I am not a renowned sexologist in the vein of Kinsey. I’m neither Masters nor Johnson. However, people have been randomly telling me their sex stuff for decades, which partly motivated my unusual vocation. I’ve known many people in sexless marriages, who confided this to me as if it were an incontrovertible fact. One recent Internet survey claims sex is not even in the top three priorities for a relationship, but it should be- the lack of it kills trust and love and marriages. Look deeply into many divorces and you will find deep-seeded issues with sex that can’t be solved by popping on a new negligee to “spice things up.”
I have a friend who recently moved out of the country with a man she was in love with, though she barely knew him in chronological time. Every person in her life advised her against the move, including her grown children. In addition to moving to a place she didn’t know, this woman, an independent and feisty creative professional who could work from anywhere, would have to “start again” and help this guy raise his own young children. I was the lone voice of “Do it” in a chorus of “You’re fucking nuts.”
A good deal of why I approved of the “irrational” decision to move had to do with the way this guy presented himself long distance. They had traveled together and spent time in the US before moving abroad, but not much (or not enough) and in that time he appeared to be ideal for her on a DNA soul level. In particular my friend has certain “sexual proclivities” and besides the companionship, intellectual stimulation and affection, seemed to have found a match in him. You cannot underestimate sexual chemistry- sometimes it’s all that remains as you stare at someone you barely remember over a car seat covered in baby vomit.
And yet… even a short time after her move, my beautiful friend became despondent. Yes there were health problems he had concealed/underplayed, intellectually he was not up to her level, and the drudgery of taking care of young children who were not her own was taking a toll. But the biggest issue by far was that once this guy was “in possession” of the precious cargo he had fought so hard to bring home, he STOPPED HAVING SEX WITH HER.
If the kids were home, if his health acted up, if it was Tuesday… our man had a myriad of “valid” reasons why intercourse, or even affection, was inconvenient. And of all the oddly disconcerting things she had learned about her beau (what was that weird eating habit and why hadn’t she discovered it earlier?) she vowed she would have been able to handle it all, if only they were still having sex.
Of course sex and affection are different categories, but my contention is that even for a partner who is always available for a cuddle, sex itself is essential. The degree to which consistently refusing sex qualifies as emotional withholding cannot be underestimated. Not only that, but matching sexual kinks and preferences can be a vital way of overcoming other problems in a relationship, of channeling energy that has become stuck in the areas of communication, money worries, kid crap… the diametric opposite of what we’ve always been taught.
“Look for the friendship…” we are instructed in matters of love, or what is often heard at weddings “I married my best friend.” But I don’t fuck my best friends, and nor do I want to. Allow your unmet desires to fester at your peril. At a certain point, unless you bomb yourself out in other ways, they will eventually become impossible to deny. Having disparate levels of sexual desire is something that is not a deal-breaker in itself, but not addressed, will most definitely become one.
Why do people stop fucking? Sometimes the superficial reasons of being tired or overwhelmed with life are smokescreens for a certain stubbornness that takes hold, a refusal to give in, knowing the other person needs something only they have the power to give. For some polyamory is the answer, or being “monogamish,” or cheating is resorted to with self-justification, but unless the underlying issues of power and avoidance are addressed, these will just be placebos.
“Attraction fades,” or does it? People stay crazy attracted to each other for decades, with little to do with outside appearance, if intimate channels remain open. That way if age or health or circumstance render the “traditional” act of sex impossible, there remains a commitment to finding creative ways to connect on that level. Sex is a basic human need as important as oxygen and denying it just as fatal, though it takes longer. And when I meet my friend at the airport as she tries to come back to her life here, I will make sure to tell her so…