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The Big D: Why Sex Plays a Role in Divorce

May 17, 2010


When we think of divorce, we usually think drama. That’s just our TV-trained minds, always looking for salacious and intriguing stories.

The truth is that most marriages end for reasons that are less intriguing, as people struggle with the everyday difficulties of sharing a life and maintaining a relationship with one another .

Reserach has shown that most divorce occurs within the first seven years of marriage and that the three big issues facing couples are sex, time and money.

This week, I’ll be writing about these three issues. I can’t help but start with the one that’s on everybody’s mind.

Sex

Almost every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond that I ever saw drew humor from a trite scenario: Ray wants to have sex with his wife and asks at an inappropriate time, misreads her signals and/or is actually about to have sex until he says something stupid that shuts things down.

Marital sex is fodder for sitcom humor, good or bad. Can’t you just hear the laugh track now: “marital sex…there’s an oxymoron”?

Most of the time, we laugh at sitcoms because they portray relatable situations in ways that are humorous. The best comedies don’t invite us to laugh at other people (that’s just mean), they invite us to laugh at ourselves. If that’s true, and the way that marital sex is portrayed on sitcoms has some basis in reality, is it any wonder that sex is a place where many marriages break down?

Unlike common sitcom portrayals, I don’t think that most problems with marital sex come down to desire. I don’t believe that it’s as simple as, “men want it, women don’t.”

In the act of sex a man and a woman give their whole bodies to one another as an expression of the ultimate intimacy. Sex, however, is just one type of intimacy that flows forth naturally from other types of imtimacy. In marriage, we open ourselves up to one another emotionally, mentally, spiritually and ultimately, physically.

For most couples struggling with issues related to sex, there are deeper issues that point to a breakdown in intimacy in other areas of their relationship.

This breakdown in relationship and intimacy ruins sex. While a couple might be able to go through the motions in a physiological way, the emotional and spiritual elements of sex suffer, ultimately harming a couples’ ability to become closer through the sexual act.

We all want to have fulfilling sex lives but in order to get there we have to treat the illness rather than the symptoms. If you and your spouse are struggling to maintain a strong sexual relationship, maybe its time to reconnect on other levels and see if the sparks fly.

Challenge: I am skeptical of the “have sex every day for 40 days” programs to strengthen your marriage. It seems to me that you’re struggling with intimacy in your marriage, flinging yourself on each other for the next forty days is only likely to make things worse.

A much more practical step would be anything that will help you reclaim actual intimacy with your spouse. Turn off the cell phones and spend time with one another. Take a walk or a drive without distractions. Drive somewhere beautiful and talk about your dream vacation or where you see yourself in five years.

As you reconnect with your spouse and reestablish intimacy, the desire to be physical naturally follows.

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