Number One Reason Marriages Struggle Sexually


sexual-intimacy-strugglesI hear many stories about marriages struggling sexually.

The circumstances are as varied and vast as stars in the sky, as cliche as it may sound.

And there is legitimate and heart-wrenching pain within every scenario, where behind closed doors, the true character (or lack thereof) of a marriage is forged and revealed.

Many, many sexual struggles.

But do you know the one reason at the root of almost all of them?

One person in the marriage wants nurtured healthy sexually intimacy.  And the other person does not.

Another (yet less frequent) version of this scenario is the two people do want to heal, but they can’t agree on what healing looks like.  So they stay stuck in their corners.

Lack of mutual resolve on doing something — anything — about the sexual disconnect sets the foundation for more of the same.  Sexual struggle becomes their normal.

“Oh. My. God. How did we get here?!” you could hear at least one of them (maybe both of them) screaming from the pit of their soul.

Sexual struggle may even become so normal that it seems completely counterintuitive and cumbersome for the couple to climb their way to a better healthier sexual normal.

It’s tenacious and tender work to create something better, isn’t it?

And you know what?

Without even hearing all the details about such a marriage, if I would arrive on the scene, I would bet my last dollar I would find one person who genuinely and humbly wants to walk in the direction of healthy intimacy.

And one who does not.

RELATED POST: Sexual Intimacy and Marriage: I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know

I was talking to a great friend of mine the other day and we were musing about feeling excited about the new year.

Quite the segue I’m making here, huh?!

Any. Way.

My friend and I were talking about the new year, and she said her word for the year is “intentionality.”

“I love that!” I said.

Being intentional about anything takes effort, which is probably why the word doesn’t inspire waves of action among the vast majority of people.

Being intentional means having to fight against your natural tendency of taking the path of least resistance.

And it means having to baby step and big step your way out of longstanding unhealthy normals.

Hard. Tiring. Frustrating. Overwhelming.

And yet.

Something better at the other end of all that intentionality, if you stick with it.

There’s a lot of psychology behind why we as the masses suck at this whole thing of being intentional and pursuing healthiness as our normal.

But come on. You don’t want to hear a psychology lesson right now.

You don’t really want to hear why you like the cheese curls and chocolate better than the chicken and cauliflower.

We generally, though, know what’s healthy and what isn’t.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say “the cheese curls are DEFINITELY healthier than the cauliflower.”

And you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say that sexual disconnect in a marriage is healthier than authentic sexual intimacy in a marriage.

Nearly all of the people who read my blog land here because nurtured sexual intimacy is far from their reality.  Their norm is sexual disconnect, discouragement and, for some, desperation.

If you are reading this, either you are the one in the marriage who wants to work on healthier sexual intimacy.  Or you are the one satisfied with the status quo.

Which one are you?

Regardless of which one you are, I’m wondering if you are willing to do a courageously intentional thing.

Could this blog post open the door to some dialogue with your spouse about sexual intimacy?

Psychology lesson aside, it all circles back to the truth that you gotta do something if you want something to look differently.

I don’t know your circumstances, but my hope is that you have not lost hope for healthy sexual intimacy in your marriage.

I can’t give you guarantees that if you move in the direction of healthy sexual intimacy that your spouse will want to move in that direction with you.

But it’s worth a shot to at least try.

Because I doubt more of the same — an unhealthy sexual normal — is the marriage you both envisioned way back in the day.


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Copyright 2016, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

7 thoughts on “Number One Reason Marriages Struggle Sexually

  1. Sean says:

    Hey, I am the first comment!! Excellent Article Julie! You are absolutely right, and unfortunately, the spouse who does NOT want to work on the sexual relationship is the one with all the power.

  2. CK says:

    A really great post! Now – how to get that message through to your spouse, who does not believe abnormal is abnormal?

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Sean, you are exactly right in regards to your power statement. Since we cannot change another person, it they choose not to change on their own (or with God’s nudging), they do hold all the cards.

    @CK, yes, how to you get the other person to believe that? Or, if you use Julie’s terminology, who defines what is “healthy intimacy”? I will most likely never see my definition of healthy and normal because my wife sees allowable intimacy in a different light. (aka gate-keeping)

  4. Reba says:

    Perhaps the first question is not ‘how?” but “why?” WHY does one spouse not wish to work toward intimacy? WHY is it not a priority? Why does something that makes him feel so wonderful make her feel so terrible?

  5. J. Parker says:

    Love the “intentionality” word for the year. Interesting, too, since — when pressed — I chose as my 2016 word proactive. Seems like I react to everything instead of deciding what I want my relationships and life to be and aiming right at that. All good to consider when it comes to sexual intimacy in marriage! Great post.

  6. e2 says:


    I agree that asking right questions is very important in finding answers. I also realize you may not have necessarily wanted answers, but this forum gives me an opportunity to explore ideas. It occurs to me that we humans are fairly simple beings. We repeat behaviors that give us pleasure and avoid behaviors that are unpleasant. give us pain. Somewhere in our lives, we have found intimacy (not just sex) to be either pleasant or unpleasant. There have to be a gazillion reasons for either result and I suspect we’ll spend our marriages exploring this mystery.

  7. Alan says:

    Thanks for this blogs that opens the discussion on a serious issue that affects so many marriages. I agree with the comment that asks the “Why” question. The work that is needed will require digging into the issues that created the problem in the first place. Two really good resources to help couples are these two books:
    Rekindling Desire by Barry and Emily McCarthy and the other is The Sex Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis. Both are very helpful at getting to the “Why” of the issue and they offer steps to move towards a more intimate marriage. It always requires hard work, but if the goal is a better closer more intimate marriage, the work will be worth it.

    I know because I had to work through similar issues. It took years but it is so much better now.

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