Why Are Couples Having Less Sex These Days?
The causes seem obvious—too little time, too little energy, not enough sleep, too much time on the Internet or too much to do. All these reasons seem to be adequate explanations for couples that are having a sexual drought. Or at least not having sex as much as they might like.
A recent article in The New York Times, “Does a more equal marriage mean less sex?” by Lori Gottlieb (February 6, 2014) raises another possible cause—one that is hard for me to wrap my arms around. The author notes that according to the most recent census, 64% of couples with young children, both partners work. It’s hard for families to manage on one income. The net result of an increase in two working parent families is that there has also been greater sharing of traditional male-female roles. More men are participating in car-pooling their kids to soccer, making dinner, doing dishes, and mopping floors than ever before! Woo hoo!
Women are performing higher-level jobs in the workplace and mowing the lawn too. In most social surveys, couples are happy with sharing these duties. Indeed, the most common complaint that I hear from married women is just the opposite! They are working full time, cooking, cleaning up, and then putting the kids to bed. They would love it if their husbands did more around the house or with the kids! When that happens, they are sure they will have more get up and go which will translate into more energy for sex.
But a study last year in The American Sociological Review titled “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage” found that while marriages do improve when the housework becomes more equal, the frequency of sex decreases when men did certain chores around the house! That included more traditional female tasks such as laundry, cooking, or vacuuming, tasks that women say they want their spouses to do. Those couples had sex less frequently than men who did more traditional male tasks, such as mowing the lawn or fixing things around the house. And the more husbands did more traditional male jobs at home, the higher their wives rated their sexual satisfaction. Go figure.
The author goes on to say that in egalitarian marriages, there appears to be greater marital longevity and greater marital satisfaction than more traditional marriages—just less sex. One would think that couples with more satisfying relationships would also have more sex, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Why? Wouldn’t you like your husband to do more around the house? Would that result in an improved sexual relationship?
A couple’s therapist, Esther Perel, wonders if “the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust.”
So, what is this all about?
There is no question that sexual attraction is very complex in human beings. Most adults think of this variable as “chemistry”, which can run in opposition to shared values, beliefs, and goals, all-important components of successful, fulfilling relationships. I frequently hear from frustrated adults, most often women, in search of love and commitment, who find partners where they have great chemistry, but no shared values. Conversely, they find themselves “turned off” to the partners that have all the values they want—good jobs, likeable personalities, and a family orientation.
Men and women, for a variety of reasons, are getting married later. They may have less time together before starting a family. Perhaps they are seeking partners, after they establish careers, who will be a “great dad or mom” rather than an exciting partner.
In today’s world, the demands on men and women to balance their lives, share roles and responsibilities, and meet each other’s expectations is huge. It’s impossible to be everything to everybody. And maybe, one of the consequences is a contrast between what fuels attraction and passion and what keeps the trains running.
What do you think?