Perhaps we need to begin with a question — does love create sexual desire or does sexual desire create a feeling of love? For me, the answer lies in why people get married in the first place.
One would assume that every marriage is sexual but you might be surprised to hear that it’s not. In the early stages, most couples can’t get enough. Everything else in their lives is fitted around love-making but, after the first one to two years, the intensity of these feelings inevitably dies down, hopefully to be replaced by friendship, trust and respect, and other deeper connections. That’s not to say that romance and sex should take a second place, but they fall into a more balanced perspective.
As the years go by, however, if partners don’t work at it, they can grow further and further apart until there’s nothing much left. Couples then either play up, split up, or endure ‘dead’ marriages.
A few actually decide, quite deliberately, to give up sex — to be asexual partners and live on together for the sake of the children, for financial reasons or out of habit. I think many just drift into these arrangements because they’re too lazy to find a solution, or because repair’s been left too late.
Is no sex better than bad sex? My view, and that of experts in this field, is yes. It’s the same as the debate over breaking up or staying together. Breaking up is painful but not as much as staying in a hurtful marriage. Yet millions of people around the world live in hurtful marriages and have poor sex constantly. Too many of us forget that sex is not a mindless, physical activity — it engages the whole body, the heart, the imagination, not just the genital areas.
“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” ― Federico García Lorca
To be sexy, we need to feel sexy, think sexy and act sexy. There’s a tendency for married people to assume their partners are always there, ready and available to them, or that they are permanently responsible for their sexual desire. A case in point came from a man who would complain that he had a constant erection (not most people’s idea of a problem!) and his wife was sick of it. He said she would groan every night when he entered the bedroom with his hard-on. It was a lighthearted problem but raised an interesting issue. I told him to reassure his wife that she’s not responsible for dealing with his erections, that just because he’s hard doesn’t imply an obligation on her.
There’s usually less preamble in a marital relationship. Couples lose or neglect the art of seduction. Apart from the stresses and pressures, each partner also brings all the disappointment, disillusionment and hang-ups from the past into the current alliance. This extra baggage gets in the way of present-day attempts to enjoy unhampered closeness. None of us has a perfect childhood or a perfect sex education. Overly prescriptive, guilt-ridden backgrounds are common and they create uptight, control freaks who are too scared to break out of their conditioned responses and find a new, better way to be happy and to relate.
It’s not hard to understand why sex turns sour in so many marriages. Male attitudes still dominate, I’m afraid, and women are often not encouraged to initiate or take an active role in love-making. Later in the marriage, men get tired or bored with doing all the work but, by then, women cannot break out of their passive roles. Conversely, women who enjoy initiating can sometimes threaten their partners’ masculinity and this causes a different set of problems. Men who lack finesse and tenderness, women who lack sensitivity and participation — these can never make ideal bed-partners. The relationship itself dictates the success or failure of the love-making between them.
“I envy people that know love. That have someone who takes them as they are.” ― Jess C. Scott
If individuals feel unhappy, let-down, unloved, vulnerable, put-down, used and so on, they’re unlikely to enjoy sex fully. Spontaneity is impossible under these conditions, as it opens up the possibility of rejection. Partner response is a spicy ingredient in the love-making stew, and only the most egocentric or cynical lover would ignore or underestimate its importance. Without it, you may just as well masturbate. Uninterested or unfeeling participants are cheating themselves, as we saw in the section on libido, but they’re also denying their partners the greatest pleasure of all — to see and feel another’s sexual joy.
Foreplay is vitally important, not just to achieve orgasm for the woman, but for closeness and mutual pleasuring. It isn’t just the half-hour or so of touching, kissing and fondling that goes on in bed before intercourse. That’s a very limited view of foreplay. I believe that sex is merely an extension of the good feelings generated between people during the day, an extended form of communication. If that rapport is positive, positive, loving feelings will be taken into bed. If communication is negative, negative energy in bed will result.
Dr Michael Clarke speaks of the 23-and-a-half-hour foreplay, in other words, the whole day leading up to the half-hour of actual love-making. It doesn’t have to be a big deal — just a wink, a touch, a glance, a cheeky smile, a light touch, gestures that say ‘I love you and I can’t walt to make love to you tonight.’ The sexist thing in the world is love. That feeling of sexual desire and knowing that you turn another person on is the most exciting aphrodisiac.