Recently, The New York Times published a fantastic article on marriage and sex. The piece explored the nuances of modern “equal responsibility” marriages. I was eager to read the piece since I’ve struggled so much in my sexless marriage.
One of the main premises of the article was that the more housework, chores and child care that a husband is doing, the less sex that couple is having. Looking at my own life, I think this is a huge factor in our lacking sex life. For one, my husband is a neat freak. He cleans non-stop. He works a full day at the office and then comes home and he has to clean the kitchen, load the dishwasher and fold laundry, all before he can sit down and have dinner. He tells me he can’t relax when the house is a mess. It’s a definite point of contention; I know he wants me to clean up more around the house so he doesn’t have to. I usually shrug these requests off. My response has usually been, “Oh, don’t even look at the mess, just ignore it, we have more important things to do with our time.” The truth is that I am lazy. I would rather spend my time during the day playing with the kids. I don’t like prioritizing housework even though he has asked me to repeatedly. I realize now that it is quite spoiled and selfish of me not to do more. Of course adding housework onto his already full plate is exhausting. My husband provides for us and when he is at home he is super hands-on with the kids and the housework. Is it fair for me to expect him to want to have sex after a long, non-stop day?
I have decided to conduct a experiment. Every day I will spend time cleaning up the house while my husband is at work so that when he comes home, he can truly just relax, enjoy the kids and settle in with us for the night. I am actually going to tell him that I am taking on most of the “evening” responsibilities like bath, laundry, trash and walking the dog so that he won’t put it on his mental to-do list. I am going to do this for a few weeks and see if this affects his libido, energy and desire to get naked with me. It makes sense that he will certainly have more time to unwind from his day, and he will likely feel more loved, appreciated and respected and see my efforts as truly helpful and understanding.
The second big take-away was a comment about couples having unrealistic expectations of the marriage that inevitably result in disappointment. “We should accept that we are not going to get everything we want out of our sex lives and marriage.” I have always suspected that part of my unhappiness in my marriage is my own overly critical self. I create a lot of my own disappointment because I often want my love life to be like a Nicholas Sparks movie. Maybe I focus too much on the negative, and my imagination creates an unrealistic fantasy of what I want from my marriage. Maybe what I need is for a couples therapist to just tell me that I am being crazy and I should just shut up and be happy.
But then does that mean that marriage is an acceptance of less than we want out of life? Does this mean that we are committing to a long-term relationship that will provide friendship, love and security but won’t be all of the fun, excitement and sex that we ideally would love to feel on a regular basis for the next few decades?
I am starting to think maybe that’s right. Maybe that is what we sign up for when commit to a lifetime with anyone. Is it possible to train ourselves to stop expecting and desiring these hot, lustful feelings? Part of my problem and disappointment with my sex life is that I am wondering and longing for what else is out there sexually. Would I have sustainable, passionate sex with a different husband? If I knew that the answer to that was “no,” then I think I would be happier with my current sex life. Also knowing that the passion fizzles with all married couples makes me feel like maybe I am not really missing out at all. If I could get comfortable with that conclusion, I think I might feel a lot less dissatisfied with my sex life.