The Sex-Glutted Marriage: A Couple’s Guide to Reducing Their Marriage Libido

vintage sex manuals

photo by Ann Douglas

I am currently working with a collaborator on an article reviewing contemporary sex advice literature. As a result, I have been reading a LOT of sex manuals. They range from the thoughtful, interesting, and potentially helpful to the narrow-minded, prescriptive, and possibly iatrogenic.

I found one manual particularly upsetting: The Sex Starved Marriage (2003) by Michele Weiner-Davis.  Below please find my (somewhat) parodic inversion of her message:

The Sex-Glutted Marriage: A Couple’s Guide to Reducing Their Marriage Libido

There is an epidemic afflicting married couples across this country: the epidemic of “desire discrepancy.” This is a serious epidemic as desire discrepancy can cause resentment, anger, alienation, and divorce. This post is designed to teach you how to cure this serious illness and save your marriage.

To the low-desire spouse:
I’m going to be talking mostly to the high-desire spouse, convincing him or her that he/she needs to work on reducing his/her sexual desire, but you should know that you need to make changes as well. You need to support your spouse and enable him/her to make the changes that are needed to save your marriage. Positive reinforcement works best, so when your spouse takes a step, no matter how small, to reduce his or her desire, you should praise him or her. In addition, you need to let go of all the anger and resentment that you have been holding onto – you have a right to be angry that your spouse has been pressuring you to have sex – if he/she really loved you, would he/she pressure you to do something you don’t want to do? – but you need to move forward.

To the high-desire spouse:
I’m going to tell it to you straight – you need to make an effort to reduce your sexual desire. Why should you do this? Well, for one thing, your spouse will leave you if you don’t. Plus, reducing your sexual desire will actually allow you to develop a closer, more loving relationship with your spouse, as you will have more time to talk to each other if you are having sex less often. In addition, your spouse will be happier, which will make you happier. Finally, people who love each other do things for each other – if you really love your spouse, you will work to reduce your sexual desire for him or her.

Here are some concrete strategies to reduce your sexual desire:
•Medication: The hormone prolactin is known to reduce desire, so you may want to give it a try. Of course, it also stimulates the mammaryglands to produce milk, which you may experience as a side effect. Or, you could try an anti-androgen drug, such as cyproterone, which has been prescribed for sex offenders to reduce libido.
•Resolve psychological issues: You may need therapy. Did traumatic events in your childhood lead you to develop your high sex drive? Or perhaps you need to address the effect that societal messages about sexuality have had on you – for instance, have you been influenced by the societal message that people need to have sex as part of a healthy lifestyle? Overcoming societal myths can be the key to reducing your sexual desire.
•Deal with relationship issues: Perhaps you only want sex because other aspects of your relationship aren’t so great – maybe you should work to improve those other aspects of your relationship. Perhaps you can find a new, non-sexual hobby for you and your spouse to do together.
•Figure out what turns you off and just do it: It is your responsibility to learn everything about your body and what turns you off. Experiment with different things – cold showers, certain foods, different types of reading materials (i.e. the dictionary, the phone book), different types of movies (i.e. foreign-language films, documentaries) – and see what works for you. Once you’ve found what works for you – do it! And make sure that you tell your spouse exactly what turns you on (so he or she can avoid doing those things) and exactly what turns you off (so he or she can do those things).

I am confident that if you follow this advice, you will be able to save your marriage. No matter how distant you and your spouse may feel, it’s never too late to have a loving, intimate, mutually satisfying relationship. It’s never too late to rediscover the pleasures that come from nonsexual intimacy and the bond that comes from being in sync with someone emotionally.


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