“My wife and I are deeply committed to each other but to have a happier marriage we need more sex”. Those are the words of my colleague, Chris, age 43; one might add the sentiments expressed by him are quite common in today’s society, especially among men. In almost every research done on relationship and the extent to which couples are happy, sex is usually the number one area of concern for both partners. The frequency of sex between married couples is often a private matter and as such lends itself to much debate with regards to what makes for a healthy marriage. “Sexual intercourse is dynamic and should be in a marriage” so says Andrew, Whether we admit to it or not we live in a sexualized and an instant gratification world. Sex, is one of ways in which intimacy can be expressed between couples.
Denton, age 44, who is also married, adds a different dimension. He opines that some women withhold sex in a marriage as a way of punishing the husband. According to Denton, who is also a Christian “lady withholding sex because the man didn’t meet up to her expectation, didn’t clean the car, didn’t come home early enough”. As a result of missing the deadlines a “shop lock” effect comes into play; of course this is not a game any husband is fond of. However, the “shop lock” scenario, is not gender specific, and there are some males who too use this mechanism either to punish or get back at their spouse. Undoubtedly, sex is important in having and maintaining a healthy marriage. Conversely, there are occasions where factors can and does interfere with the frequency of this most precious of God’s gift. Some of the factors which impact the frequency of sex include the work schedule of both partners. There are many instances in which couple‘s work time is so different that they are forced to schedule time for intimacy. One also has to consider whether or not the couple has children. According to Chris, the frequency of sex in a marriage is dependent on whether or not the couple has children. He is of the opinion that two to three times weekly is adequate if the couple has children. He goes to say, “If they have kids, maybe 4 times a month”.
Denton adds that in order to meet the financial responsibilities of the family, both the wife and husband go to work. This he argues inevitably sees both individuals competing against themselves on different team, which puts a strain on the relationship and marriage. We must be reminded that in a marriage there should be only one team. If there are any diversions from this one team narrative, there will be trouble in any marriage. This is never a good sign and couples which find themselves at this point must see this as a red flag and seek immediate counselling to address this.
According to Dr. Harriet Lerner, author of “Marriage Rules”, “a big problem in marriage is that one of both people start thinking something is wrong with them because they’re not having sex as much as they think they should. There is no guideline to which frequency of sex in a marriage is written. Each couple has to define their frequency of sex and intimacy based on their unique circumstances, such as the sex drive, health of the partners and or age.
Denton makes an important point when he says, “intimacy is the energy, tonic, glue of a marriage” It bears thought, how healthy can a marriage be without sex? Lee, age 48 who has been married for 16 years says sex is important in a marriage because “it cements the relationship providing a bond between both people”. When asked, how often sex happen in a marriage, Lee added, “as often as each other is able to invest in the process to get it done”. It can be argued that if couples are not careful sex then becomes a duty and not a necessary component for having a healthy marriage. For Denton, if the atmosphere is right, nightly sex is welcome.
One has to differentiate as well between Christian marriages versus non-Christian marriages. As Christians the marriage vows are usually taken more seriously. It is quite common practice for couples in a Christian marriage to think twice before calling it a day. For Christians marriages go beyond the earthly covenant. In Christendom a marriage takes on the added significance of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. It is the spiritual representation of our relationship with God. Andrew, a colleague, said “but one thing some Christian women are criticized for is not satisfying their man, either by refusing to have sex or just not wanting to do certain things. However, this may be a mindset of security where they feel safe because they have a church man. So the thought of him straying doesn’t seem to dawn on them. It also might be that they see themselves like trophies and somewhat irreplaceable”.
Andrew, who has been married for 16 years, goes on to add that married women in general dress too conservatively when their spouses are at home. “Sexual fantasies are not given enough consideration” According to him, women and men allow themselves to become unattractive with excessive weight gains. An unattractive spouse will make intimacy and sexual intercourse that more challenging and infrequent regardless of whether or not the marriage is a Christian or non-Christian one.
Unfortunately, many churches still view sex as a tabooed subject, and as a result, a lot of misinformation regarding sex, sexuality and the responsibility of spouses continue to flourish. Each marriage is unique; and as such the individuals involved in a marriage must take ownership for the successes and or failures of this covenant agreement. It takes years to fully know your partner. It can be argued that a marriage is a work in progress. In the powerful words of Martin Luther, “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage”.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
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