You know the story – he sold his pocket watch to buy her combs for her hair; she sold her hair to buy a chain for his pocket watch. The lovers discerned their partner’s greatest joy and gave up their own most precious possession to secure the other’s happiness. Sexlessness results from one figuring out what their spouse most desires and withholding it.
Example 1- One woman craved words of appreciation. Insecure about her intellect, her mothering skills and her value, she ached for her partner to affirm her. From an impoverished, abusive childhood, her husband was also insecure about his place in the universe. A doubting Thomas, touch was the only reassurance that reached his soul.
1) Each spouse mistakenly believed that giving the other what they needed would result in personal bankruptcy. “If I give what my partner needs, they will simply take it, go their happy way and not care that I have needs too. I will be left with nothing.” In fact, the couple's lack of care about each other's needs had gone on for years. Sex was utilitarian, dutiful, or non-existent. Emotional connection was fraught with criticism, agendas and arguments.
2) Selfishness is only a reflection in the mirror for couples. Each desperately hoards the very thing that would bring about their own desired change for the relationship. In this case, I knew she would blossom with grace and sexual generosity if he gave without counting the cost. I knew he would be gentle, kind and calm, if his desire to delight in the sexual playground was joyfully embraced. I had already seen evidence of their true and good natures in our work and glimpsed subtle changes due to their efforts. I saw it before they did.
3) Couples in sexless marriages offer the Anti-Magi gift; they figure out what the other most desires and withhold it. Their withholding makes the relationship a desert. Without growth and nurture, their love is depleted.
Let’s look at another couple:
Example 2- He loved his wife’s fit, beautiful body. Anxious that she would let herself go, he told her early in the marriage that weight control was high on his list. Sex could have been more erotic but as long as he was visually excited, he figured he’d let that wish go and didn’t offer up his own fantasies and desires.
She was a talker. She could talk and wanted to talk just about everything to death. After a series of crises both physical and financial, the couple’s previous functioning dipped well below happy.
He clammed up. She turned to food and the children for succor and comfort. He withdrew sexually. She despaired, felt terribly lonely and hounded him within an inch of his life to figure out what was wrong. His silence punished her for forgetting his deepest need.
1) Love and desire can be masked as threats and withdrawal during the power struggle. Extremely frustrated at their stuck place, she brought out a huge hammer and started to talk d-i-v-o-r-c-e. Without tools for change and little hope, he said, “Whatever you want.” Of course what she wanted was for him to open up and fight for her, for them, and for their family.
2) Truth hurts and frees. He didn’t dare risk telling her about his diminished attraction for fear of hurting her. Of course withholding his words was killing her. I agreed that telling a woman she was too fat and wasn’t desirable was dicey. Yet, I felt that with careful coaching about how to say it might direct a productive change in their lives. He was overweight too now.
3) Try again. Both partners needed to change. It wasn’t just her weight but her nagging, ceaseless criticism, and negativity that crowded the space between them smothering every erotic impulse he had. I relentlessly had to draw her attention to the way she complained instead of asking directly for what she needed. I encouraged her to give even though he seemed to be done.
4) Every sexless marriage has a looping dynamic that keeps them stuck. He withheld his rather scintillating personality and clever conversation leaving her starved. She withheld the eroticism in both body and spirit that she admitted would have made her own life more exciting. They each insisted that the other should go first. “Change, so I CAN change,” argues the fool.
Magi wisdom is a one-way commitment to love the other.
Link for therapeutic help and weekend intensives from Laurie Watson at SexTherapy in Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, NC. Laurie’s book Wanting Sex Again is available on Amazon!
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