Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Reality of Married Lovemaking

When writer Miriam Arond and her husband, psychiatrist Samuel L. Pauker, M.D., surveyed hundreds of newlywed couples across the nation, they discovered that 85 percent had made love before tying the knot, yet the frequency and quality of unmarried sex had little to do with the reality of married lovemaking. Nearly half said that after marriage, they didn't have sex as often as they'd like; 20 percent of new wives reported low sexual desire. For a fourth of the wives, sex meant painful intercourse or elusive orgasms, while 1 in 10 husbands experienced premature ejaculation, and 1 in 20 had erection problems. What ever happened to athletic, swinging-from-the-chandeliers, "did-the-earth-move-for-you-too?" prenuptial lovemaking? The deep, mystical, Tantric communing of two spirits? Hours of Hollywood sex complete with mood music, flickering candlelight, and satin sheets?

"The excitement of getting married gives couples a hit of dopamine -- a feel-good brain chemical that increases sex drive. For a few months after marriage, things may stay hot," says marriage and sex therapist Pat Love, Ed.D. "And while you still love each other and feel passionate about each other, the dopamine does settle down. You're back to real life. Your normal sex-drive set point kicks back in. Your expectations about married sex take over. It's the perfect time to do the delicious work of deepening your sexual bond."

"The challenge for couples is balancing a sense of intimacy and safety and security with a sense of unpredictability and creativity and eroticism," says Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., a psychology professor at American University in Washington, D.C. "When sexual intimacy is strong, making love plays a healthy 15 to 20 percent role in energizing your marriage. The paradox is that when sex is problematic, it plays an inordinately powerful, negative role in new marriages."

Understanding the real sexual issues that newlyweds face can help you keep sex fun and fulfilling -- now and for the rest of your lives. Experts say these hidden concerns can cool the hottest love life in the early days of marriage:

Mismatched sex drives. "When your sex drive returns to its normal level in the months after you get married, couples start to notice a frustrating desire discrepancy," Dr. Love says. "It's perfectly normal. You've just got to work it out."

Testosterone, the hormone of desire, fuels sex drive in men and women. But, Dr. Love says, relatively low levels of natural testosterone mean that two-thirds of all women don't walk around thinking about sex all the time. "For these women -- and I'm one of them -- you don't feel like having sex until you're already having it," she says. "That's perfectly normal. It just means you have to approach sex a little differently. You have to make time for touching, time for sex. You can't rely on being aroused to get things started. You have to start with relaxed touching and kissing to raise your arousal level."

Clashing sex-pectations. On the last night of a romantic two-week honeymoon, Priscilla and Greg Hunt bumped up against a radical difference in expectations and desire. "We had been making love three times a day on our honeymoon," Priscilla recalls. "It was wonderful, but we were about to go back to real life. To work and school and doing the dishes and responsibilities. I had to say, it's time to talk about moderation." Says Greg, "Sexuality was a real issue. We were both learning about it in our college courses, but experiencing it firsthand was strikingly different. My testosterone levels were extremely high. We were not evenly matched for libido. We had to work hard to communicate. Sexuality is a very sensitive issue -- you have all sorts of feelings and insecurities wrapped up in it."

Does marriage ruin your sex life?

Single life: loads of sex. Married life: none at all. Welcome to the apprehensive male psyche, where their impervious view of marriage is ruining its case ...

"Everyone knows that getting married ruins your sex life," my friend Jack mused after witnessing his best buddy tie the knot. "Men know that as soon as you give a girl a ring, she stops giving it so willingly. She just does it to get the man, and once she has him, the well dries up pretty fast."

I was a little stunned at his musings but my attempt to offer a counter argument quickly fell flat. "But doesn't it mean that by living together and being in love you can have it more?" I asked.
"Not when there's works and laundry and kids involved," he scoffed.

While I've heard time and time again about the belief that "married life equals no sex", (although the jury is out on how many of the 7.9 million Australian marriages this affects), I'd never quite heard a man be so open and honest about his fear of it becoming a reality. Besides, don't young married couples have a vigorous bedroom life? (If my neighbours in the next apartment are anything to go by, the proof is in the pudding!)

The married versus single sex life is an age-old question and it seems every singleton who values their hanky panky finds themselves asking the big question before they consider tying the knot: will marriage ruin my sex life?

Hence many are choosing to forgo the ceremonial stuff altogether in hope of prolonging the honeymoon period in their relationship.

Others are taking other sorts of drastic measures, like Lenny Kravitz, who recently made a promise to forgo sex before marriage altogether.

"It's just a promise I made until I get married," he told Spin Magazine. "Where I'm at in life, the women have got to come with something else, not just the body, but the mind and spirit. It usually trips them out, but that's the way it's going to be. I'm looking at the big picture."

Trippy indeed. (Although I've heard many blokes attempt to use that line to actually get into a woman's pants in the first place. And apparently it works wonders!)

But perhaps my mate Jack, and that infamous Newsweek cover story titled No Sex Please, We're Married is wrong.

After all, a recent study actually succeeded in busting the myth that women aren't as into it as men, proving that it's actually when women are in committed relationships that men and women actually share similar attitudes towards sex.

And in case the blokes are scoffing at the findings, they actually have scientific legs! Carried out by researchers at the University of Florida and published in the journal titled Sex Roles, it seems while women might not be so into it on a casual basis (although some readers of this blog would vigorously disagree), the study proved that women don't hold back when "romantic feelings" are involved.

The researchers reckon that society dictates that single men are expected to think and want sex more than women and according to Paul Perrin (one of the study's researchers), "what society tells us we should be often translates into actions".

Yet through the study, he discovered this: "Once they enter a relationship, however, the pressure on men to have sex is not as strong and the pressure on women to not have sex goes away."

And according to the infamous Newsweek's story, a study carried out in 2002 by the National Opinion Research Centre at the University of Chicago, actually found that married folks have 6.9 more sexual encounters a year than those who haven't tied the knot.

So perhaps Jack is wrong after all. But as Erica Jong once said, "Yes, wild passionate sex exists ... But it is occasional. And it is not the only thing that keeps people together. Talking and laughing keep couples together. Shared goals keep couples together."