Marriage Shouldn't Ruin Your Sex Life

Because someone's got to give.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Among the worst category of jokes that will never quit are the married/long-term relationship sex jokes. You know what I'm talking about. The "marriage is where sex goes to die" jokes.

You see these jokes play out in sitcoms all the time, and what I really despise about these tropes are the way they make women so... bitchy. Can I say that? The average American sitcom makes wives seem so damn mean because they routinely treat sex like a chore, or a favor they do for the husband with rolled eyes. Like omg, this is so primitive and energy consuming.

We've made it an American joke that in marriage--or possibly any committed, long-term relationship--men must beg their women for sex. Oh, and it also makes women look like gold diggers who deprive their partners of sex once they have a ring or commitment.

Look, I'm a feminist. I care a whole lot about the gendered orgasm gap, as some of you already know. I have a lot to say about sexual assault. But I also don't think there's anything funny about making your husband beg for sex after you two once had a great sex life before marriage.

Life happens. Kids change things. Careers hit low points. We're tired. Libidos ebb and flow. I get it, but I think we'd all be a helluva lot happier with more sex, or at the very least, more satisfying sex.

How do we get there?

Let's talk about sex.

We need to be much more open to talking to our partners and even talking to our prospective partners about sex. A lot of people like to pretend that sexual compatibility isn't a thing, but if you have a strong mismatch in this area, someone is always going to be giving more or taking less. Without honest communication that kind of disparity breeds resentment.

Some issues might require a ton of discussion and patience, say if asexuality or sexual trauma are involved. But when we're talking about the kind of future we imagine for ourselves and with each other, sex needs to be a part of that conversation.

It's much easier to talk about sex when we understand it's a normal part of the human experience.

I was raised in one of those households where it was assumed that if we didn't talk about sex, we wouldn't have sex. And although I was too afraid to have sex, that fear carried into my marriage.

Talk about a marriage killer.

We do our kids a huge disservice by not talking openly and honestly about sex so they're adequately prepared in adulthood.

Let's be honest.

If sex feels like a chore, you're probably doing it wrong.

Sorry if that sounds judgemental--it's simply that sex should be pleasurable for both parties. If you or your partner feel like sex has become a burden, it's time to talk about it.

In talking about it, you want to find a way to make sex more satisfying. Sure, maybe it means spicing things up. But it might just mean taking a little pressure off too. Every couple's issues vary, but you've got to face them to get past them.

Withholding sex is no good.

If you or your partner have gotten into the habit of withholding sex as a "punishment," you're not doing the relationship any favors. I've seen men withhold sex from wives who gain weight, and women withhold sex from husbands anytime they're angry. All are terrible ideas.

Sex is not a bargaining tool. In a healthy relationship, we approach sex like an activity to grow together, connect with each other, and strengthen our bond.

Good sex matters.

There's a common notion that sex isn't that important. It's kind of like the way Freud said only immature women have clitoral orgasms--sometimes we suggest that only immature people put a high value on sex in their relationship.

But I disagree. Sex is an important part of long-term relationships or marriages, and there's nothing wrong with the partner who admits that good sex matters. (And clitoral orgasms are awesome!)

Physical intimacy is a valid love language.

Physical touch is a common way for many of us to give, receive, and understand love and affection. If you're one of those people, you especially know how much it hurts to have a partner use sex like a weapon or punishment tool.

You may also know the first-hand experience of being with someone who seemed to care about your sex life, but became a seemingly different person once you got married or otherwise settled down together.

It feels an awful lot like a bait-and-switch. And nobody wants to be on the receiving end of that.

Love is about giving.

In a healthy relationship, both parties want to be good to each other, even when it's not easy. We make sacrifices for each other. Even when we're tired. I suppose that's partly why I take issue with wives acting like it's so terrible that their husbands want to have sex with them.

What did you think was going to happen when you began building a life together? That they would suddenly not care about sex?

If you're someone who's constantly lying about having a headache, or simply not being in the mood, you're long overdue for a conversation with your partner about what's really going on. There's something in the relationship that you're clearly not handling--and that's not just his penis.

Talk about sex before you have it, and before you make a commitment to each other.

I think sexual compatibility matters more than most people want to admit. If someone's always compromising in the sex life of your relationship, it's going to get old fast.

It pays to talk about what you want, or what you want to explore to find out where the other person stands. No one needs to have deep secret fantasies they're too afraid to discuss with the person who sees them naked everyday.

I know--it takes a lot of confidence and vulnerability to talk about your deepest sexual desires when this person you care about could judge you for it. But wouldn't a truly satisfying sex life make up for any awkward conversation?

Let's face it. Sex is already awkward. That's partly why we're so vulnerable when we have it. But talking about it isn't going to make it any worse.

On the contrary, it can do a great deal of good.