In this episode of Relationship Radio, Dr. Joe Beam and Kimberly Holmes answer your questions about sexual rejection in marriage.
Sex is an important part of marriage, a very important part of marriage. Hi, I’m Dr. Joe Beam with MH International. We are Marriage Helper, and we work with people in all kinds of relationships, particularly marriages.
When I was earning my Ph.D. at the University of Sydney in Australia, I studied the correlations between and the causes of marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. Ample research across the globe in all kinds of different countries, over all kinds of different years, came to the same conclusion, and that’s this, marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction rise and fall together.
Kimberly Holmes, our CEO, joins me. Kimberly, you haven’t been married nearly as long as I, but you have been working with marriages for a number of years now, just as I am. Well, a few more. I’m a tad older than you are, but how often we understand that if you don’t have marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction at the same time that one’s going to negatively affect the other?
It’s true. The research indicates that as well as the research you’ve done personally, and getting your Ph.D. and your dissertation from the University of Sydney, yes, a lot of times the people are struggling with something sexually. Still, it’s impacting their marriage, or they’re struggling with their marriage, and it’s impacting their sex life. They seem to go very much hand in hand.
The research over decades done in different countries in many different situations found that marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction rise and fall together. We can’t document which one is causing the other. Is marital satisfaction more often affecting the sexual or the sexual affecting the marital? And that probably is situational.
Way back when I was a freshman in college, my mentor, Paul Torrens, would tell us everything that happens outside the bedroom affects what happens inside the bedroom. Everything that happens inside the bedroom affects what happens outside the bedroom. Well, Paul taught me well back all those years ago, and I have read the research housing in ample research indicating this to be true. Yet, at the same time, we find people contacting us all the time, asking questions about sex.
Maybe some of that’s because people know that when I studied to get my degree over in Australia at the University of Sydney, it was studying both those things, marital satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction. So Kimberly, what else do we need to say in preparation for some of these calls we’re going to be talking about today, where people ask questions about sex, any other basic principle we’d like to talk about, to begin with?
I’d like to ask you a question.
So, which one do you believe is more important?
We can’t tell from the research, and therefore I do think it’s situational. I think that it’s whatever’s most important to the person at the time. Maybe they’re so interrelated that you can’t ever separate them, to begin with. Trying to figure out which one has more effect on the other is that they’re so symbiotic that you can’t really figure that. The bees need the honey from the flowers, but the flowers need to be used to be doing that so the flowers can make more flowers. Well, which one is more important? They’re both extremely important. Both are being fed and taken care of by the other, and you can’t extract one from the other.
I think that’s the case unless you are in a marriage where you don’t expect sex to occur. By the way, I think here in the USA, the last time I saw the numbers, about 3% of marriages in America have never been consummated. This indicates that they’ve had no sexual contact or at least when it comes to what’s called “PVI”, penile-vaginal intercourse. So, at least 3% of the marriages in America based on those numbers from a few years ago have never experienced PVI.
There’s a couple of other statistics we find in research done at the end of the 1980’s-early 1990s. This well-done research done under the auspices of the University of Chicago studied people in America, between the ages of 15 and 59. These were people who were married. Not many 15-year-old’s are married, but some are. When they studied these people and again, 59 being the cutoff age, they found a category called “low sex marriage” and a category called “no sex marriage.” No sex meant that they were making love to each other or with each other ten times a year or less.
From 11-25 times a year is what’s called low sex marriages. Interestingly, they found that 20% of the married people, and then the age group, again, stopping at age 59, were in that no sex category. Meaning having sex with each other ten times a year or less. Then another 15% were in the low sex category, people making love to each other 11-25 times per year. So, a little over a third of married couples in America have sex with each other less than twice a month. A majority of them less than once a month.
You say, “Is that a big deal?” Again, if they’re in a situation where neither one of them wants to have sex, that’s called being asexual, by the way, that should be okay. But very, very few people, proportionally speaking, are asexual, and we live in a society that’s extremely sexual. It’s in the movies. It’s on television programs. It’s in the article we read. It’s everywhere. Therefore, most people expect sexual fulfillment in marriage. So, which one is more important if you don’t want sex? Marital satisfaction. If you want both, it’s hard to tell.
So, what are the top three things that lead to healthy sexual satisfaction in a marriage?
For people who present with sexual problems, as they come to a sex therapist or a counselor, the number one thing they present with that’s a difficulty is different levels of desire, which leads to a different desired frequency. This means that sometimes he wants to have sex more often than she does, or sometimes she wants to have sex more often than he does.
When those things are far enough apart that it’s causing some difficulty, that’s the number one reason that brings them to sex therapy. It’s like, “I want sex more than he does,” or “I want sex more than she does.” The other one is not trying to comply, not trying to help out. Another is that the different levels of desire can be quite different between males and females.
For example, there’s ample research that indicates this would not be true of all women, but that for many women, they don’t even begin to feel sexual desire until they start to get aroused. So, a man might be thinking sexually, and that desire is what he’s feeling, which would lead him to want to have sex. A woman might not be thinking like that at all, though some women do, don’t misunderstand. But once she starts interacting with her husband, once they start kissing, hugging, whatever, as she starts to become aroused, her desire comes about.
There are indications that many women really can’t differentiate between desire and arousal because they don’t feel desire until they approach arousal. So, he’ll look at that differences in frequency differences in desire; those are kind of the two big ones right there. The third one would have to do with the relationship itself. When I researched a few years ago that you referred to and I asked people: what had significantly reduced their sexual attraction?
Another question similar to that sexual satisfaction with their spouse, by far with women, the ones that answered the question, one out of every three women gave at least one reason. One out of every four men gave at least one reason. So, more women than men. The number one with women was having to do with relationship satisfaction. “I’m not happy with the relationship.” It’s then pretty high, not necessarily number three, four, or five, but it’s pretty high up there was a lack of romantic ability. Meaning that “our sex is not very good because my husband is not a very good lover,” or “my wife is not a very good lover,” but more women reported that than did men.
Would you like me to answer some of the questions about this then? Many people watching us are thinking, “wait a minute, Dr. Beam, aren’t you and Kimberley father and daughter?” You’re saying,” Is this freaking you out that you talk about this subject with your daughter there?” When she was back at the beginning of her college career, she’s now working on her PhD.; she took one of my classes at the university where I was teaching human sexuality. One day in class, when I talked about a particular aspect of the female anatomy, one of the young women in the class spoke up and looked at Kimberly and said, “does your dad talking about this freak you out?” Kimberly said, “at home, this is dinner conversation.” That wasn’t exactly true, but that was hilarious. In other words, we’ve always talked pretty openly about these things.
Especially when you were going through your Ph.D. When you were going through your dissertation, it led to much more conversation in the house.
So Kimberly, let’s go to some of these questions. The first one here is a long question about a minute and a half almost, but we can talk about a lot of different things from this particular question. Let me see if I can play this here for us.
Hello, my wife and I are in a sexless marriage. I can count on my two hands the number of times we’ve had sex with each other in the last four years. When we started dating, and we’re still in limerence, the physicality, sexuality was good at the point where I felt very connected and thought that we had a great base to build a deeper, more satisfying sexual relationship as part of the overall relationship. But after a few breaches of trust and a lot of push behavior from both of us, we are in the current state of affairs.
My wife seems to have completely changed her views on physicality and sexuality. She doesn’t like to be touched. She doesn’t feel comfortable with the topic of sex, much less thinking about sex or having a physical relationship. Previous trauma in her life is starting to come to light that is illustrating this. As a husband who wants to reconnect with his wife badly and wants that physical connection, what advice can you give to maybe help me, to help her, to help us regain that physical intimacy?
When this caller refers to push behavior, just to give insight into our listeners and viewers who are unfamiliar with that means, that means he has been doing things or someone has been doing things to push the other person away. We even have an acronym for this.
The “P” stands for pleading, begging, whining, crying, those kinds of actions that we try and elicit a response back from our spouse, but it typically ends up pushing them further away.
The “U” stands for unengaging. Sometimes a push behavior can look like a lack of behavior because you start ignoring the person. You start trying to disconnect in hopes that that’s what will bring them back. But what they might see is that you don’t care, and it ends up just pushing them further away.
Starting unnecessary fights is the “S” for that, which is when you’re just so angry that every conversation you have, you end up attacking them. It ends up making it worse.
The “H” stands for hovering, tracking, or trying to control and doing things. Where you’re over their shoulder, putting a GPS tracker under their car, trying to break into their social media account to see what they’re doing. We tend to have good intentions, but it ends up pushing the other person away.
Therefore, we call them push behaviors. There they’re things we should stop doing.
The acronym that Kimberly came up with to help explain those things covers a lot of them. If you go a little broader, of course, there are other things other than what would fit in an acronym. Anything that you’re doing that leaves the other person to feel that you don’t respect them or don’t love them or don’t like them.
As Kimberly well said, not just the things you do but also the things you don’t do. If I understood what he said correctly, he said that both of them had done push behaviors, right? Okay. So let’s kind of go back through this. First, he says, “sexless marriage.” Many people use that phraseology without knowing what it means, as we defined it for you earlier, meaning ten times a year or less. He knew that, or at least he hit the right topic because when he says sexless marriage, he said, “I can count on both hands than over a times each year in the last four years we’ve had sex.” Technically that would be a no-sex marriage.
Then he said back in the beginning, and he used another word, limerence, that’s part of our vocabulary. If you’re a regular listener, you’ve heard us talk about it before. Kimberly, just briefly for the people that haven’t heard that, tell them what limerence is.
Limerence is the feeling of being madly in love. More than that, it’s typically characterized by 13 different behaviors, and then it feels like the flu.
Deep craving for emotional connection with the other person, to the point where you’ll sacrifice anything or anybody to have that, is characterized a lot by ecstasy. Whenever you think the other person is responding positively, you have more dopamine in your brain, and there’s ecstasy. It’s also characterized by fear because you’re afraid that the other person will not stay with you, which is what differentiates it from another kind of love called romantic love. So, it becomes this ecstasy agony based on how they respond, but Dr. Fisher and her colleagues came up with 13 different characteristics. We’ve added even more to that, that we identified over the years.
Kimberly, our CEO, has me writing a book about that right now that, based on my current level of productivity, should be done about ten years after my death. She’s putting pressure on me that I have to have it done in the next few months, so we’re going to make that happen one way or the other. He started with limerence, and we were highly sexual.
Let me explain a couple of things about physical. He kept using the word physicality as well as sexuality. When people are in limerence, and he said they were, it’s not unusual. Many people, when you are in a relationship, go through limerence. Not everybody, but many people do. Limerence has a shelf life. It’s going to last somewhere between 3 months and 48 months. If you’re going to be together, kind of like if you get married, it’s going to finally be replaced with a different kind of love that’s not nearly as intense. There’s a lot of reasons for that. We don’t have time to explain here, but it’s both biological and anthropological.
In limerence a lot of increase in dopamine, which is ecstasy, but a decrease in serotonin. That’s where the fear comes from, and decreases in serotonin dramatically increase libido. The lower your serotonin goes, the more fear that you have, the stronger you’re craving to be connected to this other person. That’s why in limerence people have such an intense desire to have sex with, to make love to that limerick object, the person they’re madly in love with is because, among other things, that’s being driven by brain chemicals, the serotonin decreases increases the sex drive.
That’s why and Kimberly, you may remember this from our class in human sexuality at the university. That’s why we know that after a couple of years, how they any couple making love with each other for two years, it’s not like that specific date, but about two years actually decrease the frequency and decrease repertoire. Meaning they don’t do as many different things sexually. Why? The serotonin begins to level back up, and as it begins to level back up, the sex drive decreases. Almost every relationship has a decrease in sexuality after a couple of years of being together. But it seems like he was talking about more than that, right?
He said that his wife began to change what she preferred. She didn’t want touches anymore. There was a complete 180 from what it sounded like. What he was used to when they were dating to what it was now. My question is, does something need to happen to cause that? Do people just shift and turn around that quickly? Or is there typically something that leads to that happening? Well, he did say that there was a trauma. So, all of a sudden, did that come up?
Earlier in her life, trauma. Can it suddenly come up? Yes. We don’t have a clue as to what age this couple is. If we did, if we were talking directly to him, I’d ask a couple of questions. It’s not uncommon in my experience, particularly dealing with women in their early thirties, to start dealing with sexual trauma from their past. Then all of a sudden, they remember their terrible uncle molesting them when they were five, and those kinds of things that kind of got buried until they get until the early thirties. Why then? I don’t know. Can it happen at other ages? Absolutely. But that’s when I’ve seen it happen a lot, and they are dealing with the sexual trauma that had happened to them when they were younger.
So, could it be something like that? Yes, but it also could be, remember I mentioned earlier in the research that I did, that we found that about one out of every three women has a significant reduction in their sexual satisfaction with their spouse. Out of 45% of those said it was because the relationship had changed. Think about the fact that the relationship changed, and now I started feeling negatively towards you, where beforehand I’ve been thinking positively towards you.
Could that also trigger trauma from the past? Because I start feeling the kind of things I felt when that evil uncle or cousin or neighbor did those things to me. And because I felt some of those same emotions now because I’m angry with you about something, could it trigger those memories? Absolutely. Could that make things change that fast? Absolutely. But it still comes back to probably what had occurred. I’ll give one more physical reason in a second probably because the relationship because he said we both had these pushes things didn’t go well. The relationship changing began to lead to this. And then she starts talking about the trauma. Well, based on what I just said, that’s understandable as to how that might happen at the same time.
There’s one other thing. Again, we don’t know how old they are. For some women, when they begin to enter menopause, there are certain women and certainly not all by any means, but some women feel that part of their value is the ability to make babies. And when they no longer have the ability to do so, which they will not after menopause, it’s interesting how some women will go through depression because now they think they’re not as valuable as they were before.
That’s directly also connected to sex because that’s how you make those babies. So some women become extremely sexual as they first go into menopause. I mean, like much more than they’ve ever been, but some women on the other side of menopause come out to where they’re just basically asexual because they feel they’ve lost their sexual identity. “I can’t make a child anymore. Therefore, I don’t have that.” We have to guess which of those it would be with this lady but, but are there several different possibilities as to how they got to where they were? Yes. But did you notice the one commonality in all of that, other than the physical stuff?
The relationship affects it, and if the relationship is going badly, that can affect how a woman would feel about wanting to have sex.
Could a man as well, but more so a woman. There’s a researcher, I’m not sure if you pronounce her name, Busan. I once emailed her and asked her how to pronounce it, and she said, “just like it looks.” She’s done a lot of interesting research about how women open themselves up to be eroticized. She has some brilliant research on that, by the way, but basically what it boils down to is these men, if they get aroused, everybody knows because certain physical attributes take place. But there’s been fascinating research with women, the kind of research that I could never do, where they can measure basal congestion inside of her vagina. And they can measure what the lubrication is taking place and all those kinds of things.
They have found from that kind of research that women can become physiologically very aroused and have no mental awareness of it. None. What has to happen with women is that it has to happen in the mind and what’s connected to the body and what she thinks and what she feels. Even if her body’s responding, if she is not responding emotionally, she doesn’t feel aroused at all. They may feel repulsion if the guy touches her and he said, she doesn’t want me to touch her. Just the fact of touching her can be repulsive. Even if her body finds it erotic, her mind doesn’t, and it all comes back to the relationship. How it is right now, what it has been, even when she anticipates it’s going to be, and how she is interpreting his actions.
Can this same thing happen to men? I actually said to Dr. Busan, “I think the same thing applies to men.” And she said, “I think it does too.” But she said, “I studied women,” and I said, “I understand that.” So, we look at it and go, the fact that she changed could be physiological, does have something to do with a trauma-based on what he said, apparently has something to do with a relationship based on what he said, the fact that they were both pushing. And so even if she would have normally found that exciting, she’s unsure now because the relationship has changed. That’s a long explanation to get us to his question. He said, “so what do I do?”
If there are physiological things such as menopause, then the physicians can help with certain prescriptions that can help that. And I would go for those things because you’ll need those things. On the other hand, it would be a matter if she really went through the trauma you talked about. Some counselors and therapists are really good at helping people who were that kind of trauma. Kimberly, you have your Master’s degree in psychology. It would seem to me that counselors really shine, if they’re good counselors, really shine when it comes to helping people deal with those kinds of things, right?
EMDR is a very effective evidence-based practice of therapy that can really help people overcome traumatic thoughts from the past. EMDR is very hands-on. So it takes a lot of work, but it is all about rapid eye movement in desensitizing your thoughts and how your body reacts to thoughts. It’s not going to get rid of that thought, but it will take away the physiological reaction in the body from that thought. Then cognitive behavioral therapy is another evidence-based highly effective in helping to control thoughts and move forward at dealing with more behaviors and moving on.
If you’re going to look for a therapist in those, always ask for a five-minute phone call upfront. A good therapist will do that and find out how much experience they have with things like EMDR and with CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, not just that they took a class on it. How much experience do they have with it? He’s asking, but I’ll wait a minute. “So, I hear you, and you’re recommending that?” Yes, we are. But if you’re thinking, “so what can I do?” Listen, make it safe for her. Don’t try to teach her. Don’t try to help her change your mind. Listen to what she feels and what she thinks. Right, Kimberly?
Absolutely. That goes a long way. Don’t try and fix it. Don’t try and make it worse by pushing even more to try and make something happen sexually, but listen and allow her to feel comfortable opening up to you.
Don’t be defensive. So if you say, “let’s just talk about these things,” and she’s comfortable enough in a safe environment situation where she will. If she starts by saying, “well, you’ve changed,” don’t get defensive. Just say, “I probably have. Help me understand how I can be better for you.”
Don’t be defensive at all. Don’t explain yourself. Just listen, because you see when people can talk about it, again, she may still need therapy from the trauma, but if she can talk about it. Let’s say you have a woman who’s lost some of her identity because she’s been through menopause. Letting her talk about it can do a lot toward repairing that, where she can get past it. Don’t say, “oh, no, you haven’t lost your identity. That’s just a little thing.” Don’t tell her that. You listened to her, right?
So we’ve taken longer on this question than any question that I can remember in recent history, but we were able to lay a lot of foundation for the next questions that are going to come. To summarize what we were just saying, understand that everything that happens outside of the bedroom affects what happens inside the bedroom. Everything inside the bedroom affects what happens outside the bedroom.
Do everything you can to restore the relationship without pushing to restore the relationship. And the best way to do that is by listening. If she’s willing to talk about sex, then we have a course we can recommend. We will in a few minutes that you can get to go through together at home. And you can talk about it if she’s willing. If not, we have other things that can help you with your relationship. Because right now, I wouldn’t try to repair any physicality. If she needs help with that, that’s what physicians are for. I would try to help her with the relationship, and that’s going to take some time to do, but it is doable.
Right, Kimberly? What would we recommend for that?
We recommend the Spark. We have a course that you did. You put a lot of time and effort in a lot of research backing based on it, but it is all about helping a couple learn how to talk about sex and talk and not even just talk about sex. Even before that, it’s getting the couple to think about their own sexual wants and desires. How to communicate that with the other person, listen to the other person when it comes to theirs, fantasize together, have more sex, and more satisfying sex more often is ultimately what the spark does. They can get it on our website.
Absolutely. In the meantime, if she’s not willing to do that, then we would recommend our online courses. You can look those over. You can also talk to one of our coaches if you wish to help my wife and me? How can we repair the relationship? Because that’s the only thing you can control is not the relationship, but you and what you can do to help her and the two of you repair the relationship.
For thirteen years, we were happily married. We have a good marriage. Since we got married, he has always had a lower sex drive than I have. On top of that, he rarely gives me compliments. So, I struggle with feelings of being desired by him or feeling like he thinks I’m attractive. What can I do to not feel so unattractive in my husband’s eyes? Words of affirmation are totally my love language. He says he loves me, and he finds me attractive, but that’s usually only when I’m really upset or really pressing the question.
So, Kimberly, she said married 13 years that might give us a guess to her age. Let’s say she married; I think people are coming and getting married now, like mid-twenties. So, that could make her like 35-40 somewhere in that range. We’re guessing. We don’t know. Did you hear her say that she determines her own attractiveness based on whether she thinks her husband finds her attractive?
You’re the expert on PIES. So why don’t you teach her a little bit about PIES right now? And before that, when she said her sex drive is stronger than her husband’s, that’s not unusual. It’s not the most common, but it’s certainly not unusual. So, there’s nothing wrong with her. There’s nothing wrong with him necessarily. It’s just, that’s how they are. Let’s talk about PIES, and then let’s talk about how we can help her teach him how to give her affirmation.
Yes, because that’s a huge key part of this, right? She’s placing a lot of her self-confidence and self-worth into what he does or doesn’t say to her. And the reason that is so frustrating and not sustainable long-term is when you put your self-esteem anywhere outside of you, it will never return as full as you want it to.
There’s actually a lot of really interesting research on self-esteem and the places that self-esteem comes from, and when people tend to put it in something more external. So, in the sense of sometimes self-esteem comes from academics or success in athletics or in all of these other things, what other people say. They found that people who emphasize that tend to have lower self-esteem than people who are focusing on self-motivated tendencies. So, people who are focusing on just being sure that they do the best that they can, showing up the timesthat they said they would, even if they don’t achieve the same amount of things as someone else, as long as they are more internally motivated by it and internally focus, they’re going to have a higher level of self-esteem.
All of that to say, we talk about becoming the most attractive that you can be by focusing on your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual attraction. All four of these areas are important. But if you were to put any of these areas into someone else’s hands, so to say, by waiting for them to say positive things about you in relation to it, then you’re going to be chasing that for forever, because it’s not going to come when you need it.
What you have to learn how to do is realize that it comes from within you. It comes from believing positively about yourself, believing good things about yourself, knowing that you are good enough, you are enough without someone else having to tell you that. Those things are nice, but they should not be where it stems from. It needs to originate from within you and from within myself. It has to come from each of us within ourselves.
So what you can do is when you start doing the things to focus on becoming the best you can physically, getting enough sleep, eating right, working out. Intellectually, by growing your mind, learning, reading books, taking courses. Emotionally, by doing the things to evoke emotions within others, they enjoy feeling you can do that by having positive and healthy relationships, going out with your girlfriends for a girls’ night out. You are listening to your children, hanging out with them, not always being on your phone. Spiritually, by doing things that provide a greater good to the community.
You’re taking control of that, you’re doing those things, which will build your confidence. It’s going to build your self-esteem to where you won’t need that external validation from the outside looking in. In terms of how this works sexually, this could also go into sexual confidence. I think we should have a conversation about that, but sexually it’s nice to hear that from him, and you need to have a conversation with him, which is what we’re going to talk about next. But realize that if you’re constantly placing that on him and waiting for it, it’s only going to be more negative for you. It’s only going to be harder for you to just be confident about yourself first.
Very good. I like that. So it comes out of the inside of you. So even evoking emotion when we do the things that evoke positive emotions within you about you.
That’s a good one too. I realized this. It was an “aha” moment for me a couple of days ago. I wasn’t having a great day. I was in a super negative mood. Then I was listening to someone on a podcast the next day talking about how one way to stop negativity in your life is by stop being negative. And I thought that totally relates to emotional attraction because it’s not just about evoking emotions within others. But if I’m evoking emotions within myself, I don’t like feeling, like focusing on the negative. Those aren’t things I even like to be around. So you have to stop doing the things you don’t want to do towards others, even within yourself and about yourself.
Absolutely. If soaking in a hot tub, a bubble bath helps you feel better about yourself, and that’s worthwhile to do, take time to do that. If they’re taking a walk, all those kinds of things to help you feel better about yourself.
Now, it doesn’t remove liking when somebody else compliments you. But I’m going to guess, based on how you said that your husband is the kind of guy who doesn’t typically think to do things like that. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t find you attractive. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. There are just different personality types, and some are very vocal, and some are kind of reticent. Particularly a reticent guy is not going to be telling you all the time that he loves you, that he desires you, that all those kinds of things because he’s just not that vocal kind of guy.
But what I heard you say, young lady, is that when he does say it, it’s because you’re upset and that you then deny the validity of what he said. Why? If he’s really a good guy and you don’t believe he’s just an outright liar, even if he says that when you were upset, why wouldn’t you accept that?
Here’s why you’re thinking “because I pulled it out of him.” Ahh, that’s why you doubt it. So don’t pull it out of him. Just be the best you, you can be. So Kimberly, what kind of communication dialogue could they set up to help him understand her need for affirmation so that he loves her and can start modifying his own behavior to help her out a little bit.
Yes. The best thing to do is not in the middle of when it’s hurting you. So not right after sex, when he didn’t say something you wanted him to say. Instead, on a normal day, when things are good, then try and sit down with him and away from distractions. Get away from phones, away from kids, all the things, and say, “Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something I need. I would really appreciate it if, during sex, be very clear on what you need. I wish that you would do more of this”, and ask him to do it. Here is where he may feel uncomfortable doing that.
So then, how do you move past that? If he is like, “I don’t know if I can be that vocal. I don’t know how to say that. I don’t feel comfortable doing that yet.” Then you start to compromise and bridge that gap. So how do you do that?
Well, among other things, it’s behavior modification 101. Things that get rewarded tend to get repeated. So when he does say something about you look really good today, give him some kind of reward. Maybe a peck on the cheek. “Oh, wow. That felt so good. Thank you for that.” That can actually be a reward if he cares about how you feel, which I’m sure he does, but if you want the behavior to be repeated, reward it. Don’t be negative when you don’t get it. That can actually distinguish it .when you do get it, reward it by at least acknowledging it. “Thank you, baby. I really needed that today.” Or, “thank you. That makes me feel good.” And you can learn how to do this, but the main thing here is what Kimberly went through explaining.
It’s you becoming confident about yourself. I think it’s in the book Kimberly, ‘The Art of Falling in Love”, that I wrote about. In Louisville, Kentucky, I was doing a seminar once, and a woman walked in the room, and everybody in that room watched her from the time she came through the door to the time she sat down. She was the most confident, and I don’t mean arrogant. Arrogance turns me off, but the most confident. Therefore, extremely sexy, not only every man was watching, every woman was watching her.
My good friend Mark that you know, was with me at that thing. He said, “wow, she’s pretty.” Here’s the fascinating thing, by the BMI scale, she would have been obese. She was not thin. She would have been obese, not just overweight, obese. Yet, she was the prettiest and sexiest woman in that room. It’s because she had the confidence, not arrogance, arrogance turns people off, but those things you’ve talked about, this woman had obviously done for herself. It makes all the difference in the world. Let me see if we can get one, maybe two more questions in. Let me get over here and look at them.
My wife basically had an emotional affair a while back, and she now had one that was an online sexual affair with somebody at church. But whenever we talk about sex and intimacy, she throws it out there. Like I shouldn’t expect to be intimate, and it’s very frustrating knowing that she’s turning out to be a very sexual person and was letting herself free with this guy. And for her to think that she could never get there with me.
I mean, I’m kind of coming to the realization, maybe not to jump the gun, but maybe she doesn’t see me in that way, that she married me for other reasons and not a sexual type person, which is a little bit of a bait and switch from what I remember when we were younger. I want to be in a passionate, loving relationship. I understand I can’t compare this to limerence and what she went through and the crazy excitement. I appreciate your advice or feedback on this one.
Kimberly, did you notice he used the phrase “bait and switch” and referred back to back when they were first together? That she was very sexual, and now she’s not sexual at all, and he’s saying it’s bait and switch. Then he said that maybe she didn’t marry me for that. Maybe she married me for other reasons altogether. Interestingly, I’ve heard that bait and switch thing so many times from so many husbands. Even if they don’t use the exact phrase, it’s the same thing. Like this is how she was, and this is how she is. So, she messed up because we used to have this, and then we have that.
Well, tying back to that, it’s not really “bait and switch.” We’ve talked about this earlier in this podcast. You can go back and check it. It really boils down to the fact that when you’ve been making love with each other for a couple of years, a thing called habituation takes place.
You become used to each other, which can lead to a thing called sexual boredom. So thinking that a person’s going to be as sexual as they were when you first got together is something that’s actually not very logical. Are there some people who have just super high sex drives that’ll stay super sexual until they’re 95-years-old and drop dead? Yes. But that’s typically not the rest of us. Most of us are not like that, and things begin to change. While you’re saying, “well, I understand this is not limerence,” we’re going to talk in just a moment about how she was going to have to learn something about reality, but at the same time, I understand your frustration. So don’t think that I’m trying to tell you that you’re the guy who’s wrong. Please don’t let me come across that way.
But there’s also some reality to hear for you to understand. Which is that as time passes, people become less sexual. Here’s the good news, the longer you’re together and particularly when you get into a little bit later years, like 50s-60s. There’s some really interesting research that says that the best sex you’ll have is in your 50’s and 60’s with a partner you’ve been with for a long period of time. Will it be as often? No. Will it be as much variety? No. But you’ll have a deeper, deeper, emotional connection, which will make it that much better. So thinking, “oh, well, maybe she didn’t marry me because she found me sexually attractive.”
I understand how to think that way. I understand how you feel that way, but I’m telling you that that’s not what’s going on here. What’s happening is that you’ve been together for a while. Kimberly, he said, when she was in limerence, she became super sexual. Based on what we see on this program, we know there’s a physiological reason for that, right? A chemical reason.
Right. Serotonin. You said it was when serotonin drops that libido increases because it’s the calming neurochemicals. So when serotonin increases, which means someone’s calmer, libido’s going to decrease.
That’s exactly right. Anybody who has taken an SSRI, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, like Prozac or Lexapro or Alexa or Zoloft, there’s a bunch of different kinds of them, have found that their sex drive decreased. Why? Because those drugs, those medicines increase the level of serotonin in your brain, which means your sex drive actually decreases. That’s why sometimes, when people are on those meds, they have to take another med to help them still be sexual. So, they actually have to take two at the same time. So understand that why we see all that sexual with him?
Well, that’s what limerence does.
Serotonin decreases, they become much more sexual. I know that doesn’t make it better. I know it makes it like, “whoa, well, that’s the case. Who cares?” No, I know that it still hurts very much the thing that she was. But when that serotonin starts increasing when that other relationship starts ending, then her sex drive is naturally going to decrease. It really has nothing to do with you. But, Kimberly, there’s one other thing. People hate it when we talk about it. Explain to them what it means when sometimes people coming out of a limerick relationship go into mourning.
When someone’s in limerence, it’s still a relationship, and there are very strong feelings that the person has towards that limerent object, as we may put them. So when that relationship ends, it is like any other relationship ending. It is very common for the person to go through mourning the loss of that relationship. Just like if it had been that they were dating that person before they were married, and it would end. I mean, it is similar.
Paired on top of that, then you have guilt. Most of the time, feelings of shame, remorse, all of the consequences are kind of coming to a head after everything that’s happened. There are a lot of feelings of loss. I’ve lost who I was. I’ve lost what I had. I’ve lost that relationship. Have I also lost my future? So there’s a lot of things that are going on, which can, of course, decrease libido for sure.
They kind of start numbing out because of all that pain. And that last thing you said is really, really important. “Have I lost my future?” Not that they think they can’t have a future with you. They’re not thinking about a future with you at all at this point. They’re not evaluating it good, bad, or indifferent. What happens in limerence is people spend up to 85% of their waking hours fantasizing about the future with that limerent object, the person they quote madly in love with. Part of what their mourning and very insightful, Kimberly, part of what the mourning is the loss of that fantasy. They’ve been daydreaming about what life’s going to be like. Those daydreams had no connection to reality, but they were exciting.
They were wonderful in that sense. So, they’ve not just lost the relationship with the person, they’ve lost that daydreamed, fantasized perfect future where Prince Charming and Cinderella where they live happily ever after. It goes away. Part of what you’re facing is the fact that she’s doing some grief. I know you don’t want to hear that. I know it hurts you to think that way, but this is something that happens. Not because she wants it to, it happens because she’s a human being. The fact that she’s not sexually attracted to you right now, they’re even more reasons, but we’re out of time. We can’t explain that. Here’s the good news. You can repair it. Kimberly, why don’t you tell them what we offer to help them repair that?
The best thing that we can do to help repair your relationship, especially if after it’s experienced something like an affair, is the couples workshop we offer. We have couples come through this every weekend that we have it, which is multiple times a month in situations where they have been hurt a lot of times by an affair. They’re trying to rebuild, trying to move past, trying to understand what has happened.
In the workshop, they get clarity, and they get direction, they get what they should do to move forward on how to fall back in love and repair their relationship, and how to not let that affair define one of them or the marriage as a whole moving forward. That’s the absolute best thing that you and your wife could do together. Both of you will gain amazing insight from it. I would bet that it’s also going to help your sex life as well. Whatever happens outside the bedroom affects what happens inside and what happens inside affects what happens outside. So, it’s huge in helping with that.
Yes. There’s some research I can’t refer to in detail because of the way it was done. Still, we found that 90 days after the workshop, not only had marital satisfaction increased dramatically, but sexual satisfaction had increased dramatically because marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction go together. To find out about the things we’ve discussed, “Spark Your Marriage,” which is that online video series you can work through together. There you’ll get a PDF sheet that’ll help you enhance your sex life and the workshop and etc. How can they find that before you summarize all of the things we’ve talked about today, which you do so well at the end? How will they find all these things?
You can find anything we offer MarriageHelper.com under our courses is where you can find the spark program. You can also find the “Save My Marriage” course if that’s something you’re interested in. You can find out more about our workshop on our website as well. But the best thing to do if you want more information about the workshop is to actually schedule a call with one of our client relations reps, and that’s a free call. They’re going to figure out more about your situation and answer your questions about how the workshop can help you, tell you about upcoming dates, see where there’s availability because our workshops are filling up. If you’re interested in a workshop date, do not wait until the last minute. It will be taken.
We have people calling us, and forgive me if it sounds like some kind of sales push, it frustrates me because we exist to help people, and we’re getting calls from people saying, “you’ve got to get me into your workshop. You’ve got to get me in.” And those things are just over full already. So indeed, if you’re interested, talk to the client rep, and if you find that it’s going to fulfill your needs, don’t “dally” because we really would like to help you, and our client reps will listen. They’ll understand, and they’ll help you understand various products and services we have that can help you.
So Kimberly, what a job to summarize this. This is the longest podcast we’ve ever done is coming up on 55 minutes, I think. They’ll be a little bit of editing, so maybe it’ll make it a little shorter for them, but summarize all this.
The first key takeaway is to remember that everything that happens inside the bedroom affects what happens outside the bedroom and everything that happens outside the bedroom affects what happens inside the bedroom.
So many times, when there are sexual issues within the marriage, especially if the issues are not just physical, we need to look at relational issues. So, what are the things that we can then do to make the relationship better so that the marriage will be better listening to each other, focusing on not trying to fix them or fix what they are feeling, but the process of staying in love, growing deeper in love, learning how to have a really healthy and strong relationship is there’s a lot that goes into it. That’s one of the reasons that I believe what we do, especially in our workshop.
Our couples workshop that we offer is so powerful because we teach all of those things. I believe it is the best thing that any and every marriage could and should go through multiple times throughout their years of being married. So, definitely check that out as well.
The second key takeaway that I have from today’s episode is that sometimes there are physical issues. Sometimes, there are physiological issues with hormones or neurochemicals in our brains that need to be addressed by a mental health provider because it affects our sex life. If that is the case, go to a doctor because nothing we say is supposed to be taken for medical advice. So, be sure to check with one of your physicians and see what kind of things you could get on or speak with your spouse and encourage them to go see their doctor if you think they might be having an issue because that can help work wonders.
The third key takeaway I have from everything we’ve talked about is remembering that the real source of attraction comes from within yourself. Instead of just trying to wait until your spouse says, or does something towards you to make you feel attractive or make you feel sexually attractive, focus on what you can do to realize that you are worth it and you are good enough inside of yourself first and foremost.
The person that you hear more than anyone else is yourself inside of your mind. So, begin to say better things about yourself and not just that, but begin to do things that will actually help you feel like you are accomplished, that you are moving forward and that you are attractive, focusing on the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of it. Those are the key takeaways I have.
If you want more on how to learn more about attraction and things that you can do on a weekly basis to become more attractive, then be sure to check out my podcast, “It Starts With Attraction,” which you can go to and listen to anywhere you listen to podcasts, be sure you subscribe. Like with Relationship Radio, be sure you subscribe and leave a review that helps more people find us. It helps us reach more people. If you’re watching on YouTube, be sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel and leave a comment. Tell us what you thought of this episode. We love hearing from you.
We believe there’s hope for your situation. We want to help you find that hope, and we look forward to seeing you next week.