Incompatibility between the sheets is something marriage therapists hear a lot about. What’s going on (or not going on) in the bedroom is oftentimes indicative of larger relationship problems, and if unaddressed, can cause major resentment in a marriage.
Below, marriage therapists share some of the complaints they’ve heard in their sessions.
1. Neither partner will make time for sex.
“This couple both worked from home. He liked mornings, she preferred evenings. In all seven years they’d been together, neither suggested a bedroom sex date. The fact that this morning type and evening type never compromised shows it was a power struggle, not simply a sexual preference.” — Laura Watson, marriage and family therapist and the author of Wanting Sex Again – How to Rediscover Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage
2. Fetishes are laughed off or totally disregarded.
“I rarely hear husbands complain about a female’s sexual fetishes and demands, but women will complain loudly when the men request things they simply can’t take seriously. One wife told me her husband wanted to dress like a French maid and serve her tea while she demeaned him and that she simply couldn’t sexually engage after having taken part in such a scene. This request wasn’t made until years into the marriage and it became increasingly important to him. Unfortunately, when people get somewhat outrageous with their sexual demands, it can be a dealbreaker.” — Becky Whetstone, marriage and family therapist
3. There’s a breakdown in intimacy after an affair.
“After her husband cheated on her, his wife used sex as a weapon to punish him for many years before they came to see me for help. She says she has forgiven him, but lost her sexual desire toward him. I asked her if she would be willing to let him please her and she agreed and now he gets aroused pleasing her and she has her sex drive back.” — Ava Cadell, certified sex therapist
4. The marital bed becomes the family bed.
“When children are invited to sleep with their parents routinely, there is virtually no time or place for the parents to have sex.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, marriage and family therapist
5. The dog is in the bedroom all the time.
“A couple slept with two large Labrador retrievers at the foot of the bed. The dogs were said to register great ‘disappointment’ when they were ushered out of the bedroom. Therefore, there was very little sexual activity.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan
6. Less effort is put into looking sexy.
“Men tell me they get turned off from sex when the lingerie-clad sex siren they married starts to only wear flannel pajamas.” — Carole Lieberman, psychiatrist and author of Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them and When to Leave Them
7. Couples aren’t upfront about their sexual preferences.
“Sometimes gay men will say they’re a top or a bottom to land the guy they want. Then after it loses its luster, one person in the relationship is not willing to fake it, so to speak, and they find out they’re two bottoms (more often than not) or two tops.” — Billi Gordon, neuroscientist The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and relationship expert
8. Sexual signals are misinterpreted.
“Several couples have said they rarely or never had sex because neither knew how to let the other know of his or her interest. (I wonder what’s wrong with, ‘Hey, honey, let’s!’) One man completely missed his wife’s signal of her interest in having sex: When she said she was going upstairs to ‘bed’ he heard nothing more than that she was sleepy. (And then they both wondered why they rarely had sex.)” — Isadora Alman, psychotherapist and certified sexologist
9. Exhaustion or busy schedules get in the way.
“One sexual distancer I’ve heard from a spouse? ‘I’m too tired and too busy’ — and yet the person exercised 11 hours a week (three aerobic classes, two tennis lessons, weights and personal training)!” — Laurie Watson
10. Sex becomes perfunctory or too by the book.
“My practice is in Arkansas, in the Bible belt area of the U.S, so it’s not unusual to encounter those whose conservative religions have directed them into believing that sex is for procreative purposes only, and must take place under perfunctory conditions only — heaven forbid that you would enjoy it too much. Coming to a secular counselor for this group happens because nothing else has helped.” — Becky Whetstone