Over time, vital relationships in one’s life, like the familial, become significantly soured. And, as relationships wither, so does people’s well-being. Marital sex life experiences changes with marital duration, and especially after having children, which affects their relationship and inner balance, one way or another. If marital sex is defined as a means of expressing one’s emotions and need to be loved, then it is clear why marital sex changes are considered an important factor to a couple’s and a family’s well-being. This paper will focus on exploring the reasons why and how marital sex changes and the effects of those changes to the married couple’s relationship. The Biblical stance in marital life will also be presented as a means to further comprehend how marital life is expected to be. Moreover, demographics and society science will also be referred to, as well as facts and findings from research in regards early marriages.
Introduction to Human Sexuality: the Biblical and Christianity Interpretations
According to the Bible, human sexuality is rather a human gift that a divine reality, given than God created the entire world out of His power and not sexual reproduction. It is a concept that is embodied in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as found in verses of the New Testament (Jn 1:1- 14 & Col 1:15-20). Sexuality is perceived as the union of the male and female, who are the image and likeliness of God (Gn 1:26-27). The male and female union in one flesh (Gn 2:24-25) can be achieved via marriage covenant. In the Christian tradition, sexuality occurs for a reason: that to create a new life in the image and likeliness if God, and experience the deep, true meaning of unparalleled love.
In an Encyclical Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, called Humanae Vitae, mentions that married love “reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who "is love” (1968). So, marriage is the means to perfect one another and rear of new lives, via sexual activity that unites the husband and wife (Paul VI, 1968). Married couples are encouraged to have sexual experiences that are still considered noble, even if the result of each and every one of them does not lead to bringing a new life to this world.
Also, God made Eve from Adam’s flesh and bone, as a means to demonstrate that people are not alone and that we have been created for intimacy (Clinton, 2006 p. 176). Intimacy is defined by Abraham Greeff and Hildegarde Malherbe, as “behavioral interdependency, fulfillment of needs and emotional attachment” (Balswick, & Balswick, 2007 Chapter 13). In married couples’ most private moments a spouse is united with their other half as one, which clearly demonstrates the deeper need of all people: to be loved and connected (Clinton, 2006 p. 176). Since sex is used as a means to express emotions, it helps develop an emotional attachment between spouses that is essential for the effective family living (Balswick, & Balswick, 2007 Chapter 13). Unfortunately, when marital sex changes to the worse, familial problems arise.
How sex is changed in Marital Life: Age and Gender
According to an article published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, in 2012, findings from analysis of in-depth interviews of a number of long-term married couples, show that sexual experiences vary over time and are affected by both age and gender (Lodge & Umberson, 2012).
Age-related physical alterations play a significant role in the sexual life of couples between ages of 50 and 69, which is distinguished by distress (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). What is interesting to note, though, is the fact that sexual distress is displayed differently in husbands and wives and that couples of older ages, meaning between 70 and 86, appear to have developed a more intimate relationship and emphasize more on that rather than sex (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Also, marital sex life is characterized by more conflicts among spouses, due to inconsistent experiences, as opposed to the marital sex experiences of older husbands and wives (Lodge & Umberson, 2012).
Studies have shown that married couples after age 45, have reduced sexual desires, as part of the aging process, which in turns, affects the frequency of their sexual experiences (DeLamater & Sill, 2005). Also, sexual quality is different. It seems that women in their mid-60s to their mid-70s have reported considerate reduced sexual quality, when compared to women about two decades younger (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Of course, reduced sexual desire and less frequent sexual experiences result in less marital sex-related conflict, in the aforementioned age groups.
Marital sex is dynamic and alters within the passage of years. However, in order to understand human sexuality changes in marital life, it is important to analyze cultural factors too. The way each gender understands their sexual self is pre-defined by societal concepts that want men more sexually dominant and women more sexually suppressive, which in most cases leads to marital sex-related conflict (Lodge & Umberson, 2012).
A study’s findings mention that marital sex is less frequent, and in some cases couples even stopped sexual experiences due to health problems. However, most couples interviewed for the sake of research said that they had more quality sex than before, only in less frequencies (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Another potion of married couples asked mentioned that marital sex had become boring as they age and lost the excitement and thrill (Lodge & Umberson, 2012).
Marital Sexuality of Women after Menopause
Age and societal stereotypes also define the sexual experiences in marital life. Evidence has shown that women after menopause are significantly affected by what society thinks about gender equality and quality of relationships that apply to women of the particular age (Winterich, 2003). In other words, reduced sexual drives and less frequency of sexual experiences of women after menopause have nothing to do with the fact that she has entered the particular phase in her life. It all has to do with their cultural background and how society has passed on to them sex-related matters (Winterich, 2003). Aging, undeniably, brings physical changes that can affect the frequency and quality of sex; however cultural ideas of femininity and masculinity form a frame of appropriateness of gender sexuality.
Early Marriages and Human Sexuality
During adolescence sexuality enters a new phase, distinguished by more intense feelings and more complex relationship that affect the adolescents’ every section of life. Marriage also initiates changes in an adolescent’s sexuality (Friedman, 1992). For example, an early marriage due to early pregnancy can not only cause numerous health problems to the individuals involved that can even lead to mortality, but also to the sexuality of the young mother (WHO, 2012 p.3).
For many girls, marriage sets the start of their sexual life. Regardless of the reasons why a girl gets married, unquestionably, she faces many issues in regards her sexuality, as she is found to be struggling between negotiating their reproductive life and taking control of their life in general. Also, marriage to many girls means the beginning of unprotected sexual activity (Blanc, 1998 p.106-116). So, it becomes obvious that human sexuality can change after marriage in various ways.
Effects of Marital Sex Changes
As previously mentioned, societal role models affect the sex life of married couples, in more ways than one. Apart from the changes in the frequency and quality of sex, married couples also experience changes in regards the way the experience sex, which causes great discomfort and anxiety. Many married men that, for medical reasons, could not have sex any more, due to erectile dysfunction, experienced depression and felt incompetent, emotionally devastated and embarrassed and unable to talk their problems with their wives (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Consequently, this situation results in married couples falling apart as time progresses. Men that experience erectile dysfunction are also found to be far less willing to even initiate a sexual experience, with all deriving problems that affect their marital life (Lodge & Umberson, 2012).
Married women, on the other hand, whose husbands did not initiate sex, either out of boredom and lack of sexual drive or due to some medical problem, also experience negative feelings that affect their marital sex life. It seems that women self-blame for their husbands’ unwillingness to have sex with them, as they think they are no longer desirable (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). If one takes the husbands that don’t have the same sex drive as in younger years, but it has nothing to do with not being attracted to their wives, it becomes evident that chaos rules (Lodge & Umberson, 2012) and not talking about it simply sustains a situation that drifts married couples away.
Like Clinton mentions in his book Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships, when people’s relationships are at stake and fade away, people’s hearts are filled with hurt and some may even need to cope with emotions of aloneness and rejection, that eventually make people turn inwards to protect their hearts from further pain and sorrow (2006 p.7). That is exactly what is happening in this particular situation and group of married couples.
“The persistent human cry is for someone to love us. Our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food” (Clinton, 2006 p.8). Through these words, and given that the need for marital sexual experience is mainly an expression of love, as per the Biblical interpretations, it become evident that people with a problematic marital sex life face a wide array of emotional issues. Seeking for love via a sexual marital experience that never comes in a way to satisfy as intended can raise serious issues in the couple’s relationship.
Why is Marital Sex Changing?
Research has shown that the frequency of marital sex declines, because the satisfaction gained from marital sex is also reduced with marital duration (Liu, 2003 p.55). This is often called the “honeymoon effect” (Liu, 2003 p.55). Also, the presence of children can negatively affect marital sex life and its frequency, given that children usually require both parents’ contribution round the clock (Liu, 2003 p.55).
Balswick, & Balswick, in their book The family: A Christian perspective on the contemporary home, mention that due to redefinition of gender roles in most modern societies, males and females seem to have lost their respective roles, as granted to them from earlier years (2007, Chapter 11). That, has caused familial disruption and a married couple’s marital roles mess-up. So, marital sex is changed, due to gender role redefining. At this point, it would be interesting to note that redefining gender roles has also affected the parent/child relationships too, as lost parents try to struggle in between new role definitions and requirements (Balswick, & Balswick, 2007 Chapter 11).
Marital sex is perceived as a way to fulfil one’s need to feel safe and loved. The Bible has many indications of the divine presence in human unity that is not differentiated by whether each and every sexual experience results to creating a life, by the Christian religion. The quality and frequency of marital sex changes when the original excitement is reduced, or with the passage of years, mainly due to aging and other medical conditions that make marital sex difficult. Early marriages are alone a separate category that demonstrates how marital sex changes, since there are many factors involved. Also, redefining the current gender roles and societal norms also negatively affect marital sex, since males and females appear confused as to what is expected from them and how to pursuit their sexual fulfilment. Of course, this gender role crisis reflects directly into the core of the family, leaving children confused of what role model they should embrace. All in all, marital life changes over time, including sexual life. However, like anything else in life that is troubling and holding back the prosperity of family life, any sex-related problems need to be talked over, rather than sealed up inside. Turning inwards when issued occur only makes couples fall apart and eventually divorce.
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