Six ways to improve sex-starved marriages
Sex is vital in marriages. And that is the view of Abel Ugochukwu (not real name) and his wife, Sandra. When they started out their marital journey in 2010 at the heart of Lagos metropolis in Ojota, regular and enthralling romp was one of the crucial factors that oiled the wheels of their relationship and engendered a healthy bond between them.
A decade down the line with three kids in the family, boredom crept into their once bubbly sexual life and turned the Ugochukwus’ bedroom into a mere resting spot. Those days of lustful nights and pleasurable moans behind the duvet have gradually died and proved daunting to resuscitate.
While 36-year-old Sandra still radiates sexual drive significantly, her husband, 39, a clothes dealer on Lagos Island, hardly thinks of amorous time ‘in the other room’ in recent months.
“We used to have sex at least twice a week when we just got married,” Sandra, a civil servant, said. “After our first child, it became once in a week or two and by the time we had our second child, it reduced to once in a month.”
She stated that since she gave birth to the third child in August 2019, she could count the number of times she was in bed with her husband.
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“There was a time we didn’t have sex for close to four months. The stress of taking care of the family keeps increasing so he doesn’t really care about sex as he used to when we got married.
“It is even when I get him in the mood that we do it on rare occasions. I wish he could change but things are not working,” she added, frustratingly.
Ugochuckwus’ predicament is not far from scenarios in many homes, especially among couples who have two or more children, thereby beating the odds to cater for them to the detriment of a fulfilling sex life. But this is just one of the many factors responsible for dead bedroom, – a term now popularised in social media sites to capture lack of interest in sex that leaves one’s long-time partner feeling frustrated, unappreciated, depressed and resentful. Other reasons for bedroom death, according to experts, border on medical conditions such as erectile dysfunction (for men), being in post-monoposal stage (for women), diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, alcohol addiction, side effects of medications and complications from smoking, among others.
But a sex educator, Lisa Finn said, “There is really no one number one can hold up and say anything less than is dead bedroom.” It has to be decided by a couple, especially when a partner feels grossly ‘shortchanged’.
Finn explained, “Some couples have sex three or five times a week for the first few years of their relationship, then start having sex once a week and say they have dead bedroom.
“Other couples have always only had sex on anniversaries and birthdays, and don’t feel like their sex lives are dead.”
Finn concluded that dead bedroom is when partners had a sexual norm and have veered away from it – either temporarily or permanently.
As such, she stated that dead bedroom occurs when “you and your partner are having less sex than your ‘norm.’ You or your partner is consciously avoiding sexual or physical contact with the other. You or your partner would classify your sex as ‘less pleasurable’ than usual. You or your partner is unsatisfied with how often you’re having sex.”
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A psychologist and expert in sexual medicine, Dr Sheryl Kingsberg, said that the struggle over bedroom intimacy could cause other aspects of the relationship to suffer, noting that the best way to improve a sexual relationship was to understand the cause of the problem.
In a dead bedroom relationship, a disinterest in sex is inordinately draining, and can tear couples apart, Kingsberg maintained, adding that while most people need more than just sex, clinical studies have shown that when sex is good, there is a 15 to 20 per cent added value to a couple’s relationship.
“Sex is really important to most couples and should not have an expiration date,” she warned. “We tend to take the early stages of high passion for granted, but after awhile that falls off.”
In order for a couple to improve their sexual relationship, the psychologist urged them to examine the reasons that led to the dead bedroom and the discrepancies in their desires.
“All of these conditions (mentioned above) are treatable. The important thing for couples to realise is that they do not need to suffer in silence,” Kingsberg concluded.
To get over this unpleasant sexual life, experts have come up with solutions summarised in the following six steps:
The path to reviving dead bedroom starts with talking. If one is bothered by the decreased sex time and wants more sex with their partner, Finn said it’s time to chat.
In doing so, she warned the partners against blame-game approach, noting that the objective of the conversation is not to dwell on what is wrong, but to discuss fond memories and expectations.
Among other things, the conversation may include, talking about something that has been going well in the relationship; asking one’s spouse how they have been feeling; sharing the kind of sex life you desire and create space for them to share the same. If the first attempt fails, try again.
“If the second time feels the same, you might seek out a sex or couples therapist who can facilitate the conversation and help you both feel heard,” Finn added.
Disclose your sexual issues
If hot flashes keep one up at night or menopause makes one’s private parts dry, confiding in one’s partner is the right thing to do, said Gabrielle Kassel, a New York-based sex and wellness writer. It is much better that the partner knows what is really going on rather than interpret these physical changes as lack of interest.
For a man who is having difficulty with erection at the thought of sex, Kassel advised that it was better to open up to one’s wife and seek help on stimulation, for instance, rather than let her believe she is no longer attractive enough to arouse her husband.
Conversation and confiding should be followed up with actionable plans as to how often one wants to be having sex and figuring out ways to make it happen.
If the change in sex life is traced to a deeper issue, such as one partner doing a greater share of household upkeep, child rearing, or emotional labour, Finn advised that it was ideal for the couple to strike a balance to restore the intimate time to the bedroom.
Engage in mood-steering actions
When a partner is not in the mood, sex can be a herculean task, Finn argued, encouraging couples to watch porn, treat each other to some massaging regularly, or showering together in the bathroom. If there is a tube in the bathroom, taking a bubble bath together in it can be the needed trigger. The warm cozy feeling after getting out of the tub can lead to pleasurable sex.
Try to think of an experience or a movie that aroused you and then share your memory with your partner. This is especially helpful for people with low desire, Kassel added.
Perhaps, you have never had sex on the living room floor or a couch. Trying it out might offer the sure bet to reviving a dead sex life. If the kids would cause disturbance, you and your spouse may decide to stay back at home for some time after they might have gone to school and turn the floor of the living room to an Anfield Stadium of some sort, cuddling up to each other and taking the groove to a memorable romp. That moment can be the magic wand to re-energise the bedroom.
Kessel noted, “One can also try to explore erotic books and X-rated movie.”
Maintaining good health
Lastly, sexual wellbeing goes hand in hand with overall mental, physical, and emotional health. Therefore, the same healthy habits one relies on to keep body in shape can also shape up the sex life. If quitting alcohol and smoking is all that would make a difference and save your sex life, never hesitate to let go of the habits. Seek help from doctors and therapists. While smoking contributes to peripheral vascular disease, which affects blood flow to the private parts, erectile dysfunction is said to have been worsened by heavy alcohol intake.
Also, experts say over-indulgence in fatty foods can lead to high blood cholesterol and obesity which are major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Being overweight can promote lethargy and poor body image that make sex unattractive.