Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Elizabeth Street


What is a "normal" sex life in a marriage?

Aug 13, 2012

What is a "normal" sex life in a marriage?

Sex is a vulnerable part of a marriage because sexual appetites may differ, but spouses depend on one another to meet their sexual needs. This is a part of a monogamous relationship that partners must take seriously, particularly if one has a much greater sexual desire than the other. As with most things in marriage, the definition of what is "normal" is to be decided by the partnership between two people. Marriage is about meeting one another's needs. What is acceptable to one person might not be to the other. A marriage may be generally considered functional if both partners are satisfied with it.

Often, the quality of sex in a marriage is more important than frequency. Again, if both partners enjoy and feel satisfied by their sexual connection, then it is functional for them. What is "normal" sex for one couple would vary not only throughout the course of their own marriage, but in contrast to other couples. For example, it is normal -- due to biological changes and environmental stress -- for parents to have less sex in the months after a child is born. Many things, including hormonal, environmental and emotional stress, affect sexual expression in marriage. Remaining connected on an emotional level may be reflected in an easy negotiation of sexual needs, while emotional disconnection or alienation can easily lead to sexual disinterest by one or both partners. Keeping sexuality alive by talking about your changing feelings and desires is critical to staying connected. As is sharing sensual and playful experiences, such as warm baths, massage and a regularly scheduled night out. Maintaining the fun and vitality in your marriage will help you revive sexual interest, when it has waned in the face of stress.

Be aware that introducing the concept of "normal" sex (outside of physiological capability) may not prove to be a very useful approach in marriage. A partner who is accused of being "abnormal", often because they are not meeting the sexual needs of a spouse, is likely to feel judged or inadequate. This kind of approach usually drives a lover away, rather than increasing interest in meeting the needs of his or her partner. It is up to both partners to address individual styles and desires. Talk with your partner about your feelings and needs and what your vision of sex is in your marriage. Then listen to your partner's feelings and needs. While the presence of sexuality in a marriage is an important part of your relationship, the negotiation for when and how these sexual needs are met must be defined by the two of you. At no time in your marriage is this more true than when you have a baby. Having a baby can bring you closer, if you communicate and grow more emotionally intimate. Making love is not always just about sex. Sharing the changes that becoming a parent brings to your life can bring you emotionally closer, which may increase your desire to meet your partner's sexual needs. Having a sexual relationship is important. But only you and your partner can decide what makes both of you happy. —Gayle Peterson

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A message from Dr. Gayle....
The birth of a baby is the birth of family. Childbirth ushers in joyful change and demanding reorganization. Family researchers identify the arrival of a newborn to be one of the most stressful events that a couple navigates during the course of their relationship. Our families are the gardens in which our children grow.  Still, so few parents know about the research on what contributes to creating a healthy family. I wrote Making Healthy Families to educate parents to the common processes and characteristics that research has discovered contribute to creating and sustaining an emotionally healthy family. The key theme in developing a strong foundation for your family is promoting experiences of connection over disconnection. This month our focus is on sex and motherhood!

Gayle Peterson, PhD is author of  Making Healthy Families and An Easier Childbirth. Her award-winning website,  is recognized by The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy for  its beneficial resources for parents.