Why Do Men Struggle With Monogamy?
Learn why men cheat and what you can do to help prevent it from happening. | Source
In this day and age, it is so easy for men to find women.
Whether it be in church, work, gym, yoga class or the house of ill repute, men see women everywhere they go! With society sexualizing women so much, it's no wonder why men have a problem keeping it in their pants even when they already have a woman who loves him.
It's the age-old question of “Why do men cheat?”, and often times there is no concrete answer. Well, ladies, the answers are in! Being a male myself, I will reveal to you all the secret reasons why men have trouble remaining faithful and where you can play a part in helping us. Yes I said it: YOU have a part to play in helping us remain faithful!
Men are hunters and gatherers, killers and eaters, and protectors of their caves. The pride of a man, called the “male pride,” is to go on conquests for himself or his family, and often that pride inhibits him from remaining monogamous with his woman.
Too often, “male pride” dips into his loins and cause him to go on conquests for sex. We term this as “pulling women”, “bagging chicks”, “collecting” or any other term that you may have heard.
Sex, unfortunately, is a conquest for men and the more we have it, the more our pride sores and the better we feel about ourselves.
If we do not get a lot of, or any, sexual encounters, we drag our head in the sand and act the world is against all because our egos weren't satisfied. Our egos are very sensitive and it is as real as the nose on our faces!
Where and how did we learn such foolish thinking that guides us men this way? A lot of it came from older men who never discovered their purpose in life and so, as a result, they default to sex for their conquests.
They then teach the other generation to do the same and because he's a guy just us, and older, we take what he says to heart and we act just him. Some of the older men were our fathers, granddads, uncles.
deacons in church, pastors, bosses, or any other male figure in a powerful position who didn't have himself fully put together. The rest of it came from peer pressure from our friends who heard the exact same things.
If you were not “pulling chicks,” you were ostracized and considered “gay” (disclaimer: I have NO issues with the LGBT community!). These labels were damaging to our male pride so we have to prove ourselves to our boys that we weren't punks or losers.
This type of conquest is VERY juvenile and most men carry it into their adulthood. How so? If the man still has hang ups in the past where his “homies” clowned (made fun of) him for being too scared to talk to that girl, in his mind he's thinking: “that really hurt back then…I was a punk…
I should have talked to that girl but I didn't and everyone laughed at me…well that's not going to happen again! ill prove to myself and the world that I can do it this time and that I'm not afraid!” As a result of this thinking, his male pride kicks in to high gear to defend himself.
And what does he do? He cheats on you with another girl!
The problem with his thinking is that he still thinks his so-called “buddies” are watching him and so is the world, when the reality is quite the opposite. Nobody cares! Instead of going on with his life and being happy with you, he still has hang-ups for being made a spectacle by his peers.
Those men never learned how to get that loop; however, this statement from my dad fixed everything about that erroneous thinking: “Son, the reason why you're feeling unfulfilled is because you, and your boys, see women as objects, trophies, and collectibles for your cabinet. There is more to life than just having arrows in your quiver…
when you start loving women for who they are and not just what they can do for your ego, then you will be able to experience some love.”
I'm Tired of Her
Ladies, we have heard you refer to this one often. It's the classic “I'm not pretty enough” statement you all have assumed first when your man cheats. Unfortunately, you are correct in your assumption.
While this is NOT always the case, men have admitted that their woman has grown unattractive, let herself go, gained weight, has bags under her eyes, etc.
Men are physical creatures first and base a lot of value off of looks.
This is something women don't understand because they all are emotional creatures first and looks last. We are totally backwards (or maybe vice versa) in how we think.
Literally! So it's inherently unfair to be upset with the man for being swayed by an attractive woman. That's something that he naturally does anyways! The problem was that he broke the trust and the agreement you two had.
He allowed your looks to be the main purpose of dating you and when that “faded,” so did his interest.
I was in a public cafeteria one day and I had befriended one of the cooks. He was an older heavyset gentleman who had a good head on his shoulders but would often refer to his marriage in a critical way.
While he made my burger, I was reading an article that was almost as funny as this one, and he noticed my glee. In retort, he said “man…with you smiling and laughing that much, you're probably looking at naked pictures of my wife.
” Without thinking twice, I lost all composure and laughed in the moment. He had a sense of humor and laughed too (thankfully) and I went about my way.
Ever since then, I wondered how miserable he must feel; to have allowed himself to only love his wife for her looks to make a comment that is pretty daft. As a guy, I totally understood where he was coming from: he's lost sexual interest.
And because his wife is getting older and “less attractive,” he is worried that he will never have that “hot sex high” he once had with her. When that happens, male pride again kicks into high gear to get something new and fresh.
And what does he do? He cheats on you with another girl! All of us guys were warned that looks aren't everything; even the ultimate player, Solomon, said this and he had more women than Hugh! Remember what he said, fellas? “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting…”
She Won't Do X or Y
I've heard this one so often it's comical. Men will sit down and complain all day about his woman and how she doesn't do this for him or how he s it or whatever.
Usually these are sexual favors that the man hoped his wife would do but she flipped the script on him and decided not to do it.
Other times it's because she is bad with money, allows in-law interference, antagonizing, argumentative, bossy/pushy or disrespectful, can't cook, etc.
Most men simply take their ball and leave without attempting to fix the problem (if you're not married that's ok). But even if we have tried to make things better, whether it be counseling, going on more dates, or prayer, we are tempted to cheat if we see no end in sight to the poor communication and our needs not being met.
There is an old phrase my parents d to use that said “making a mountain a mole hill” while other people phrase it as “are you willing to die on that hill”.
Most of the time, when a guy is complaining about his woman not doing X, he told me the other day an issue (Y) that he had but he persistently focuses on X! I see a mountain that he should be dying on and he's dying on a pebble! Male pride tends to be selfish and wants all of it for itself.
It wants to eat both the cake and the cookie and not care who has a problem with it. If that ego isn't satisfied, male pride kicks into high gear to preserve ourselves. And what do we do? You guessed it! We cheat on you with another girl!
Some issues are mere communication barriers married and dating people can actually work through, but sometimes they get our goat as men. Other issues are simply things men will have to accept as no and be done with it.
The solution for the man is to simply remember that you do NOT deserve anything. Yes, that's right.
You don't deserve anything! And neither does she! You both are in servitude towards each other and anything you give each other should be considered a gift.
Ladies, if your man is offering up some of these things that you don't do well or won't do, it is because he heard one of his buddies is getting it and he now wants it too.
His friend spent all day bragging about it and how good it feels/looks/tastes that now he wants it. Male pride! Instead of talking to you about it a human being, your man then charges into the house a Neanderthal and demands that you do X.
He suddenly forgets that Y made him happy for all these years and now he doesn't want it. Had he talked about it with you pleasantly, you would have agreed to do X, or say no to X and offer up a better Y.
If you two can't decide, then the middle ground is Z! Z is the last letter of the alphabet and should be the last conclusion you two agree on when X and Y fails.
I started this article pointing out what the ladies can do to help prevent their men from cheating. As a social disclaimer, the woman is NEVER responsible for why her man cheats. Why? If the man does not her, he can call it quits or divorce her. Simple as that! Cheating falls on him and his inability to work things out with you, but here is where you can scoop him up a little:
If your man never really went on a conquest and feels that his male pride wants to “bag chicks,” the solutions are as follows:
- Have an open relationship/marriage and let him have his fun provided that he follow strict guide rules. While there are moral implications for why you should not do this (and I am not condoning it), this is an option non-the-less and you two should be free to explore as long as you BOTH agree to this.
- Let him chase you! Make a fun hide and seek game with him and make him look for you. Another tactic is to go public places and pretend to be strangers. Play cat and mouse with him just enough to get him to insist you leave with him. Then “go home” with him! In both scenarios, pounce on him a cheetah on a rabbit! Give him whatever he wants (within reason) and he will forget about all those other women! He will know a reward is coming for his conquests and you are the prize!
- Ask him about who he has a crush on! Yes! Talk to him about his crushes! Don't let those thoughts fester in his head, draw them out in a non-judgmental way and talk about it. Do NOT get offended by what he says because remember he's a man and the way he thinks won't change. After he's spilled his guts to you, pick one of the attributes you heard that he found the most pleasant and DO IT! Do it over and over how a kid keeps using the same cheat codes in video games to pass a level. This will make him forget about his crushes and surrender his conquests to you.
- Stroke his ego and shower him with kingly gifts and golden chariots! Ok, I threw that one in there for kicks, but make him feel a king somehow. He IS your king after all, right? RIGHT?
If your man expresses to you, either in a mean or nice way, that he doesn't find you attractive anymore or that his needs aren't being met, first make him apologize for being mean.
Then, figure out where things went south between the honeymoon and then. Whatever he says, and this goes both ways, adjust it and fix it. Plain and simple.
“Why should I? He should love my personality not my looks! I shouldn't have to perform for him!”
Yes, but this is the part where most women miss the mark: men are easy to please! And one our biggest pleasure area is looks! Why not continue to look sexy for your man? Why not give him what he visually wants? Why not do those things that he s? Is it really going to kill you? NO. Does it have to be all the time? Absolutely not. But just the conquest, it helps to give him something to look forward to and remember. Just as you, ladies, expect him to be the provider of the house, which is a hard, underrated job, he expects you to look good for him.
Why Men Can’t Cope With Monogamy
Not only is it failing them, but it's a “socially compelled sexual incarceration” that can lead to a life of anger and contempt, or so says Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England's University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99).
Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they're busted it's a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place, he writes.
In his study of 120 undergraduate men, 78 percent of those who had a partner cheated, “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” Contrary to what we may think, most men aren't cheating because they don't love their partner, he says; they cheat because they just want to have sex with others. And society shouldn't pooh-pooh that.
Monogamy's stronghold on our beliefs — what he calls monogamism — brings ostracism and judgment to anyone who questions or strays from its boundaries. That doesn't make sense to Anderson, who wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce — throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids' lives — over something sex.
Monogamy isn't the only “proper” way to be in a relationship, and he says it's time that society finds “multiple forms of acceptable sexual relationship types — including sexually open relationships — that coexist without hierarchy or hegemony.” It's especially important for today's young men, for whom monogamous sex seems more boring than in generations past because of easy premarital sex and pornography.
Dr. Anderson was kind enough to answer my questions by email:
Your study includes just 120 undergraduate men, straight and gay; isn't that too small a sample to really know what's going on for men?
If I were attempting to determine what percent of men cheat, then, yes. Large-scale surveys show us that cheating remains the norm… I wanted to examine the very notion of monogamy, not morally, but rationally. I wanted to know why men want monogamy but nonetheless cheat.
You say men want to be emotionally monogamous, but their “body craves sex with other people somatically.” People crave food, drugs, booze, sometimes to disastrous results. If there can be self-control with other cravings, why can't men control their body urges?
Humans are largely lousy at controlling our bodies' desires. We say we don't want to eat that Snickers bar, but we also really do want to eat it. We eat it, we feel guilty about it, and afterwards we promise ourselves not to eat one again; but we nonetheless do. It is this same phenomenon, only with cheating, that I explore.
The men in your study experienced a sharp decrease in the frequency and enjoyment of sex after two monogamous years. Since no one can sustain the kind of thrilling sex couples have in the beginning of a relationship, isn't it a healthy thing that it decreases?
I wish young men got two years of good sex before it dropped off; it's a lot less than that! It may, however, be good that the sexual desire for one's partner weans; it means that we end up staying with our long-term partners for the socioemotional connection and not for the sex. If a couple is going to raise a family, it is the emotional connection that counts, not the sexual.
Our physical desires don't die; they just change from our partner to people other than him/her. We falsely believe that when the sex dies, the relationship has also died. The reality is the opposite; when the sex dies the relationship has just begun.
What about the idea that long-term relationships make sex become deeper, more intimate and more meaningful?
The diminution of sex is simultaneous to one's emotional bonds growing stronger. Long-term partners may have more intimate sex (most just have very little) but when men see a guy or girl who turns them on, it's not intimate and meaningful sex they are craving.
Honesty is a huge part of a relationship. How good a relationship can one have when there's deception, especially since you say after men cheat spontaneously, they are more ly to plan cheating?
Honesty is good sometimes, and horrible other times. There are good reasons to lie; it is an essential skill for keeping community and relationship peace.
The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most ly broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn't meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.
The way cheating men see it, it's either cheat or don't cheat, but telling their partners they want sex outside the relationship, or telling their partners that they actually cheated, is viewed as a surefire way of achieving relationship termination. When men cheat for recreational sex — not affairs — they DO love their partners. If they didn't, they would break up with them.
Wouldn't it be less harmful to relationships if we became serial monogamists — marrying two, three or four times as our sexual needs change?
Rather than marrying 20 times or more in one's life via serial monogamy, we can keep one emotional lover and just have casual, meaningless — and hot — sex with strangers.
This gives us the long-term emotional stability we desire psychologically, alongside the hot, carnal sex we desire somatically.
It makes much more sense than lying and cheating , or the difficulty of breaking up with a loved one simply because you want someone else's body for an hour.
Infidelity breaks up many marriages, but often it isn't the act of sex that's so upsetting — it's the deception and lying, clearly problematic for the emotional intimacy you say men want. So cheating for sex may be “just about the sex” for him, but not for his partner.
Infidelity does not break marriages up; it is the unreasonable expectation that a marriage must restrict sex that breaks a marriage up. One of the reasons I wrote the book is that I've seen so many long-term relationships broken up simply because one had sex outside the relationship.
But feeling victimized isn't a natural outcome of casual sex outside a relationship; it is a socialized victimhood. I'm not advocating cheating; I'm advocating open and equitable sexual relationships.
When both in the couple desire this, when both realize that extradyadic sex makes their partner happy, and they therefore want their partner to have that sex, a couple will have moved a long ways toward facilitating emotional honesty, while simultaneously withering at jealousy scripts, which can be very damaging to a relationship. But if one can't achieve this with a partner that's hostile to the idea, cheating is the reasonable action.
Most of the men in your study were OK with sex on the side for them, but not their girlfriends. That seems unfair and incredibly selfish.
Monogamy is culturally compelled, so the decision has been made for us. How much of a chance would a man stand to have a second date if on the first date he said that he was interested in an open relationship? At the point men enter into relationships they, too, think they want monogamy.
It's only after being in a relationship for months or years that they badly want sex with others. But by this point, they don't want to break up with their partners because they have long-standing love. Instead of chancing that love by asking for extradyadic sex, they cheat.
If they don't get caught (and most don't) it's a rational choice.
But it is indeed selfish for men to want sex with others but not to want their partners to do the same. This however is not just a “man” thing. Women also cheat; they also lie about it; and they also want to be able to cheat without their partners doing the same. Monogamy is a problem for all sexes; it builds in an ownership script regardless of gender.
You say love is a “long-standing sense of security and comfort.” So, wouldn't open relationships potentially pose a threat to that security since, even if couples play by their own sexual rules, there's always a chance one could end up preferring a new lover over one's partner?
People in open relationships structure their engagements as to reduce emotional intimacy. But, yes, of course it can happen. What I find from those in open relationships, however, is that once they have had sex with that person they fancied, they tend to get over them.
If we really want to prevent our lovers from developing the lust of others, or worse, emotional intimacy with others; if we really want to prevent men and women from cheating, we would be best to sex-segregate our jobs, our classrooms and social arenas, too.
Emotional intimacy is the real threat to a relationship, not a one-off hour with a stranger from Craigslist. Ultimately, there are no guarantees that one's partner won't find love elsewhere.
But controlling one's partner to prevent it only makes matters worse — it makes them want to leave you. A better strategy is to be open, emotionally and perhaps sexually, too.
Are men hard-wired to be less monogamous than women?
It’s a question as old as the sun: are men naturally monogamous?
According to Edward Fox the answer is clear. “In relationships, men wander naturally, and we cheat because we're totally different creatures,” he is quoted as saying today. “Men need to play the field and spread their seed, whereas women don't have that same biological urge — it's not natural.”
Cue howls of outrage, with various users expressing their anger at Fox's sexy sentiments.
So enjoyed reading the 'enlightened' comments of Edward fox this morning, thanks for dragging us back a couple of centuries
The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating
Sexual taboos are falling in Western cultures. Largely due to the internet, today's youth take a much more sex-positive view to what comes naturally. They have shed the fear and misconception of masturbation.
They enjoy a hook-up culture where sex is easier to come by.
Taboos have withered from homophobic moralistic Victorian ideals of heterosexual, missionary 'sex' to the acceptance not only of homosexuality but for the viewing of gay male pornography by straight men.
Despite all of this social-sexual progress, however, our culture has yet to erode the sexual taboo of engaging in—or even admitting to desperately wanting—sex with someone other than one's monogamous partner. Monogamy is so esteemed it remains virtually compulsory in our relationships.
Despite its cultural esteem, there are faults with the practice of monogamy today; problems covered by a culture unwilling to ask critical questions about it. Monogamy's hegemonic dominance is maintained through multiple, robust cultural myths in the forms of both a carrot and a stick.
Young men entering into romantic/sexual relationships are misled into thinking that monogamy is capable of providing them with a lifetime of sexual fulfillment and that if they truly loved their partners, they would not desire others. This, we are told, is because monogamy is healthy, proper, moral, and natural. Anyone deviating from or challenging this script is stigmatized.
We must hold monogamy, not only cheating, to a critical light. We must expose the myths supporting monogamy, especially for young men who have grown up with easier access to sex, a panoply of pornography, and a greater number of sexual partners before finding love.
Let us examine the stages of a monogamous relationship:
1. Young men enter into romantic relationships believing in the myths of monogamy. Many men have come from families broken by cheating, and they don't want to be 'that guy.' They believe that if they love their partners, they will be sexually satisfied with them in perpetuity.
2. Despite this belief, sexual habituation sets in quickly. Attempts to spice up one's sex life normally occur about the time a couple enters into the emotional storming stage of a relationship: three months. But despite these attempts, the intensity and frequency of sex declines within a few months.
3. The relentless urge to have sex with someone else grows stronger as the emotional strength of the relationship develops. Young men who fail to love their girlfriends or boyfriends aren't compelled to stay with their partners.
Instead, they are culturally free to leave their partners. But men don't leave their partners because of waning sexual desires alone; they love their partners and do not wish to leave them.
They simply want sex with someone else to fulfill their somatic desires while keeping their emotional relationships intact.
4. Men begin to resent their partners. When every cell in their body is craving sex with someone else, monogamy begins to feel sexual incarceration. Men want to escape, and, to some extent, their inability to do so is taken out on their partner, who is viewed as keeping them sexually incarcerated.
5. Men must decide. Do they break up with their partners so they can have sex elsewhere? Tell their partners that they desire a sexually-open relationship? Discuss their sexual desires with their partners but not ask for an open relationship? Or do they choose to cheat, even if not fully admitting this choice to themselves?
6. The decision is normally made to cheat, and this normally occurs (the first time) when drunk. Men don't choose the first option because they are in love with their partners and don't wish to lose their emotional relationship.
They don't choose to explain their desires to their partners because they fear that if they do, their partners will not only deny them the ability to have extra-dyadic sex, but they will either subject them to extra surveillance and scrutiny, or break up with them altogether.
Thus, the final option, cheating, becomes the only rational choice to have their emotional and sexual desires met. With the fuel of alcohol, cheating 'just happens.
' But because most of the time men are not caught, and because they view the crime as having already been committed, they begin to cheat more often.
This cheating option has the added value of permitting themselves to have extra sex, without giving their partners permission to do the same. Thus, cheating men don't have to confront their own sexual jealousy.
After interviewing 120 young men and drawing on research from hundreds of other academics across the biological and social sciences, the central thesis to my research is that cheating is a rational response to the irrational expectation of monogamy. Cheating serves as a way for men to meet their desires, with as little disruption to their emotional lives as possible. This is why 78% of the men I interview report having cheated on their current partner in some physical way.
I don't condone cheating, but I do condemn the expectation of monogamy for setting up this double jeopardy. I understand why men cheat and permitted them to tell their own stories without moral condemnation in my book.
This position is unpopular in a culture that so highly values fidelity. Thus, I rather feel a boy pointing out the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. But I suggest that my thesis must resonate with most who read it at some level.
This is because the evidence about monogamy suggests that while we value it, it is not working. Not only have 78% of those in my study cheated, but the evidence is all around us that, as an institution, monogamy has failed.
Previous research on married men and women in the United Kingdom, for example, shows that more than 70% of men and women have at one time cheated on their partner.
In light of my thesis, some choose a moralist stand, arguing that men should not act on their desires no matter how strong. Others seem to want men doomed to a life of loneliness, suggesting that they should never enter into relationships if that is their belief, or those are their sexual desires.
Both of these positions, however, are a return to matters as usual. They value a cultural script (monogamy for life) that is clearly not working. It is also these scripts that keep men lying about their desires and hiding their cheating.
Few highlight the obvious answer to the dilemma of monogamy and cheating—sexually open relationships. Here, in an egalitarian manner, a couple reserves emotional fidelity, while structuring in rules for extra-dyadic, recreational sex.
Thus, the way the monogamy gap is for us to begin equally valuing sexually open relationships, alongside monogamous ones. Feeling victimized by one's cheating is a socially constructed emotion that ultimately leads to the decrement of otherwise healthy relationships.
Open sexual relationships can, oddly enough, provide increased protection from sexually transmitted diseases/infections (because when people cheat they rarely use protection); and open relationships can wither jealousy scripts that lead to emotional distress in a relationship.
Finally, when there is no stigma to having an open sexual relationship, men and women will begin to be more honest about what they want sexually, and how they desire to achieve it.
Only once sexually open relationships become a viable cultural choice—free of stigma or hierarchy—will men and women begin to talk honestly about what form of relationship would serve them best.
Only then will they be permitted to change the rules of sex with others in their relationship, as they see fit.
An Inconvenient Truth: Sexual Monogamy Kills Male Libido
Here’s a suggestion: No serious therapeutic advice can begin with the word just. What would we think of a therapist who suggested that alcoholics should “Just stop drinking!” and that people struggling with obesity should “Just stop eating so much”? Psychopaths should “Just develop some compassion,” right? Sure, that’ll work.
The problem with advice beginning with just is that it almost always turns out to be nonsense disguised as common sense.
The insertion of just right there at the beginning suggests that we’ve been wasting our time talking about the problem, investigating its causes, exploring its complexities. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Forget all that brainy mumbo-jumbo and just do this.
The power of this approach becomes obvious when we recall that America’s drug problem promptly ended when Nancy Reagan told us to Just say no to drugs. Gee, why didn’t someone think of that earlier?
A recent article in Psychology Today profiles a therapist/author who suggests that married men with low libido can overcome this difficult situation if they just do it.
According to this article, “their low sex drive often has little to do with hormones or biology and a lot to do with the women in their lives. Men today, often enough, are angry at their wives.
” Readers are told that, “In the presence of a mismatch of desire, all intimacy drops out on all levels in addition to the sexual. Couples stop having meaningful conversations.”
I strongly disagree—both with this statement of the problem and the supposed effects on the relationship.
First, the problem.
In fact, for most men in long-term sexually monogamous relationships, a steady decrease in libido has everything to do with biology and hormones and would be the same regardless of the particular woman in their lives. That’s right. The sexually monogamous husband of the hottest woman on Earth will start to lose interest at a certain point. Uma, Selma, it’s not your fault!
As for the men’s anger noted in the article, it’s more ly to be the result of our society’s unwillingness to face this biological reality – preferring to tell men there’s something wrong with them.
You want an inconvenient truth? Try this one: human beings are clearly evolved for sex lives featuring multiple simultaneous sexual relationships.
Men, especially, are designed by evolution to be attracted to sexual novelty and to gradually lose sexual attraction to the same partner in the absence of such novelty. The so-called Coolidge Effect is well demonstrated in social mammals of all sorts and is old news to anyone knowledgeable about reproductive biology.
Boys will be boys, and men will be the way they are, despite the many ways our society tries to make them change.
Back in 1979, anthropologist Donald Symons pointed out that: “Human males seem to be so constituted that they resist learning not to desire variety despite impediments such as Christianity and the doctrine of sin; Judaism and the doctrine of mensch; social science and the doctrines of repressed homosexuality and psychosexual immaturity; evolutionary theories of monogamous pair-bonding; cultural and legal traditions that support and glorify monogamy.” Does anyone really need more examples of a man with a whole lot to lose risking it all for sex with a woman other than his wife? Surely, you can think of an example or seven.
To be fair, the therapist/author profiled in this article is far from the only source of misinformation on this touchy subject. No less an expert than Dr. Phil notes that “sexless marriages are an undeniable epidemic,” and he surely has his own home-spun, common-sense, utterly useless advice for couples. There is in fact, an entire industry of therapists and writers insisting that:
A. There’s something wrong with men who experience flagging libido in the context of a long-term sexually monogamous relationship (they’re emotionally immature victims of the dreaded Peter Pan Complex, they have issues with their mother, they’re addicted to porn, they’re afraid of emotional commitment, etc.), and,
B. There’s some magical way to address this problem that’ll make it go away.
Wrong and wronger.
Way back in 1964, when Vietnam was a new war and the sexual revolution was just getting started, Masters and Johnson noted that “Loss of coital interest engendered by monotony in a sexual relationship is probably the most constant factor in the loss of an aging male’s interest in sexual performance with his partner.” They further note that, “such a man may be rejuvenated by having sexual intercourse with a younger woman, although the young woman may not be as adept a lover as his wife.” Our research suggests that the age of the other woman is less important to this effect than is her otherness.
Now, what about the effects on the relationship? Is it true, as the article states, that “in the presence of a mismatch of desire, all intimacy drops out on all levels in addition to the sexual” (our emphasis)? Must “couples stop having meaningful conversations”?
Come on now.
If you know a couple who have been married for more than a few years, you know people who have spent significant time “in the presence of a mismatch of desire.” A couple is composed of two complex individuals, each following his or her unique, rocky path through life.
Sexual desire fluctuates for each of us in accordance with many factors: seasons, work and financial pressures, pregnancy and child-care issues, the death or suffering of loved ones, overall physical health, age, etc.
It’s absurd and destructive to suggest that a mismatch of desire need result in a loss of all intimacy and that meaningful conversations come to a screeching halt.
To be sure, sex can be an important part of intimacy, but it is not the essence of intimacy itself. In fact, high-libido sex can easily be an expression of the utter absence of true intimacy: the notorious one-night stand. Couples who do not understand this are unly to survive for long.
In fact, couples might find themselves having the most meaningful conversations ever if they have the courage to talk openly about these fluctuations in desire.
One of the most important hopes we have for our book (coming July 2nd) is to make it easier for couples to make their way across this difficult emotional terrain together, with a deeper, less judgmental understanding of where these inconvenient feelings come from and a more informed, emotionally mature approach to dealing with them.