When cooking, there are certain foods that after being cooked are best left to sit for a time before being re-heated and then eaten. In my house, we say, “The ingredients must marry overnight.” This means that the food’s ingredients must merge, mingle and join to make the food fully delightful. People, too, must “marry” in this way. For a marriage to be a good one the partners must emotionally merge. A healthy sex life is the outward expression that this merging has taken place, but sex is also an activity that promotes this merging…and is a symbolic merging on a physical level.
When two people are married, or in a long-term love relationship and for weeks and months are not actively sexually, it is a sign that these partners are not merging emotionally. Missing is an essential part and purpose of being in a relationship. As time passes without the bonding that sex provides, partners grow disconnected; they suffer. Their relationship becomes increasingly vulnerable to troubles, such as bitterness, conflict, affairs and divorce.
Sexlessness, often frustrating and depressing to many partner's, is commonly a symptom of emotional gridlock. When romantic partners have either not resolved significant differences or are unable to fix ongoing relationship problems, gridlock is the result. In gridlock, neither partner is able to effect positive change because the other partner refuses to support or cooperate with the desired changes. Without mutual support, cooperation the teamwork necessary to resolve problems is unavailable. Tensions build between partners. Resentment typically accumulates as does emotional disconnection. In such a negative relationship environment, the closeness and vulnerability of sex is unsupported. Sexlessness sadly prevails. Some couples remain locked in this passionless standoff for decades.
If a love relationship has deteriorated to the point where it is sexless, then one or both partners need to grow emotionally. Emotions are experienced in the present, but are a sum of our past. They powerfully influence our choices, our current experience and our behaviors. Negative emotions pull at us to be less than the best we can be. The weaker we are emotionally the less we are able to resist the influence of negative emotions to behave in ways which are not in our best interest. On the contrary, the stronger emotionally we are the more we choose to act in ways that are loving to others and to our self.
Differences between partners are a source of friction. Developing the strength to negotiate differences in a loving way allows us to remain open to our partner in spite of the differences and the rigors of negotiating them. It is love that cures so many relationship problems, including sexlessness. Love is a choice, which when present, creates many new possibilities, including a satisfying sex life. It all starts at home, by loving our self. Those who grow emotionally stronger, will increase their capacity to love, and will experience a resurrection of what is hopefully, a sweet and pleasure-filled sex life. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 508-997-6091 x106