Do you remember when you couldn't keep your hands off each other? When you did nothing for hours except talk and touch and simply lay together? Remember when sex was something you did regularly, not something you think of as a vague fond memory? Do you find yourself looking at your partner with a mix of frustration and general lack of interest and thinking this person has become my friend and room-mate not my lover.
You are not alone. According to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the top-searched marriage complaint on Google is "sexless marriage. What's more, searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage. There are many factors contributing to the rise in intimacy loss in relationships and it would appear it is a widespread concern. Research conducted by the US National Health and Social Life Survey found that approximately 20% of couples are living in sexless marriages. The definition of a sexless marriage is one in which couples engage in sex less than once every 6 weeks. Clearly if this is you, then you are not alone. So many people are struggling with this issue and wondering what they did wrong or what is wrong with them or their partner that they ended up like this. Well, it doesn't have to be the end, this can be reversed, intimacy can be regained.
Intimacy between a loving couple is one of the things that separates your relationship from the relationships you have with other people, it is one of the things that makes it special. When you lose intimacy for an extended period of time it damages your relationship and your long term chances of survival. Unless of course both partners are satisfied with a sexless marriage or a lack of intimacy and in that case it is doubtful you would be reading this.
Does it matter if we aren't intimate?
According to world-renowned couples therapist Esther Perel it matters - “The couple today is treated as the central unit of the family. And the only reason the family survives is if the couple is remotely content. Families are not held together by kids, by female oppression, by economic dependence, by legalities that prevent divorce,” she says. “And never has this one unit of two had to fill so many expectations. Because, today, we have to give one person what an entire village used to provide”—financial and emotional support, companionship, entertainment, friendship, familiarity, mystery, love, sex, the works. No pressure!
It is not surprising that many people feel so overwhelmed they are unable to perform sexually or to be vulnerable enough to be intimate with their partner. And it is also unsurprising that when we lose intimacy and connection with our person, the one that now fills so many roles in our life, supporter, companion, friend, lover, entertainer that the pain becomes so unbearable.
What causes a loss of intimacy (it's not always what you think)?
Many people believe intimacy issues are a direct result of issues within their relationship, that they have fallen out of love. In my professional experience this is simply not always the case. Loss of intimacy usually starts slowly due to obvious and reasonable issues such as; having a new baby, illness, stress, working away commitments, study commitments and other medical concerns that result in reduced libido. Couples can fall into a pattern of reduced intimacy, losing closeness and connection. Over time this becomes a habit and it can feel awkward to reunite with one another.
A loss of intimacy can also obviously be the result of relationship issues. If you are experiencing difficulties due to physical or emotional infidelity this will definitely impact on your desire to be close with your partner and your ability to trust them.
Should I have an affair?
An affair seems exciting. It seems like something to reawaken the soul, something to make you feel alive again. Sure, have an affair if that's what you want but be aware of what comes with an affair. An undiscovered affair can lead to guilt, shame and remorse and a constant fear of being found out. A discovered affair can lead to destruction of relationships and extended family, separation, feelings of betrayal for any partners or children. On second thought, don't do it, an affair doesn't seem like the best idea and working on those intimacy issues might be best.
Is it possible to reconnect and regain intimacy?
Absolutely, without question.
To be intimate you must be vulnerable and to be vulnerable you must feel that your partner will not take advantage of you. At the core of intimacy is compassion, understanding and empathy, both for yourself and for your partner. You must be willing to forgive past hurts and talk openly about your expectations. An honest exploration of one's self is needed as most past hurts and unmet expectations are driven by unfulfilled needs buried inside us that our partners are most likely unaware of, as are we. You can not change your relationship patterns if you can not ask for what you need and you can not ask for what you need if you don't know what it is.
I can work with both of you to learn what you want, what you need and how to ask for it. Once you know this you can both get your needs met and find intimacy again. If you would like to know more please email me or make an appointment.