Couples are struggling to keep up the intimacy in their marriages—emotionally and physically. Studies show that 15-20% of marriages are sexless. Some of these marriages are still within the first five years of marriage! Many marriages are also devoid of emotional intimacy. The combination of no sex and a lack of emotional connection can be a recipe for divorce. There are several common life factors that contribute to sexless marriages, such as stress, children, upsets and mental or physical health issues. However, the other issues that are wreaking havoc in marriages across the nation are more issues of character than of circumstances. When these characters show up in our marriages, they do significant damage to sex and intimacy in a marriage (or any romantic relationship for that matter).
If you find yourself stepping into any of these characters in your marriage—knock it off. It will burn out your marriage.
1. The demander. The demander believes that it is her/his spouse’s duty to be sexual. S/he believes that within the marital contract is some unwritten clause that says the spouse will be available for sex whenever s/he wants it. As such, the demander demands sex, pressures for sex and becomes irate if s/he is not getting sex. The demander is the character that burns out sexual desire the fastest.
2. The player. The player only knows how to connect with their partner via sex. They are not emotionally intimate, tend to be very selfish and often treat their partners as toys to be played with, not humans to care about. They are fine being in the same home without interacting with their spouse emotionally at all. Sex for them is their way of connecting. They become angry when their spouse tells them they want more. Their spouse often feels used and more an object than a spouse.
3. The tantrum-throwing toddler. The spoiled toddler throws a fit every time their partner says no to sex—even if they just had sex the day before. They hate the word, “No,” when it comes to sex. Their spouse often will give in just to avoid the temper tantrum . . . and then later feels resentful that they’re married to someone so immature. This character, along with the demander, kills sexual desire very quickly.
4. The jerk. The jerk is someone who comes home with a chip on their shoulder, often says mean things, is harsh and is just plain nasty to be around. S/he may be sarcastic, biting or like a gray cloud in the home that everyone tries to sidestep. It’s very difficult for a spouse to want to warm up to a jerk—physically or emotionally. This character is so off-putting that everyone stays away.
5. The cold fish. The cold fish is often a response to the pressure of always having to have sex. Many women will respond to a husband who is constantly trying to have sex or pressuring her for sex by pulling back on all physical intimacy all together. Because she’s afraid that any act of kindness will give her husband the idea that they can have sex, she instead becomes absolutely cut off to any form of physical affection—even hugs. She will stiffen if he hugs her, give him her cheek if he tries to kiss her and sit across the room if she thinks sitting near him will in any way give him “the wrong idea.” This approach squashes any form of intimacy and leaves both spouses feeling lonely, distant and unhappy.
When it comes to sex and intimacy in a relationship, kindness is a must. Too many people—and men in particular—come home feeling entitled to sex, averse to conversation and inept at real connection. If you want to have a more loving partner, you have to BE a more loving partner. If, after showing up as more loving, your partner is still not interested in emotional or physical intimacy, then sit him/her down and have an honest conversation about the issue. If necessary, get help to work through this issue. Women often need to feel emotionally connected with their spouse before they want to be sexually connected. Men often feel more connected with their spouse by being more sexually connected. Both of these pieces are vital for healthy relationships.
Challenge: If you’re in a marriage that lacks intimacy, check out the characters above to see if you or your partner is inhabiting one in this marriage. If so, change your moves or demand your spouse changes theirs. Do this before one of you changes their address.