What is intimacy in marriage? Intimacy in a marriage is closeness of your relationship with a spouse from all aspects – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. Intimacy is not a goal to be achieved but rather a journey that should last throughout a marriage.
One aspect of marriage is that of sexual intimacy, a critical component to ensuring a healthy marriage.
On the other hand, a sexless marriage (according to sex therapists, Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner, technically a sexless marriage is considered as a marriage in which the couple has sex fewer than 10 times per year), may result in frustration, dissatisfaction and differing sexual desires that have gone unattended and caused distance and despair. Often, one spouse feels uncared for while the other feels his or her sexual needs are ignored. “Duty sex” may become the short-term answer, but that uneasy compromise never works long-term.
Dr. James Dobson shares some aspects of sex in a marriage to help couples to their strife for a healthy marital relationship.
Is the felt need for sex the same in both males and females?
Many men and women differ significantly in their manifestations of sexual desire. Research seems to indicate that the intensity of pleasure and excitation at the time of orgasm in women and ejaculation in men is about the same, although the pathway to that climax takes a different route. Most men can become excited more quickly than women. They may reach a point of finality before their mates get their minds off the evening meal and what the kids will wear tomorrow morning. It is a wise man who recognizes this feminine inertia, and brings his wife along at her own pace.
This coin has two sides, however. Women should also understand how their husbands’ needs differ from their own. When sexual response is blocked in males, they experience an accumulating physiological pressure that demands release. Two seminal vesicles (small sacs containing semen) gradually fill to capacity; as maximum level is reached, hormonal influences sensitize the man to all sexual stimuli. Whereas a particular woman would be of little interest to him when he satisfied, he may be eroticized just to be in her presence when he is in a state of deprivation. A less passionate wife may find it difficult to comprehend this accumulating aspect of her husband’s sexual appetite, since her needs are typically less urgent and pressing. Thus, she should recognize that his desire is dictated by definite biochemical forces within his body, and if she loves him, she will seek to satisfy those needs as meaningfully and as regularly as possible. I’m not denying that women have definite sexual needs that seek gratification; rather I am merely explaining that abstinence is usually more difficult for men to tolerate.
Why are some men and women less sensual than others?
Adult attitudes toward sexual relations are a function of genetics and conditioning during childhood and adolescence. It is surprising to observe how many otherwise well-adjusted people still think of married sex as dirty, animalistic, or evil. Such a person who has been taught a one-sided, negative approach to sex during the formative years may find it impossible to release these carefully constructed inhibitions on the wedding night. The marriage ceremony is simply insufficient to reorient one’s attitude from “Thou shalt not” to “Thou shalt -regularly- and with great passion!” That mental turnabout is not easily achieved.
Let me address the other related factor. Not all differences in intensity of the sex drive can be traced to errors in childhood instruction. Human beings differ in practically every characteristic. Our feet come in different sizes, our teeth are shaped differently, some people eat more than others, and some are taller than their peers. We are unique individuals. Accordingly, we differ in sexual appetites. Our intellectual “computers” are clearly programmed differently through the process of genetic inheritance. Some of us “hunger and thirst” after our sexuality, while others take it much more casually. Given this variability, we should learn to accept ourselves sexually, as well as physically and emotionally. This does not mean that we shouldn’t try to improve the quality of our sex lives, but it does mean that we should stop struggling to achieve the impossible – trying to set off an atomic bomb with a matchstick.
As long as a husband and wife are satisfied with each other, it doesn’t matter what popular magazines say their inadequacies happen to be. Sex in this culture has become a statistical monster. “The average couple has intercourse three times a week! Oh no! What’s wrong with us? Are we undersexed?” A husband worries if his genitalia are of “average” size, while his wife contemplates her insufficient bustline. We are tyrannized by this preoccupation with sexuality. I hereby make a proposal: Let’s keep sex in its proper place; sure, it is important, but it should serve us and not the other way around!
My husband and I never talk about the subject of sex, and this is frustrating to me. Is this a common problem in marriage?
It is, especially for those who are having sexual difficulties. It is even more important that the doors of communication be kept open in marriage when sex is a problem. When intercourse has been unenthusiastic, and when anxiety has been steadily accumulating, the tendency is to avoid referring to the topic in everyday conversation. Neither partner knows what to do about the problem and they tacitly agree to ignore it. Even during sexual relations, they do not talk to one another.
One woman wrote me recently to say that her sex life with her husband resembled a “silent movie”. Not a word was ever spoken.
How incredible it seems that an inhibited husband and wife can make love several times a week for a period of years without ever verbalizing their feelings or frustrations on this important aspect of their lives. When this happens, the effect is like taking a hot Coke bottle and shaking it until the contents are ready to explode. Any anxiety-producing thought or condition that cannot be expressed is almost certain to generate inner pressure and stress. The more unspeakable the subject, the greater the pressurization that tends to weaken sexual desire.
Furthermore, when conversation is prohibited on the subject of sex, the act of intercourse takes on the atmosphere of a performance – each partner feeling that he or she is being critically evaluated by the other. To remove these communication barriers, the husband should take the lead in helping his wife verbalize her feelings, her fears, her aspirations. They should talk about the manners and techniques that stimulate – and those that don’t. They should face their problems as mature adults, calmly and confidently. There is something magical to be founding such soothing conversation; tensions and anxieties are reduced when they find verbal expression.