Many people find their greatest emotional and sexual satisfaction within committed relationships. Sex within a loving and long-term relationship such as marriage is the elixir of life. It is an experience of total surrender of each other’s body and enjoyment of the most fulfilling sexual sensations. Most marriages start this way, but somewhere along the way, one partner or both may fall out of love or their feelings may change to the extent that they no longer want to have sex with each other.

The state of being ‘in love’ may be temporary, lasting anywhere from six months to two years, but in a good relationship it is replaced by a deeper, more solid kind of love. Most couples accept that the fever pitch of courtship cannot be sustained indefinitely. Even in the best of marriages, there are sexual peaks and lows, the peaks often coinciding with periods of increased intimacy. A good way of improving sex in marriage is deepening intimacy. Truly great sex, of the lasting kind, is more likely to happen within a committed emotional relationship than an outside one.

The mistake most couples make is entering marriage with the wrong view of love and sex, and so when they think love has gone, they assume sex has also gone. Or when sex does not take place, they translate this as a loss of love in their relationship. Love means different things to different people depending on their experiences and viewpoints. Love can be passion, affection, romantic feelings, friendship, fondness, infatuation, or innumerable combinations of these qualities. But almost always, love as used by most people includes expectation of getting something in return. And that something is usually sex. “If you love me, you would have sex with me,” is a common phrase with lovers, especially young ones.

Finding unconditional love

For those who are Christians, the love referred to in the Bible is agape love – unconditional and irrevocable. It is the basis of vows said by Christian couples when they get married. Where this kind of love exists in marriage, there are no doubts about the relationship. When sex does not take place, it will not mean love has gone. When the couple quarrels, it will not mean the love is lost or sex will not take place.

Agape love in marriage calls for total commitment, understanding and forgiveness. It also calls for not holding grudges. If a marriage is to succeed and weather the challenges of life, there needs to be a total and irrevocable commitment to the relationship. When this commitment exists every need is answered and every problem solved, and the couple is able to enjoy happiness in their relationship, including sexual fulfilment.

Most people get into marriage intending for it to last a lifetime but when faced with challenges they give up. Marriage storms are inevitable; it is how the couple deals with them that matters. Couples who go into marriage believing it is for life, no matter what, are more likely to succeed even at times when loving seems the most difficult thing to do. Many couples go through the painful route of admitting they ‘don’t love each other any more’ – meaning their marriage is over. Many do this even before trying to make up or look at what has brought up the misunderstandings. Many people build their marriage on ‘love’, a love that is misconstrued because it is conditional. A relationship built on such love is shaky because feelings fluctuate as circumstances change. Emotions do not and never will sustain a marriage. There will be those cold grey mornings when you will wake up feeling emotionally weary and therefore your emotions cannot be entirely relied upon for the stability of your marriage. When commitment guides a couple through shared happiness and in times of trouble, all the wonderful pleasurable things in marriage including sex will be sustained. Remember commitment is the bond; the feeling of love is the result. The feeling of love comes because there is commitment in the marriage through every changing circumstance.

Marriage does not necessarily make people happy, but people can make their marriage a happy one by giving to one another, working together and growing together. An honest desire for the happiness of your partner will bring a surprising degree of happiness into your life. Love in essence, is the deliberate act of giving one’s self to another so that the other person constantly receives enjoyment. Love gives, and a lover’s richest reward comes when the object of love responds to the gift of one’s self. If a husband and wife freely give to each other, each will have a sense of completeness and contentment.

Love and sex in marriage are not two separate entities. Sex enhances all the emotions of loving and therefore love is not a fixed thing. There are times when loving emotions change and times when physical desires may be paramount. At other times, desire for affection and close companionship may be the only elements present. Sexual desire as a conscious need will arise sometimes, but only after intimate time has been spent together.

Couples who assume marriage is over because they no longer love one another and no longer have sex need to know that no matter what has occurred in the past, there is need to work on it through touching on the smallest practical details of daily life and improving the physical relationship. Always remember that the feeling of love is not the crucial ingredient of marriage, but the fact of love based on an unchanging commitment to the other person.

Renewing your love

If you feel love is waning in your relationship, the wise thing to do is not to abandon sex but to try and renew the love lost. Renewal of love begins in your mind, where your will exercises the choice and makes the decision to love no matter what – and never to stop loving. This is where the wounds you and your partner have suffered must be dealt with. Where the feelings of love have departed, all the unhappy emotions – anger, guilt, hurt, resentment or bitterness – must be dealt with. You and your partner need to realise that there must be open communication, which is healing in nature when it springs from total forgiveness. Let it begin with you. Start by admitting that your loss of love is a result of waiting to receive rather than waiting to give.

The love, which must be learned and which starts in the mind, is subject to the will and not the emotions. This kind of love prompts you into action. Love becomes something you do, before it is something you feel. You choose to demonstrate and initiate love. How you show your love to your partner is vitally important. Neither partner should demand the appropriate response from each other.

Each must give freely. The wonderful thing about giving love is it can start with either partner. When both partners love and give unconditionally, it becomes infectious and each wants to give more and more.

Some people talk of marriage as a 50/50 proposition. You put in 50 and you get out 50. When you don’t give 50, the other withholds their 50. The problem with this is that each partner is always waiting for the other to give their share before they can release theirs. Marriage should be 100/100 partnership – meaning each partner must gives their all not half. This way there will always be a reciprocating love from the other partner. A couple that love each other do not demand their rights. Instead, they love maturely and always seek to please each other. A man will not come home demanding sex from his wife, and a wife will not withhold sex from her husband.

A loving couple tries to please each other creatively and does not wait for their partner to ask. They express their love even before their partner shows any obvious need for it. When you love your partner unconditionally you will find yourself looking out for needs you can meet in him. If you love each other, you must give to each other generously and continue to give even when things don’t seem to be going too well. Giving without expecting is the way to experience expanding joys of love. If you are not giving, you are merely taking. There is no natural momentum to keep a marriage going, apart from the powerful force of giving to one another.

Couples must learn to return home from their workplaces having gotten rid of the day’s pressures and enter the house cheerfully with an attitude of concern and respect for what each has experienced during the day. You should never bring problems from work to your home and try to hide behind a newspaper or in front of the TV, instead of demonstrating love for each other. Conveying the attitude of concern builds the right atmosphere for satisfaction in sex. You will both respond much more readily to sexual advances when motivated by respect and consideration.

Women particularly need an introductory period of sensitive consideration before they can fully respond in a satisfying physical relationship. Building an atmosphere of caring and romance is a sign of true love.

Men should also remember that a woman’s emotions may require verbal expression and continuous assurance of love and security. Men should be wise enough to know this about the woman in their life, and loving enough to do it. You can build a woman’s self-esteem, just through words. Words have immense power to build. There are so many ways men and women can show their love and regard for each other.

Love in action on the part of both marriage partners involves physical touching. In fact, because the greatest desire of love is to find a caring lover, there is nothing that can so quickly build or rebuild the intense feeling of love in marriage than repeatedly reaching out to a responding partner with tender touching, cuddling, snuggling, fondling and kissing. Sexual desire comes so easily to couples who constantly touch.

Finding sexual satisfaction In marriage or in any other long-term monogamous relationship, sex can easily become routine, perfunctory, predictable, even dull, but it doesn’t have to be that way. After a couple has been together for some time, they may complain that the excitement is missing or the ‘thrill’ is gone. What is missing is the aura of anticipation, the sense of intrigue, the willingness to take the time and effort to surprise and delight each other.

A married couple who know when they are going to have sex and more or less how it will turn out for each of them, are unlikely to be excited about it. With exclusivity, as found in marriage, comes security, stability and a dulling of the erotic edge that keeps unmarried lovers awake, wondering what their beloved is doing on the nights they are not together making passionate love.

You can still recapture something new into an established relationship, but you have to get rid of the old attitudes of marriage – that it dulls sex. Marriage does not have to be the sexual equivalent of a bland but nutritious meal. You can spice it up. Here are a few tips:

1. Eliminate performance goals. Stop thinking you have to make love a certain number of times a week or have an orgasm or more than one orgasm every time. Creativity and spontaneity do not thrive in a goal-oriented settings.

2. Think dirty. Are you censoring your fantasies and desires because you think your partner would be offended by less than wholesome sex? You may be surprised how he or she would react to a bit of spice in form of language and style.

3. Surprise each other in nonsexual ways. Meet her for dinner dressed in a sexy way with your best cologne on. Send him flowers and a love note. Send her a card. Do something unexpected, even out of character, and see how your partner reacts.

4. Be playful. Play games, even silly ones. Inject a note of youthful exuberance into every day, no matter what your age. Think young and carry youthful sensual play into the bedroom. Pillow fight is not only for kids!

5. Experiment sexually. Make love in a new position – and don’t be embarrassed to laugh if it’s awkward. Try a sexual technique you read in a book or saw on a video. Agree not to make love in the same old way all the time. Be adventurous without offending each other.

6. Bring back romance. Switch off the TV and just cuddle and talk. Talk about everything – your likes, dislikes, fears, goals, happiness… Dance nude in your bedroom with soft music playing. Make love blindfolded. Massage each other. Write each other an erotic poem or letter. Have a conversation about sex in which you talk about your fantasies. Don’t be shy about using dirty language – you know those dirty-sounding names of sexual organs in your mother tongue? Use them. Make a date for making love. Have dinner or breakfast in bed amidst lovemaking.

Say ‘No’ to sexless marriage

Many married couples have sex only a few times a year or not at all. Some are older adults who have abandoned lovemaking for physical or psychological reasons, many of them not necessarily impediment to sex. But a substantial number of people who live in sexless marriages are couples in the prime of life – from their twenties to early fifties. They look like other couples and probably treat each other with courtesy, even affection, in public.

Their reasons for withdrawing sexually are diverse. Some couples have lost all desire to make love, perhaps as a result of repeated performance problems. In the most common pattern, the couple has let buried anger and hidden resentment stifle their sexual urges. They don’t know how to deal with their anger or communicate their feelings or change their behaviour.

In some cases, deeply held negative beliefs about sexuality have poisoned one or both partner’s attitudes. Two people who think sex is dirty and shameful may not be able to maintain erotic thoughts and feelings after the heat of courtship has subsided. If you can’t remember the last time you made love or, worse, the last time sexual energy passed between the two of you, sex may be disappearing in your marriage. This is not acceptable. Do something about it. Put sex back in your marriage.

1. Talk. If you don’t talk about lack of sex in your marriage with each other, and preferably with a sexual therapist or marriage counsellor, the situation won’t change.

2. Understand the problem. Couples must acknowledge each other’s dissatisfaction before they can understand why they have stopped reaching out sexually.

3. Separate the nonsexual issue from sexual ones. Sexual impasse in marriage does not get better with time, unless the underlying factors are unearthed and resolved. A sexual problem arising out of a deeper problem within the marriage can’t resolve itself. What are the reasons for anger, resentment, or withholding?

4. Treat dysfunctions. Your lack of sex may be coming from a sexual dysfunction such as impotence, lack of erection or painful sex. Some sexual dysfunctions require medical attention, but most can be treated in sex therapy.

5. Teach each other new sexual techniques. You can learn how to give each other pleasure. Open the lines of communication and talk about what you want, what feels good, and what doesn’t. Experiment.