“Scott doesn’t think my feelings are important any more, especially when it comes to sex,” says 29-year-old Amanda in a clipped voice. “We’ve been married for two years, dated for two years before that, and when it came to sex, I assumed we both were happy.” They certainly never had the recurring arguments about when, where or how to make love that seem to punctuate their days now.
“I wish someone would explain to me what on earth has happened, why my husband is suddenly making such a big deal about our lovemaking,” Amanda sighs.
Amanda, who recently began work as a paralegal in a small but busy law firm, concedes that her husband’s sex drive was always greater than hers.
“Scott would be in the mood to make love if he had a 104-degree fever,” she sighs. “I was never that way, but I rarely refused him. More often than not, I found a way to make him happy, she explains. But now, if Amanda is too tired or not in the mood, Scott becomes irritated and actually pushes her away.
“He’s been asking to make love even more often and I’m feeling under attack when I say no, or not now. I want to make him happy, but does it have to be his way or none?” she wonders.
Unfortunately, instead of talking, as they used to do, she and Scott wind up retreating in anger to opposite ends of the house. “Then, to get back at me, I’m sure, Scott fills his evenings with bill paying or paperwork from the office instead of spending time with me,” she reports. As a result, they’ve been spending less and less time together, in or out of the bedroom.
“Scott doesn’t want to be with me at all anymore,” Amanda continues. Some nights, all she’s in the mood to do is take a walk to the beach, or curl up on the couch and watch ‘ER.’ “Is that so unreasonable and so difficult to understand?” she wonders. “If he loves me, why isn’t he interested in the things we used to do together?” As far as I can tell, he wants one thing - intercourse - and unless he gets it, he’s cold and hostile. “I love my husband very much and I have no intention of walking out on this marriage. But our once satisfying sex life has become a monster that is destroying every part of our relationship.”
Scott finds it hard to explain his behavior and he’s particularly defensive whenever Amanda criticizes him for being unsupportive. “I never said Amanda’s needs aren’t important,” insists the 30-year-old real estate broker. “It’s just that when she avoids making love night after night, I get angry.
Scott’s parents had a loveless marriage, he adds: “I know you never really know what your parents’ marriage was like,” he concedes. “But even as a kid, I could tell there was no spark between them. They never kissed in front of me and my brothers, they were never affectionate. I can’t help worrying that Amanda and I are falling into that same rut.” When pressed, Scott admits he’s been avoiding Amanda. “I’m angry,” he says. “I never dreamed this would happen to us.”
When Sexual Needs Collide
“Even happy couples hit sexual glitches,” notes Evelyn Moschetta, DSW, a marriage and family therapist in New York City. “You can’t expect to have the same desires all the time - sexual or otherwise,” she notes. Yet it’s amazing how many happy marriages get derailed because one person wants to make love and the other says no.
Fortunately, increasing numbers of couples, like Scott and Amanda, are seeking counseling for sexual problems as soon as they surface. In fact, these days, most marital therapists combine sex therapy with marital counseling. And the most common complaint they hear is “desire discrepancy” - when partners’ needs are out of sync. If this is a battle you’re waging, too, consider the following advice, which helped Amanda and Scott rekindle their sexual life:
1. Keep in mind that how often a couple has sex is not important. What is: That you mutually agree on when to make love so neither you nor your spouse feels deprived or bullied.
2. Remind yourselves that it’s normal to have different levels of desire. Are you both hungry or sleepy at the same time? Probably not, so why would you expect to feel sexual desire at the same time?
3. Consider the needs of each partner and accept them without blame or anger. Scott is clear about what he wants, but Amanda is less clear about what’s missing from the relationship. In counseling, Amanda was finally able to pinpoint that she felt deprived of his company in small ways outside the bedroom.
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