guilt, and express your gratitude to him for the opportunity you are being given to make things right. Remember that you want a better marriage, and be joyful in building it. There is a time for guilt. But it can’t be the most important thing. Find a way to express it to him and make him believe you really mean it, and then set it aside and focus on just being happy and feeling good together.

    • Thanks rb. I just saw this today. I wanted to re-read your original reply to me as I really thought it was so insightful.
      If I am really honest with myself I am still wracked with guilt and I can’t really get over that at the moment. I have such low self esteem and now I have nothing to help me build it back up again. The irony now is that I see how much my husband did love me before all of this – I just never really saw it at the time. He said last night that he had loved me for “me” but now I have shattered everything that he had thought about me – I am no longer a good person in his eyes. So that makes it very difficult for me to be a good person in my eyes too.
      I wish I could focus on being happy and lifting myself up from the guilt but I just don’t know how to do it.
      There is so much sadness. He feels so hurt and betrayed – because for him the affair has seeped into every aspect of our life – because I shared thoughts, experiences etc with my AP i.e. it wasn’t just physical. And decisions we have made about other things e.g. where we live have been tainted by my affair as well.
      It feels like there’s just too much for him to get over and I am lost in a sea of guilt and self loathing so I am unable to reach out properly and show him I am a changed person.
      So I keep reading these blogs to give me a glimmer of hope when I feel there is none.
      Thank you for your kindness and understanding. It means more to me than you can know.

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