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Dr. Dick on Demand: Making Marriage Work

Dr. Dick on Demand: Making Marriage Work
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Getting ready to marry and finding yourself with a case of the cold feet? Never fear; Dr. Dick is here, with a primer for all you betrothed to-be to find your own sexual success.

  There Will Be...Problems

First off, I don’t think you’re a freak for reserving full sexual expression until after you’re married. In fact, it wasn’t terribly long ago when that was the norm. But even people who enter marriage as established sex partners aren’t assured success.

I caution you to jettison any Pollyannaish notion you might have about marriage being a breeze, or that all you need is love. These are dangerous fictions. Your recently married friends have problems because there are always problems in a marriage. It’s the nature of relationships. Hopefully, the problems you guys will face won’t be insurmountable, but sure as shootin’, problems will be your constant companions—some of them big problems. So count on it and prepare yourself accordingly.

You can also be assured that the problems you will encounter, regardless of their nature, will have an impact on your sex life. Money concerns, career stresses, kids, in-laws, you name it—will all influence how you perceive your spouse and vice-versa. Nothing dampens ardor like financial difficulties or meddlesome relatives.

So, Paige, rather than focus on the nature of your sex life as you enter marriage, may I suggest that you concentrate on the bigger picture. And in order to do that you need to ask: why do most traditional, sexually-exclusive marriages flounder? They crumble because they can’t bear up under the strain of the couple’s expectations for each other. Simply stated, they want too much from their spouse. Let’s run down the list of expectations one has in a long-term relationship:
• companionship
• economic support
• family
And those are the easy ones. Then there’s the really tricky stuff. You’re expected to be your partner’s:
• best friend
• confidant
• passionate lover; i.e., a walking, talking 24-hour-a-day sexual fantasy dream woman/man
That’s a pretty tall order to fill for a single individual. Who wouldn’t have cool feet—or even be frozen in place—when faced with such daunting expectations—for life?

  A Living Entity

Many engaged couples grow overly concerned with the sexual viability of their relationships. My sense is that sexual concerns by themselves don’t tax a marriage to the point of breaking. You’ll notice that I said, “sexual concerns by themselves.” While sex and intimacy issues are indeed real and sometimes overwhelming, it’s the underpinnings of the relationship that bring these sexual issues into stark relief. Let me give you an example.

Say I’ve just spent 60 hours this past week at work; I get snarled in traffic on my commute every single day. I drag my sorry ass home to a loving partner, who may have been looking forward to a night of amorous delight. But I’m completely burnt out. I simply don’t have an interest in the old slap-and-tickle. It’s not that I don’t love my spouse; I do! But I don’t have the energy to even squeeze one off by myself, let alone please my partner.

Or say I’ve been caring for a house full of sick, ornery kids all day; and freaking out about our family’s precarious finances. I have barely the time and energy to rustle together some grub for the brood—when my loving partner, who may have been looking forward to a similar night of amorous delights, arrives back at the homestead with stars in his/her eyes. I’m exhausted; and the idea of a tussle in the sack is the last thing on my mind. It’s not that I don’t love my spouse; on the contrary. I just don’t feel attractive, interesting, or more importantly—randy.

As these examples point out, it’s not that the sexual energy has flown the coop. More often than not, couples who face the tribulations of life together redirect their energy into resolving more pressing concerns than gearing up for sex. If I were to take this stressed out couple away from the humdrum of their day-to-day, and land them on a tropical beach without a care in the world, I know for certain they’d fuck like bunnies.

The way I see it, passionate sex is dependent on a good deal of sexual tension. This kind of tension dissipates with time and it takes a great deal of work to keep that tension alive. Most couples don’t invest that kind of energy; even though they may pay lip service to the notion that they want the passion to continue.

Intimacy, on the other hand, is dependent on domestic tranquility; in other words, the elimination of tension in the relationship. Regrettably, this also includes sexual tension. And since most couples desire intimacy over sex, they choose (either consciously or not) the path of domestic tranquility. But the result can be the kind of sexual frustration so many married people report.

I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and I’ve officiated at more than I can count. I’ve helped numerous couples construct their vows. Generally the first thing they want to say to each other is something like this:

I promise to be your best friend, your confidant; your constant companion.

Sound familiar? I thought it might. What I never hear is this:

I promise to always be up for all your hot monkey love.

Not only would that vow be a showstopper—it would be an impossible promise to keep, unless you’re a blow-up doll. Frankly, it’s so much easier being a best friend or confidant than the sexual siren that will be the answer to all your spouse’s erotic dreams after you’re married for a few years.

Sexual exclusivity is at the heart of the romantic ideal. That's why sexual infidelity is such a bugaboo in our culture. But the truth of the matter is, sustaining a model where marriage is the font from which all fulfillment flows is simply unrealistic. Maybe if we expect sexual exclusivity from our spouse, we ought to manage our other expectations of him/her (best friend, confidant, etc.) more pragmatically.

I am of the mind that since more than 50% of marriages in this country end in divorce that we must look at the relationship model we are laboring under. Maybe the romantic ideal is simply an illusion. Try as we may (sit down, Senators) we can’t honestly try to explain away the divorce rate by saying all these couples simply married the wrong people. Know what I mean?

The parameters of a healthy, successful marriage will need to expand and contract with the stresses put upon it; it is after all a living entity. The balance between dependence and independence will constantly shift; and so will the power dynamic in the relationship. Carve these things in stone and you’ll be marking the grave of yet another marriage. Remember—the road to your local divorce attorney’s office is paved with good intentions.

And as for the cold feet...well, look at it this way: once you’re married, you’ll have both yours and his slippers to keep your feet all cozy and warm.

Good luck!

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Comments

Ben Martin, TheFatherLife.com  

I agree that it is unrealistic to expect a spouse to be able to fulfill absolutely every need to its fullest - emotional, spiritual, sexual, etc. Certainly, you want to your spouse to be your friend, confidant, and lover, but there's no way in most circumstances that your spouse can be all of those things in a completely fulfilling way. Most men and women need other friends who can help fill in the gaps. I know that as close as my wife and I are, she needs time with her close friends regularly in order to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. I can listen to her all day, but I can't be a friend to her the way another woman can. In a world where two incomes is necessary just to take care of a family, the stress level created by multiple jobs and schedules is insane. Yes, your spouse needs to be a big part of meeting your needs (and vice-versa), but if you depend solely on them, you're headed for trouble.

01/22/2010
leilani  

there is truth and not in both your words. it also depends on how they were brought up, where the partner comes from ect. i know i dont need anyone else but my husband and kids, sadly, i can't say the same for him. and i quote, "baby, you are all i want and need. no you cant give me everything, but that is why i like you, you are real not some silly fantasy." my husband doesn't want me to be a skinny fashion model and it makes him happy to know im willing. no, he isn't saying i am perfect, but perfect for him. he pisses me off and all, but he is all i need. he is my confidant, my friend, my lover, my family. it isn't impossible as long as you find common ground.

01/05/2013

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