Sparking Up a Sexless Marriage
Linda and Doug are ready to start talking about sex. They say they've had sex only a handful of times over the past five years, and they've had no sex at all for the past two years.
Married for nine years, Linda and Doug have three children. "The dynamic of our sex life changed after we got married just because more things started getting into our lives," Doug says.
Having kids had a major impact on their sex life, Linda says. "I feel like we're living two separate lives caring for our three boys," she says. "It's hard to see the man that I originally fell in love with."
Doug says he's stopped seeing his wife in a sexual manner. "It's like she's so worn down she's just trying to get through the day," he says. "If this doesn't get fixed, I think our marriage is at stake."
Once Linda and Doug became solely focused on raising children, they say the deep discussions they once had stopped. "Those conversations were where our best connections came from, and we really started getting separated from each other. You almost kind of lose track of how you did it," Doug says. "Before it was so natural, so easy. We really wanted the connection."
Even after two and a half sexless years, Linda says they hardly talked about the issue. "When it was spoken of, it wasn't productive at all," she says.
When Dr. Berman took Linda's sexual history, an even bigger issue came up. Linda told Dr. Berman she had once been forced to have sex against her will. "I could have put him in jail, if I had told someone," she says. "I was essentially raped."
Linda says she's never told Doug about her sexual past. "With Doug, [sex] is just something I don't want to do that often."
When Linda finally told Doug about the rape, he says he had mixed emotions. "I was angry and empathetic at the same time. I was kind of back on my heels and wanting to be there and not sure what to do, you know? I was just kind of looking at things through a different lens at that point."
Rape changes a person's relationship with sex, Dr. Berman says. "Your power is taken away, and it's a major sexual trauma. So not to have told anyone, not to have had a chance to work through it in therapy, not to have had a chance to heal and be carrying that secret around, the weight of that secret—when she knows that that was part of what was making her hold back—that was part of what was helping her shut down."
Doug says the assignment worked well. "It was great because of the connection, but then our conversation at the same time, you know? It wasn't about anything outside the bedroom. It was just us talking," he says.
The couple's second assignment was a field trip to Tantric yoga.
Watch Linda and Doug at Tantric yoga.
The Yogic version of having sex, the tantric yoga exercise was supposed to help Linda and Dough reconnect with themselves and each other. "It was really interesting to have that connection. You kind of feel parts of your body creak that haven't creaked in a while, and you have a sense of energy in your body too."
"It was kind of neat to have a giggle," Doug says.
After hitting up a sex shop for assignment number four, Linda and Doug were faced with the final exam: to have sex. "It took a little longer than we thought just because after those three intense days, we got into a pretty heated argument that evening," Doug says. "I think some of the stress and stuff were hitting us, and we really had to reflect upon what Dr. Berman had told us about communication, how to talk. And, I think we got back to a good point when we went to bed, but we still hadn't had sex yet."
The next morning, Doug says he and Linda started cuddling and connecting. "Linda kind of jokingly said, 'We really need to do our homework,' and it was really inviting and connected, and so we did our homework, and it was great fun. It reminded me how that used to be with her, more than five, 10 years ago. It was fantastic."
Many couples worry that scheduling sex takes the romantic spontaneity out of it, but Dr. Berman says it's necessary. "It's a mind shift that you have to make because our instinct, our belief and the way we've been socialized, is that sex is supposed to happen spontaneously," she says. "But in most of our lives, our crazy, busy, kid-ridden, mortgage-ridden lives, if you wait for it to happen spontaneously, it's not going to happen."