Health

Can a Sexless Marriage Be a Happy One?

Lilien, who has two children, says that becoming a mother was a turning point for her. She had to give up her old career and didn’t know who she was or what she wanted. “My identity was totally eviscerated,” she says. “I was really confused about my worth.” Her story of sexual assault also resurfaced in profound ways. She thought she had to be “permeable” to raise her children. She did not have the capacity to extend this physical openness to her husband. She couldn’t stand his gentle caresses, which felt like the tickling of her child’s hands.

Lilien’s husband, Philip, never pressured her to be intimate, for which she is grateful. “The most important thing for me was to maintain a place where sex is very positive, very consensual, very understood and mutually appreciated,” he says. Five years later, Philip knows she is still coming to terms with everything motherhood has brought into her life. Recently they started having sex more, about once every two months. Lilien loves her husband’s firm back massages, which he is happy to offer her.

Other couples, just like Rose and Will, confessed to feeling sexually misaligned with their partners as their desires moved in different directions. Jean, a 38-year-old mother living in Virginia, told me that her husband’s interest in sex had gradually waned over their 13 years of marriage. She, on the other hand, experienced what she calls “secondary puberty” as her children grew up and became less dependent on her. She felt “so sexually aroused” that she visited her gynecologist to confirm she did not have a hormonal problem. She is now trying to figure out how to deal with her husband’s low desire. “I feel like I’m living in reverse most of the time,” she says. “My friends complain about their husbands grabbing their butts while they’re doing the dishes, and I think, Wow, I’d love to feel wanted like that.”

Another mother, Emily, says sex gradually lost its importance during her 34 years of marriage. When her children were small, intimacy with her husband briefly stopped, but as their children grew older, they experienced “a revival of a good sex life,” Emily says. She is now 59 years old and has undergone several operations following her battle with cancer, including a hysterectomy and mastectomy. As a result, her desire diminished and sex began to feel like “vacuuming the house” – something she did to make her husband happy. And he noticed it. “If you’re used to someone responding to you a certain way, you can tell when they’re acting out,” she says. “I wasn’t the same person.”

One night in bed, about 10 years after she underwent hormone treatment for the cancer that sent her into early menopause, they had a frank conversation about their sex life. “We discussed my lack of desire and he said that if I wasn’t aroused, then he wasn’t either,” Emily says. He admitted that his libido had also diminished. So they decided not to force it. She believes there is a certain cultural pressure that pushes older people to continue their sex lives into their 80s. She read, skeptically, articles claiming that maintaining sexual relationships later in life is healthy. “Is it?” she says. “I don’t know.”

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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