Sadly, most of us don’t have anyone we can talk to about our sex life, our sexual problems, our sexual desires, our fetishes, and our fantasies. Talking to our partner can be highly charged and not without repercussions. Many couples fear that even bringing up the subject will open up a Pandora ’s box they will never be able to close. People often worry about bruising their partner’s ego, or fear the conversation will quickly revert to blame and shame. Better not to bring it up and just put up with a bad sex life. This was certainly my experience. Every single time my ex and I tried to talk about sex, I ended up feeling guiltier, and even more broken, angry, and disconnected from him. Some women talk to their girlfriends about their sex life, or lack of one, but rarely in great detail. Most OB/GYNs and urologists are ill-equipped to provide useful advice about how to make our sex lives pain-free, better, and more pleasurable. Even couples’ therapists are often extremely uncomfortable talking with clients about their sex life on any level of detail that could actually be useful. This came to me as quite a surprise initially, but in time I realized that most therapists haven’t dealt with their own shame around sex. An Oversexed, Sex-Starved Culture The irony is that sex is talked about frankly and broadcast blatantly in popular culture. We find it everywhere…in books, movies, TV, advertising. The maxim that “Sex Sells” is true! Just take one look at a magazine advertisement for practically any lifestyle product from sexy, sleek new cars to deodorant and lipstick. Sex entices us and is also the forbidden fruit driving our desires and wallets. You would think we’d be sexually open in a society that constantly throws sex in our face. In fact, the opposite is true. The United States is a sex-negative and sex-starved nation. The latest statistics about the lack of sex in this country is horrifying. According to “The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior” (2010), the average married couple has sex about once a week. Twenty percent of couples are only having sex once a month, which is considered a sexless marriage. I suspect those numbers are significantly underreported. This study does not account for the large number of men and women who stay in their marriage for financial reasons and/or “for the children”, but have completely unsatisfying sex lives. Sex workers report that the vast majority of men who see them for sensual massage or escort services are happily married men living in virtually sexless marriages. Sexless Marriage vs. Upsetting the Apple Cart I asked myself many times why I chose to stay in my marriage. In my 30s, when I still had a libido, I toyed with having an affair with a work colleague, but we both chickened out. That should have been a clear signal that my marriage was in trouble, but I ignored it. We had small kids, a good family life, and we were constantly trading up to nicer cars and homes. Why upset the apple cart? Even when my kids were older, and we weren’t having sex or sleeping in the same room, I had a hard time calling it quits. At one point, I created a five-year plan to leave my marriage that I shared with one of my best friends, who was also contemplating divorce. Sexless marriages are so pervasive in our society that there seems to be an attempt in some sectors to “normalize” the fact that couples stop having sex, especially when they get into their 50s and beyond. Recently the Huffington Post, which is arguably the most sex-positive mainstream media in the U.S., published an article titled, “Over 50 and in a Sexless Marriage: Don’t Despair.” Essentially, the author’s position was that people could thrive in a sexless marriage. But there was something missing in the article that I feel is important to take into account. It’s true: couples often decide not to engage in sex. However, the majority of the time, the decision is forced on one of the partners. In fact, a common scenario is that one partner loses interest, becomes unresponsive, and starts to avoid anything to do with sex. The still-desirous party keeps trying for a while, then gets tired of rejection and simply gives up. Often this unfolds with no discussion at all, much less a conscious decision. Where Did my Libido Go? Unfortunately, in 90% of the clients that I’ve worked with, it is the woman who loses her desire to have sex. While each situation is unique, there are some common causes: • Women are socialized to say “no” to sex • We hold shame and fear around being fully sexually expressed • Motherhood transforms us from sexual beings to maternal beings • Sex becomes boring and rote • We are not sufficiently aroused and don’t experience enough pleasure • Women are not connected to their sexuality