BETROTHAL W/ BOOTY? A discussion of Sex and Marriage

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Sex and marriage has a bad reputation.  Heated intensity describes the sexual beginnings of most relationships. However, the complexities of life, work and kids causes things to cool.  For far too many people the latter becomes the norm and the cooling can become downright icy.  This article discusses redefining our thoughts about sexual happiness, how to preserve that carnal intensity and why we should give sex and marriage the break it deserves.

Contrary to conventional wisdom married couples have more sex per month than their single counterparts – (Kinsey report 2010). 3 out of 5 singles had no sex in the previous year vs. 1 in 5 marrieds.  During ages 29-59 Married individuals were 5 times more likely to have sex 2 to 3 times a week.  (25%) – married (5%)- single

Some studies have shown a correlation between familiarity and sexual satisfaction; that long term couples get better at sex and get more pleasure out of it. A Vanderbilt researcher Laura Carpenter explains “while people get older and busier, they also get more skillful in and out of the bed room.”

Carpenter goes on to say that we actually know very little about today’s contemporary marriages.  He says, “There is a need for more studies about the intricacies of who initiates and who does what to whom and for how long.”

John Gottman, Head of couple’s research at the Gottman Institute in Seattle says that involved men get laid more.  “Men who do more housework have more sex than men who don’t.”   According to Gottman, “chore- free” men are seen as less sexy by women he has interviewed than men who pitch in around the house.  However, a study at the University of Washington by Julie Brines found that more masculine chores like paying bills and yard work got higher sex frequencies than did more feminine chores like washing dishes and cooking.

Sociologist Paula England found that monetary compensation had little to do with frequency of sex.  She says that even in marriages where women make more than men, as long as the relationship in general seemed equitable it did not affect the sex.   More important to sexual connection in marriage is that the wife feels respected and understood.


 There is a definite need to redefine how we view intimacy early on in relationships.  We are programmed to believe that sex is defined by penetration and orgasm, (P and O).  Therefore, early in relationships when things are hot there is a lot of (P and O).  In time if this diminishes, many  couples see a problem. There are ways to explore being sexually intimate that don’t prescribe to this narrative.  It’s important to spend time early, when things are “hot”, not ONLY having penetration intercourse.  Sexual massage can be a good way to add to your intimacy, providing options that work to get you through the slow times.  Non- sexual touching is also very important.

James Conan the director of The Virginia Affective Neuroscience laboratory has done research on how the brain reacts to threats.  It turns out that hand-holding has a calming effect on the brains reaction to perceived threats and fear. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that causes feeling of calmness and manages fear/stress. When they tested fear of rejection, (including sexual rejection) the same reaction was recorded in the brain. Hand-holding had a calming effect on test subjects and was shown to attenuate the fear/stress quotient. The subjects that held the hand of someone who had emotional familiarity reported having the highest levels of calmness and feelings of safety.   Point to married wife—hold hands with your husband especially when turning him down for sex!!   This small gesture could preserve your sex life down the road.    

According to Gottman, navigation of the Infamous “No” is crucial to sexual happiness in marriage.  All couples have to deal with being turned down or having to communicate not being in the mood.  This can be a watershed moment in marriages and it relies more on the person asking for sex.  According to Gottman, it’s not the, “No” that ends sex in marriages it’s the cost imposed by the other person.  If the “pursuing” person shows annoyance it is a form of punishment.  Saying something like “Fine” has a punitive tone and implies that, “I am fine without you.”   That negative communication can lead to less sex in the future.  Instead of saying “Fine” a better response is,’ I understand you are too tired to have sex. I don’t want have sex with someone who is not on the mood.  Let’s do it when you are feeling more into it. What would you like to do?”  Gottman says – “The best outcomes for your sex life come when you reward a ‘No’ and treat it positively.” 

During sexual negotiation in marriage, having a zero – sum philosophy is detrimental. An all or nothing correlation to sex can be toxic.  Interestingly enough, studies have shown men who are better communicators when it comes to being turned down not only have healthier relationships but live longer, healthier lives.

With my private clients, they have reported better sex  with these easy tricks:

  1. Change the routine– Newness is sexy/ routine is boring. Plan something exciting and out of the ordinary
  2. Admit wrong doings and show change- Mostly, the bedroom is a microcosm of the relationship
  3. Try performance enhancers- Gals: Even if doesn’t work you’re having fun down there and you never know what can happen. Guys:  Even if you don’t have ED a huge erection can be a get out of jail free card. If you do have ED ,struggling to get hard is a turnoff for her.
  4. Change how we view sex: don’t get hung up on penetration and fireworks.  A snuggle a day keeps the lawyers away.

Changing the paradigms of what sexual happiness means is key to a happy marriage.  We are socialized to believe that eroticism has to fall into certain guidelines – (penetration, orgasm and what we see in the media and porn)   But, the biggest sexual organ in our bodies is the one between our ears- our brain.  By redefining how we think about intimacy, modern marriages can withstand the ebbs and flows of sexual frequency.

Author: drmaxmccullen

When Max McCullen first read Alfred Kinsey’s landmark book, Sexual Behavior In the Human Male, he began contemplating why so little is known about human sexuality. Since its publication in 1948 that body of knowledge has grown marginally. Why do we think about sex all the time? How much does sex really influence our behavior? And why do we still know so little about it? He completed undergraduate studies at University of the Pacific and The University of London and then his research led him to the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. IASHS was founded by Kinsey’s research assistant, Wardell Pomeroy. His initial curiosity soon evolved into a passion, which drove him to acquire his Doctorate of Education in Human Sexuality and Gender Studies. In 2004 Dr. Max began working for GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (GSK), one of the largest pharmaceutical companies worldwide. This experience contributed to his understanding of medical treatments for male sexual dysfunction. He became familiar with how Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis function on a biological level and their social implications. His expertise naturally transitioned into him working with some of the most prestigious Urology offices in Southern California. These doctors and passionate medical personal, illustrated firsthand the impact treatment of male sexual dysfunction can have on patient care and their overall well being. This experience made him yearn for more direct contact with patients in a clinical setting. So after GSK he worked with Boston Medical Group (BMG), an international, clinic based organization, comprised of board certified Urologists and other specialties. BMG focuses on low libido, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and testosterone replacement therapy. With BMG, Dr. Max was not only their spokesperson doing radio interviews and lecturing but worked as the physician liaison connecting patients with doctors for treatment. He also worked as a consultant for University Specialty Urologicals, based in San Diego, meeting with Urologists all over the west coast to train them on various treatments for men and women's sexual health issues, including hormone replacement therapy. During this time he also hosted online webinars for patients with questions; he also has a written and video blog series and does private consultation for patients. Dr. Max McCullen brings a historical knowledge of the human sexuality field together with the reailties of living in a digital age. “The issues that confronted our elders in the 50’s and 60’s are different today - but no more impactful. Where they were learning about their sexuality and beginning to embark into the sexual revolution we are over exposed to the commodification of sex. This makes the navigation of sex and emotional intimacy difficult” Dr. Max McCullen

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