My Successful Sexless Marriage
I have been married for 25 years. On July 5, 2017, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and we have a happy, healthy sexless marriage. Sexual Incompatibility – we have that in spades. Our libidos are out of synch, we share no kink interests and my desire for a power exchange? Well, that’s something else we don’t have in common. But, we have found ways to incorporate intimacy into our relationship to keep it working for us.
What is sexual incompatibility?
The simple answer is when your sexual desires and needs do not align with those of your partner. Basically, it can be as simple as you want more (or less) sex than your partner, or it can encompass situations where you are on a completely different sexual spectrum than your partner. Maybe even having different sexual orientations.
For many of us, our sexuality is a complex thing. It can incorporate things such as frequency of sexual encounters, how we prefer to interact in the bedroom … are you a take charge kind of person? Or do you like it when your partner calls the shots? How comfortable are you with dirty talk? What if that is something your partner really wants to hear? Maybe your preferences fall on the rough side of things, complete with sadomasochistic activities, but your partner finds it difficult to smack your ass.
All of these things would be an indication of sexual incompatibility. And it can happen in any relationship. Some people will check for compatibility at the start of their relationships, for example, I am a submissive sexual partner. I like to be manhandled and put in my place. If I was looking for a new sexual partner, especially a relationship that has long-term potential, I would probably look for someone who compliments my desires. I would want someone who is comfortable with choking, slapping and spitting on me. Preference would go to someone who isn’t just comfortable doing those things but also desires to do them.
But checking your compatibility at the outset isn’t a guarantee that it will continue. During my recent conversation with Nick Harding, we discussed the idea of habituation. Sometimes people get bored of having sex with their partners. Imagine doing the same job for 25 years. Not just the same job, but the same tasks, in the same manner, every day. Yeah, it can get boring. And sometimes sex with the same person can get monotonous. This habituation can lead to a desire to have different sex (whether it be a different kind or sex, or a different partner altogether).
Shake and Stir things up
Passion and sexual satisfaction typically diminish in longer-term relationships, but this decline is not inevitable. Opening the marriage to allow for extradyadic sex is certainly one way of staving off the monotony of sexual monogamy. Another possibility is to incorporate a diverse repertoire of intimate and sexual acts. A study by David Frederick published in the Journal of Sex Research entitled What Keeps Passion Alive? found that sexual satisfaction and maintenance of passion were higher among people who had sex most frequently, received more oral sex, had more consistent orgasms, and incorporated more variety of sexual acts, mood setting, and sexual communication.
Beyond differing libidos or bedroom boredom
Shaking things up in the bedroom can keep things fresh. But what about those situations when one of the partners just isn’t into having sex? What happens if after a decade of marriage you find yourself in a relationship, as I did, with someone who actually falls somewhere on the asexual scale? Does that mean that your relationship should end?
“Leave his sorry ass”
When I learned that my husband wasn’t all that interested in sex (or as he puts it, “Sex isn’t all that important to him”), I sought the advice of some of the people in my life. Naturally, I thought something was wrong with me … we used to have sex (and in some very interesting locations) and now we aren’t. Why doesn’t he find me sexy anymore? I was hoping my friends could give me some advice about how I could spice things up. Instead, what most of my friends recommended was ending my marriage and finding a man who could satisfy my needs.
I suppose I could have followed that advice. Judging by the divorce rates it seems that sexual incompatibility, in some form, is a leading reason for divorce. I am going to make the assumption that infidelity was because of some form of mismatched sexual expectations, whether that was discord over frequency or the need for variety.
That solution is no solution at all!
But that seemed like compounding a problem with a greater problem. It didn’t solve anything. Instead of being in an asexual relationship which provided me with companionship and security, I would be alone … and since I am not sexually aggressive, I probably still wouldn’t be having sex.
I would lose the home I worked to build with my husband. There would be no one to care for me when I am ill. And, I wouldn’t have anyone to care for, which means my service-oriented self would be unfulfilled. My quality of life would take a hit as I got accustomed to a lower household income and, if I did meet someone else, I would have to get used to all of their quirks. I already had a handle on how my husband might react in different situations. I would have to start afresh. And so would my husband. That prospect was daunting.
Who’s responsible for my sexual fulfilment anyway?
This advice also struck me on a different, more personal level. It pre-supposed that my sexual fulfilment was the responsibility of my mate. What my friends suggested was that I turn my entire existence on its head so that I can find someone else to take care of my sexual needs. But, isn’t it my sexuality? Hasn’t feminism been telling me that I, and I alone, have the power over my sexual being?
So, leaving my husband and destroying all of the other areas of our relationship that were working because he wasn’t interested in fucking me (or anyone for that matter) wasn’t a viable option. But, what could I do? Languishing in an asexual existence wasn’t going to work for me in the long-run, but that seemed like the better solution to throwing my life into turmoil. I could get some fulfilment from cyber sex. Masturbation is always an option. I had things that were in my control that would bring me some relief. And there were other options I could explore. We just needed to think outside of the traditional marriage box.
Episode 29: 25 years in the making
I have discussed related topics on Stereo-Typed. So, I will be revisiting some of my past interviews while I present some of the options that are available to those who find themselves in a long-term relationship with someone who is not their sexual compliment. I will also be drawing inspiration from a couple of Psychology Today blog posts, a study or two on relationship satisfaction and some research into asexuality.
In my case, my husband and I have been able to navigate and negotiate our way through the landmines of sexual incompatibility so that we can continue to have a happy and healthy marriage, even if the only thing we are doing in our bedroom is sleeping together.
This episode was pre-recorded and will be released on July 5th at 7 PM ET (in lieu of my usually scheduled live show). When it is released, you will be able to stream it here. Or, subscribe to Stereo-Typed on iTunes, GooglePlay or Stitcher.
These references were used for background information on the topics of sexual incompatibility, asexuality, sexless marriages, and relationship satisfaction
- How couples can cope with different libidos, sexual desire – Psychology Today, Insight is 20/20 blog, by Dr Seth Meyers
- Frederick, D.A. (et al). What Keeps Passion Alive?
- Couples Rank the Most Important Factors in Happy Long-Term Relationships – and Sex Doesn’t Make the Top 10 – Glamour.com
- Why you DON’T have to make love regularly to have a happy marriage: It’s a series that could transform your life – an in-depth study into what really makes relationships last. And it’s not what you think – The Daily Mail
- Finding Joy in a Sexless Marriage – Psychology Today, Fulfillment At Any Age blog, by Susan Krauss Whitbourne
Making Love, then and now – Grammarphobia blog
- Asexuality: A distinct and valid sexual orientation – Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute
- Brotto, L.A., Yule, M. Asexuality: Sexual Orientation, Paraphilia, Sexual Dysfunction, or None of the Above?
Relevant Stereo-Typed Episodes:
- 27 – Cuckoldry and Sexual Shame with David Ley
- 24 – Sexual Monogamy with Nick Harding
- 18 – What is Love? with Carrie Jenkins
- 17 – Sex, Depression and Relationships with JoEllen Notte (not directly quoted in the episode, but contains valuable information on how depression can affect libido)
- TPOK # 205 – My interview with Crazy Heart
Listen to the archive now:
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