Dear Neil: Would you discuss the issue of celibate marriage, especially where one partner is frustrated by the whole situation?
Going Without in New Zealand
Dear Going Without: In a marriage where one person consistently refuses or is repelled by sex with the other person, several explanations may be possible. The first possibility is that one person has grown so cold, withdrawn, distant, adversarial, angry or hostile that s/he no longer feels close enough to have sex.
Second, s/he may be withholding sex from the other as a way of punishing, making a point or negotiating some issue with you.
Third, some people—especially men—feel that women exert excessive power, control and influence because of sex. So a man withdrawing sex essentially neutralizes the power a woman holds over him.
Fourth, some people may withdraw sex so as not to feel vulnerable. If I don’t open up to you and allow you close to me physically, then perhaps I won’t feel so vulnerable to rejection, criticism, withdrawal or anger from you.
It is also possible that because of upbringing, rape or life circumstance, one party has grown to feel that sex is bad, unpleasant, dirty or demeaning. Or perhaps s/he hasn’t been enjoying sex, and therefore has poor incentive for wanting it again. In addition, there could be a medical condition that may be blocking arousal or causing pain.
Whatever the reason, perhaps you could initiate a conversation about it, openly addressing your hurt, frustration and feelings of rejection. Then invite a dialogue about what it would require for your spouse to reconsider his/her celibate stance. Under what circumstances would your partner be willing to make love again? Let your mate set the conditions—and see if you can accommodate to those conditions—as a way of trying to provide safety and empathy for his/her feelings.
If you don’t force a dialogue about this issue, nothing is likely to change.
Dear Neil: In a new relationship, when do you think it’s appropriate to have sex for the first time? Are there any guidelines about this subject?
Ready In Miami
Dear Ready: This questions has personal preferences, age, experience, levels of desperation, ideas about right and wrong, codes of behavior and religious beliefs all attached to it, so it is not going to be possible for me to recommend what choice would be best for you.
That being said, I do have one guideline about when to turn a relationship sexual for the first time. Do it for you. Do not do it to please the man—do it to please you, when you feel close enough and ready.
Having sex to please someone else definitely has its place in furthering closeness, nurturing someone you care about or in feeding an intimate relationship. But not for the first time. Consider the first time yours—for your pleasure, your comfort, your timing.
Women have been deciding when to say “yes” for millenniums. It’s one of the arenas where females have power over men, and where all respectful and appropriate males patiently wait for the lady to be ready. Say “yes” the first time for you, not for him.