More and more men and women are coming to me with complaints about the lack of sex or any enthusiasm for sexual variety in their relationships. While, it seems to be a running joke that once a man gets married, he should expect to not have sex any more, the fact is that when couples come in for low sexual desire 50% of the time it is the man with low desire. Also, the high rates of infidelity and divorce seem to give us evidence that people aren’t as happy in their marriages as society makes it seem.
We learn about sex and relationships from so many different sources, it’s no wonder we are confused about what a healthy relationship and sexuality is anymore. Consider the influences:
Our first role model about relationships, while we are young, formidable, and ignorant, we gather “data” about what a relationship is and isn’t. We are given feedback about sex and sexuality and our role models’ feelings about them are usually passed to us. What were you told about touching yourself? Porn? Sharing a bed? Displays of affection? Communication and arguing? These were all things you observed, and are likely imitating in your current relationships.
Our next example of relationships came from those around us – our peers. We bring our family beliefs to school, as do our friends. We spend time with each other and what we’ve been taught is confirmed or made different (and therefore wrong) by those who’s opinions matter to us. We begin to create norms by connecting deeper with those like us or those we want to be like.
Our education system also teaches us about sex, sexuality, and relationships in a traditional, and even conservative setting. Abstinence only sex education teaches about sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy with a focus on fear more than education. Curriculum tends to favor monogamous heterosexual relationships, marriage, and procreative sex. While most fetish thoughts begin around puberty, they are not addressed, and only recently are schools creating groups for non-heterosexual identities.
Society & Media
What will the neighbors think? This thought tends to define abnormal versus acceptable behaviors and leads to shaming others. It creates social control and conformity, and leads people with thoughts outside these expectations to question themselves. When we don’t see others like us in media, we can feel excluded and wrong. What if we went to work and at the water cooler when asked how your weekend was, you answered, “My wife, her boyfriend and I had a great time at the dungeon”? Would you likely be invited to their next game night or labeled a deviant, or some other title? Until society quits making a mockery of sexual expression in a variety of forms, we will hold onto our secrets, and our shame.
Bringing it Together
Are you wondering how all this relates to why the sex in your marriage has died? The truth is that likely one of these influences is impacting you, your spouse, and your relationship in more ways than you recognize. Take a moment to write down some of your beliefs about sex, sexuality, and relationships you learned from each of the above categories. Do you see any that stand out as problematic? Shameful?
Is it time to rethink some of your beliefs? Are you wanting to dive deeper into the shame, guilt, fear and embarrassment that these beliefs are holding inside you and holding you back from the fully intimate and passionate relationship you desire?
Dr. Rhoda Lipscomb, PhD is passionate about helping couples, partners and individuals through counseling and therapy work with a relationship, sex and sexuality focus. Contact her today if she can be of support.