The Harsh Reason Marital Intimacy Often Dies A Very Slow Death

Intimacy in marriage doesn't need to fade.

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Research indicates that over 55 percent of married women are not interested in being physically intimate with their husbands. I've worked with many men who also are not interested in that with their wives.

The problem is generally not a lack of desire in the marriage — it's that they are not interested in getting physical with their partner.


Intimacy in long-term relationships is the result of loving energy flowing between two people. If something is blocking this loving energy, the physical intimacy between them often gets blocked as well.


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The No. 1 reason intimacy becomes blocked in marriage

There may be many reasons for the loving and sexual energy being blocked, but the most common is what I call the "pull-resist relationship system."


Here's how it works in a sexless marriage:

One partner, I'll call him Bill, "pulls" on his wife, Jan, for time, approval, attention, and appreciation, as well as for sex. Bill may pull with niceness, caretaking (giving in order to get something back), gifts, withdrawal, anger, blame, or threats.

These behaviors are a "pull" when Bill is coming from an empty place within, a vacuum-like black hole that wants to get filled through approval, validation, and sex.

In fact, sex may be the main way, aside from work, that Bill's worth as a man gets validated and his inner emptiness gets filled up. It may be the main way that he feels loved.

Jan, rather than feeling loved by the niceness, gifts, withdrawal, anger, or blame, feels objectified. She feels that Bill is being nice or angry to manipulate her into having sex — not because he genuinely wants to give to her and express his love for her, but because he wants to get love from her.


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Neediness is draining

He comes to her like a needy little boy, wanting to get validated, filled, or released. She ends up feeling used and drained when they have sex rather than loved.

She doesn't want to be used and controlled by Bill, and because she is not attracted to him when he is being a needy little boy, her whole body goes into resistance and she no longer feels sexually attracted to him.

Of course, it could be the other way around, with the woman pulling and the man resisting being used and controlled by her. The same pattern commonly exists in same-sex relationships as well.


In this pull-resist system between Bill and Jan, a number of changes need to occur for the passion to come back in their relationship.

Bill needs to stop trying to control Jan. He needs to learn how to take responsibility for his own feelings and well-being — for validating himself and filling himself with love, rather than always trying to have control over getting something from Jan.

Jan needs to learn to speak her truth rather than either comply (having sex even when she doesn't want to) or resist. She needs to tell Bill that she is not turned on by him when he is pulling on her for sex, or for anything else such as time, attention, appreciation, or approval.

Until she is ready to speak her truth without blame or judgment about his emptiness and neediness, Bill cannot understand what the problem is. He will think it is just because she is frigid or has some other sexual problem, and will not understand his responsibility in their marital system.


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Intimacy and power

Most women are turned on by a man when he is in his power, feeling good about himself. Neediness is not a turn-on. Men, too, are often not turned on to a needy woman, a woman who needs him to make love to her for her to feel safe, worthy, and lovable.

The same holds true in same-sex relationships. In our society, it's more common for men to attempt to get their validation through sex than it is for women, which is why more men than women pull for sex.


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Dr. Margaret Paul is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, and educator.