My Husband And I Rarely Have Sex And We’re Fine With That
Here's why our bond is stronger than ever.
Nine. That’s the record for number of times my husband and I have had sex in a 24-hour period. OK, it was 16 years ago, and we weren’t married yet.
And admittedly, after about the fifth time, we mostly just wanted to see how far we could go for bragging rights.
Back then, I lived in Toronto and he lived in New Jersey, so when we did see each other after several weeks apart, we had to make up for lost romps.
Once we were married, and living in the same country, our frequency went down markedly; but we still were doing the deed at least once a week. Over the years, that turned into once every couple of weeks, and sat there for a decade.
Our lack of frequency bothered me. I assumed most young, married couples were having sex multiple times a week, and the fact that we weren’t made me wonder if there was something wrong with our relationship. What were we missing?
I bought into the trope that men want sex all the time, and as women we are constantly beating them off — so to speak. I saw it on TV all the time. Picture the typical heterosexual sitcom couple — let’s say Debra and Ray on Everybody Loves Raymond. Any time the kids were out of the house, Ray alluded to taking things up to the bedroom. Whenever they were in bed, Ray would shoot his shot, usually to be rebuffed by tired mom Debra. Sex even became a kind of currency — Ray would do something sweet or romantic or helpful, and Debra would take him by the hand upstairs to reward him. The message was obvious: Ray always wanted sex — at any time, under any circumstances — and Debra occasionally indulged him.
This dynamic is the prototype for most sitcoms. It’s also the basis for countless jokes, memes and other culture-based entertainment. I also saw it reflected in some of my social media groups, with women joking that their husbands couldn’t keep their hands off them.
My husband didn’t fit this mold. Yes, there were the times I would be trying to sleep and feel the telltale poke intended as an invitation — but he was hardly the horndog NBC, CBS and Facebook felt he should be. I started to wonder if it was me.
In truth, I did resemble Debra. I didn’t feel like having sex very often, and I was quite happy to just go to sleep most of the time. Sex has never been a big thing for me. Sure, it’s nice, but I would definitely fail an audition for a condom commercial. If I listened to my own sex drive, the few times a month we had sex was just fine.
My dissatisfaction didn’t stem from sexual frustration, it came from insecurity. I didn’t want to have sex more often; I just wanted my husband to want to have sex with me more often. I would have been perfectly content with a notification that my husband felt like ravishing me, which I could acknowledge and disregard like a Twitter like.
I started coming on to him when I didn’t necessarily feel like having sex. I was just uncomfortable with the length of time that had elapsed between our last love session, or because I felt like it was expected. If we had named our children after the circumstances of their conceptions, we would be proud parents to Fine-It’s-Been-a-While, and The-Mattress-is-in-the-Living-Room-Because-of-Painting-So-We-Probably-Should. My husband has never felt this dissonance. When he feels like having sex, he lets me know. When he doesn’t, he doesn’t. He doesn’t keep track, he just listens to his head — both of them. He has always assured me that he finds me attractive regardless of our tryst count, and that his sex drive is what it is and isn’t related to me whatsoever.
We spent the first 12 years of our marriage like this, and I remained unsatisfied with our sex life. Then I started nearing 40, and just as in every other area of my life, I did not have the bandwidth to care about what other people were doing and how I compared. I stopped caring about living up to beauty standards; I stopped caring about trying to be a super-mom; and I stopped caring about how often I had sex in relation to Ray and Debra, Karen from Facebook, or anyone else. I decided we were going to have sex only when we wanted to, not when we “should.”
I’m not going to lie, our sex life pretty much disappeared after that — and I’ve never been more sexually gratified. We now have sex about three or four times a year, and we love it. Being freed from the pressure and expectations surrounding sex has brought me more pleasure than frequent sex ever did.
When we stopped having regular sex, none of my imagined terrible situations came true. We didn’t grow apart. My husband did not become less interested in me. We didn’t become “less of a couple.” We also didn’t stop being affectionate or romantic — it just looks different for us. We still enjoy skin-to-skin touch with each other, and have what we call “naked cuddles.” We give each other massages, and we touch each other lovingly every day. There is still very much a “spark.” If anything, it has become more meaningful because we know that all of our acts of affection are genuine and desired.
There is a stigma about couples who have been married for a long time slowly morphing into roommates. Despite the lack of sex, this doesn’t ring true for us. We still have a complex and nuanced partnership. We are spouses, not friends, and we are just as complete and multifaceted as any married couple, even if we aren’t ripping off each other’s clothes. It was the fear of this stigma that kept me unfulfilled for so long.
We are happy with our sex life. This doesn’t mean that lack of sex in a relationship is always for the best. There may be an underlying health problem or a struggle with mental health affecting one or both partner’s sex drives. Some medications are sex-drive killers, including a number of antidepressants. Maybe there is discord in the relationship itself causing a lack of connection both inside and outside the bedroom. It could even come down to incompatibilities in individual sex drives. If lack of sex is bothering one or both partners, it needs to be addressed.
But if, like us, both partners are satisfied with their low-sex marriage, there is nothing broken or wrong with that. It’s time to end that stigma. Let’s stop worrying about what is happening behind the closed doors of other people’s bedrooms, and start being honest with ourselves and our partners about what we want. For some, that might mean talking to your partner about your sexual fantasies and what turns you on. For others, that might mean acknowledging that just cuddling is all you need. Whatever works for you is valid and good. Our days of nine times in 24 hours may be done, but our desire for each other is not.