11 June 2009

sex and marriage

This article on sexless marriages in the wellness section of the New York Times yielded almost 800 comments when I last looked at it, and I always find it interesting to see what hits a nerve in people.

Denise A. Donnelly, associate professor of sociology at Georgia State University, studies sexless marriage (which isn't the happiest topic, but I guess it's better than, say, genocide), and she says that couples who aren't having sex are generally not as happy as couples who are.

But, it isn't a cause, necessarily.

It is more of an indication that other aspects of the relationship may have gone awry: lack of effective communication, for example, or a loss of feeling close to your partner.

So, the Q&A was interesting enough, but the comments were the real gems. I didn't read even the whole first page of them, but the ones I did come across were so raw, so personal, I felt a bit like I'd invaded someone's private counseling session.

Some were funny:

Sex is a heckuva lot of work for so little reward. Meh, I’d rather spend the time cooking really great food.

— brennan

Brennan, you’re doing it wrong.

— Greg
Some were heartbreaking, beautiful somehow, and bittersweet. Like this one:

My wife of 19 years ran off with the pizza man. We had very little intimacy (3 or 5 times a year) for many years. Later I realized she recoiled when I even embraced her.
The divorce was 8 years ago. I met a wonderful woman, and we are VERY satisfied.
The most erogenous thing of all.. is having a partner who LIKES you!!

— Ed
And it's interesting how the anonymity of the internet allows people to get these confessions off their chest:

My wife never was interested in sex, or in understanding anything about it. I love her for many other reasons, but I go to prostitutes for sex. I’d go out of my mind without them.

— E. B.

I am a 63 year old senior. My marriage became sexless around fifteen years ago. My wife had no apparent desire for sex and I finally gave up after years of begging. Five years later I began having an affair with a co-worker who was also in a sexless marriage. Our ten-year monogamous relationship likely saved both our marriages. We are both married to good people. I realize this isn’t the normal solution but it likely happens more that you could ever imagine.

— J
It begs the question: what is love? Does this last poster love his partner? It sure sounds like it. Did he disrespect her by going to a co-worker for sex? I'm sure many people would say yes and use colorful language to describe his behavior. But what about his needs? Should you leave the love of your life because your sex life stinks? How important is sex to a relationship?

While I don't foresee myself or my partner heading to a prostitute anytime soon, the older I get, the more I see there are many, many shades of gray. My heart breaks for lots of these commenters, and yes, I'm a softie, but I find it hard to judge them when they share their heartache. What do you think?

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