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For the sake of simplicity, I include all long-term and de facto relationships in with the umbrella term 'marriage'.  Why is sex in marriage different from casual sex or any other kind?

The first and most obvious difference is that, in marriage, there is a stated and established relationship behind the sex act.  Therefore, one assumes that sex is taking place as much for the expression of love as for physical pleasure.  Procreation is also a major factor, which is not usually the case outside marriage, except by accident or if single women choose to have babies on their own.

Unfortunately, sex in marriage is also used to express a lot of emotions other than love — hate, frustration, fear, jealousy, insecurity, boredom, power, lust, spite, anger — the list is endless.  These feelings also run very deep, compared with their counterparts in casual relationships.  For example, if you're bored with someone you're dating, you either stop seeing that person or change what's happening.  It's never that simple in a marriage because marriage itself is complex.  Two separate individuals, almost strangers, join their lives, live together day in and day out, share everything, have problems, and yet are supposed to find each other sexy at the end of the day!  A bit of a tall order.

Married couples don't go to bed alone — they take with them the bills, the kids, the fights, the worries, the house, their jobs, yesterday and tomorrow.  That's why keeping sex good is such a challenge and one I believe married couples need to take seriously.

The bottom line is why you got married in the first place — because you loved each other.  So why let the mortgage and the dishes and the in-laws get in the way of that?  The most successful couples are those who never forget that they are a couple first and everything else comes second.

So many men complain to me that their wives change after the birth of the first child.  The women become 'mothers' and appear to lose interest in their husbands.  Men feel pushed out and redundant, like the spider's mate that's eaten after he's done the deed.

Women, on the other hand, tell me of feeling unsexy after childbirth, losing all interest sometimes, having no energy and wanting just to be left alone.  This is a crisis point in many marriages.  The partners drift apart and somehow never get close again.  Forewarned is forearmed, and if new parents realise what's happening, they can seek professional help or at least ride out the storm until the baby is a few months old and they have time to renew their sex lives and their commitment to each other.  Operating together is the key.  Marriage is a team effort, and as such requires a tandem commitment and vision.
If people are going to get married just to keep doing their own thing, they may just as well remain single.  The best marriages are those between individuals who have chosen to merge into one partnership. The marriage is, in itself, a separate entity with its own requirements and needs.  Like a flower bed that's never watered, a marriage dies without care.

If this is true of marriage, how does it reflect in the bedroom?  Well, the bedroom is where marital flaws first show up.  Sex is a direct monitor of the health of the relationship.  When sex has its rightful place, it creates little or no conflict.  When there's too much or too little, if one partner or both are dissatisfied, if they're not evenly matched in libido, then the cracks begin to show.  Sexual rejection is one of the most hurtful things that we have to endure emotionally and it happens for a number of reasons.

Studies show that when people go off sex, it's for one of the following reasons (discounting poor health, stress, fatigue, or loss of libido on medical grounds) — boredom, anger, or spite.

Boredom we can all understand, especially in long-term relationships where one or both partners are reluctant to be creative and experimental.  Anger is also very direct.  When people fight, they may use sex to make up, but they may also close off sexually, especially if one partner feels deeply hurt or offended.  Spite, however, is the most insidious and destructive cause of marital discord as it's often hidden and unspoken.  It may lie between the two people for years, like a slow poison that eats away at its victim until, one day, the death of the relationship is close and there's not even a warning.

If you and your partner are not making love and you don't know why — ask!  Don't let the problem fester.  Communication is the single most important ingredient in relationships.  I have never seen a couple for counselling who openly shared and talked things over in a positive way.

What of people who seem to dislike sex altogether?  Putting aside those who choose celibacy, or belong to a religious order, or remain single, there are still many others who need and want love but don't enjoy lovemaking.

This is a far more extreme problem because it can be emotionally crippling and potentially destructive to a marriage.  Sometimes, it doesn't show up beforehand, or the other party thinks it can be overcome with enough love and patience.  Unfortunately, if the reason for asexuality is deep-seated, it may be impossible to shift and certainly requires professional intervention.

The main causes are sexual abuse in the past, poor sex attitudes, or some other psychological block.  The cause is very rarely physical, which says a lot in itself about the nature of sexuality.

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