A Common Sexual Confusion in Marriage
“So how many times a day would be enough sex for you?” Cheryl asked Greg.
Greg decided to be honest for a change. “Twice a day would do quite nicely”. He knew where this conversation would end, but he thought he would take a shot anyways.
“You’re an oversexed pervert, Greg. You’re not getting sex twice a day. Grow up”. Cheryl left the bedroom confused and angry. Greg got dressed, just as confused and angry.
So what just happened?
They had been married for three years and the pattern was now established. Greg, a financial analyst, loved his wife Cheryl whom he had met at his brother’s college graduation. He thought she was beautiful and extraordinarily funny. Cheryl was a nurse midwife and admired how intelligent and hard working her husband was. On their honeymoon, they made love like rabbits, barely coming out of the bedroom to eat. Cheryl told me she had never had an orgasm in her life until the second day of her marriage. By the end of the two week honeymoon, she was having several a day. There was nothing wrong with their sex life.
Yet, three years into the gig, they fought more about sex than anything else. Or at least, that’s what the issue seemed to be. As we met together and broke down the conflict into its component parts, a common pattern emerged. They were confused about their own sexual identities. Let me explain.
With due deference to “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus”, it isn’t just men and women who are different. Most women are different from each other as are most men. Cheryl asked me during one session if I ever wanted sex twice in one day. I admitted that had only occurred to me on a few occasions. She gave Greg a look that said, “See, I knew you were a pervert.” But then I added, “But I know another therapist who has sexual desires ten minutes after orgasm.” Cheryl’s head snapped around so fast I thought she would need a neck brace afterward.
“Our sexual desires and needs are as individual as we are. Though we can “generally” say that men want sexual release more than women, that is only true of men at certain ages, certain health levels and particular marital situations. There are even studies that show peri-menopausal women want to do it more than their partners. I counseled one woman who wanted sex an average of five times a day. This went on for two years and then it waned again. We never did figure out why it happened.” Cheryl and Greg were very quiet as I delivered this soliloquy.
I continued: “The problem arises when we attach the wrong meaning to sexual desire and release. The desire for sexual release (orgasm) is not necessarily tied to our love for another person. Pornography has painfully proved that point. And we may have great desire to be close to another person without a desire for sexual release.” They both eyed me with a little more eagerness than before. It was obvious I was getting to their issue.
“During your honeymoon, Cheryl, did you feel any pressure to accomplish anything other than sexually please your new husband? Were you thinking about your new home, your job, your bank account? Any of those things?”
“So you had all the time in the world to focus on making love with Greg. Your libido matched that inner desire and you found out just how many orgasms you could possibly have. Your sexual release was let loose and you didn’t mind making love twice a day. Now, let me ask you this: Do you love Greg any less today than on your honeymoon?” Cheryl conceded she loved him more now than then. But she was pissed at how often he criticized the frequency of their sexual encounters.
“You two have a confusion about sexual release. Cheryl, you want sexual release to be the culmination of a well-planned, well-conceived romantic encounter. Greg, you want to have sexual release as part of stress reduction. Would that be accurate?” They both agreed with me…though Greg looked like he was admitting a dark, secret sin.
“I have a simple solution to propose. Cheryl, how often would you like to have sex with Greg?”
“About two or three times a week. And less times at the beginning of the week, more at the end.”
“Then how would the two of you feel about setting a goal of making love at least twice a week, more if Cheryl explicitly asks.
“But Doctor, what about this need I have to release my stress?” Greg asked.
“This is the best part. Most couples don’t realize that God gave masturbation as a great equalizer in marriage. You need to give each other permission to masturbate whenever you want. As long as you maintain your minimum times of coming together in sexual union, this should not be a problem. Undoubtedly, that arrangement will save you so much hassle.”
Here were the guidelines I gave them:
1. Recognize that God says nothing in the Bible about Masturbation being a sin.
2. Focus on your partner when you masturbate.
3. Do not ever use masturbation as a tool to withhold sex from each other.
Six months later, Greg and Cheryl reported they had not had a fight about sex during that entire season. Once the confusion about the difference between sex and sexual release was cleared up, they didn’t have a problem any more. To get to this arrangement, a couple needs to have serious heart-to-heart conversations. There should be prayer, strategizing and respect given at all junctures. But once you both recognize you are both allowed to masturbate for release – and that this does not replace or diminish mutual sexual encounters – you can easily flow into a balanced sexual experience with each other.