Ben Franklin (Yes, the Founding Father whose face is on the $100 bill) had lots to say about sexless marriages, including this bon mot, "Where there is marriage without love, there will be love without marriage."
Scroll through comments on any piece on sexless marriage and you'll find those who say they're perfectly happy holding hands or sleeping in separate beds. But unless both parties are content with that arrangement, the scenario is far from ideal.
Still, work stress, technology, Netflix, kids, sheer exhaustion, and just plain ennui can get in the way of that nightly or even weekly romp in the hay. Are you resigned to foregoing sex and possibly opening that door to, as Ben would say, "love without marriage?"
Marriage and family therapist Dr. Jane Greer, author of What About Me? offers a variety of tools to help couples get back in the groove. The radio host and creator of SHRINK WRAP with Dr. Jane Greer and the weekly call in show Doctor on Call (at HealthyLife.net, Tuesday, 2-3 pm EST) says the first step is to acknowledge the issue. Let the other partner know how you're feeling about the absence of sexual intimacy. If one of you is unhappy with the reduced amount of sex, Dr. Greer suggests broaching the topic without attaching blame.
"We aren't having sex the way we used to. We aren't connecting. You seem tired. Is that what's going on?" goes much farther than "Why aren't you initiating?" Enter with curiosity and an open mind to change rather than blame or attack, advises Greer. If you know you are dealing with a medical issue, figure out options, factoring in the partner's sexual needs, and find other ways to please each other.
Greer says most people have different sexual appetites and preferences. Couples need to deal with who wants more or less, factoring in the mood. "Sometimes when you're not hungry, you'll keep your partner company at dinner," she says. "Acknowledge the differences in appetite and try to address the differences by being open to sexual activity that allows the partner to get his or her needs met. Let your partner know you're sensitive to his or her needs."
Parenthood is a period of time when roles are changing. Know that the transformation doesn't have to mean no sex if you're creative and willing to try new things or times. Explore different options. When a husband only sees his wife as a mother, he might be reluctant to relate sexually. Prioritize time for date nights, not just sex in and around the baby's schedule.
Laurie Handler, film producer, sex/intimacy coach, and author of Sex & Happiness: The Tantric Laws of Intimacy, says partners may worry pre-planning takes out the spontaneity but notes you can be spontaneous once you've set aside time to do spontaneous things. If time is an issue, block out two hours to let go of thoughts about job responsibilities and family. "Couples aren't having sex because life creeps into every nook and cranny. If you have an agreed upon time structure, you can be spontaneous and find time to relax."
Handler also suggests couples take a dance class together. "Tango, swing, salsa, there's nothing sexier than two people who are great together on the dance floor. The man gets to lead and the woman gets to follow," she says.
In and out of the bedroom, take turns being the initiator, even planning the date. Switch off who is responsible for planning the adventure or finding the new restaurant to keep the spark alive.
"Many women are turned off to the idea of sex because of their body image or self-esteem once they become mothers or gain a few pounds," Handler shares. "There are so many things people can do. The simplest thing is to set aside a time to do it. It's not rocket science."
For more information on Dr. Jane Greer, SHRINK WRAP,and Doctor on Call, visit http://drjanegreer.com/.
For more information on Laurie Handler and her Butterfly Workshops, visit http://butterflyworkshops.com/.
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