11 February 2011
Myths Of Monogamy What Keeps Marriage Strong: Sex Or Cash?
It’s an institution, meet man, fall in love, whoops, there we are
locked in marriage, children on the way. While divorce rates have been
rising in the United States the question is being asked, why do people
stay married? What is it that keeps couples together, how do we make
marriage work so both are happy?
Forget the sex, forget love, nor romance, its actually money, cold
hard cash, according to The National Marriage Project, University of
It must be no surprise for many men who lie night after night
wanting to touch their partner, craving intimacy yet knowing that this
is outside the boundaries of their changing relationship.
In the latest research “The Great Recession and Marriage” published
this week, American couples, since the GFC have suddenly become
astonishingly recommitted to their marriages.
‘In sickness and in health, for richer for poorer’ have taken on a
new meaning as unemployment, the stress of debt collectors have driven
so many to depression, drinking and a withdrawal from family life.
With such mounting pressure it seems that would be a valid reason
for separation but in fact it is exactly the ingredient that has driven
couples closer together.
In the survey of 1197 American couples, aged between 18 and 45, 29%
of couples said that their family had been placed under greater stress
since the beginning of the GFC, 29% said this had brought them to hold a
deeper commitment to marriage.
In 2001, when the US economy surged ahead 80% of women believed it
was more important for a “husband to communicate his most deepest
feeling than to bring home the bacon.” Marriage was about intimate
feels; about love, sex, being with your soul mate.
In this year’s research the most telling was that couples with no
assets were 70% more likely to divorce than others. Money matters and
the greater the assets the more likely couples will remain together.
Marriage, it’s a wonderful economic unit, still, after all these
years, through all the social changes that have placed coupling into the
free market, and still we find that what matters in marriage is cold
It’s not so bad, an exclusive economic family unit makes sense, combining assets, the shared care of children.
If this was the sum total of marriage, great. Yet still there is a
ringing, a screaming of dissatisfaction that comes from a exclusive
In Bettina Arndt, Sexual Therapist, controversial book “What Men
Want In Bed” the frustration and the anxiety of being with a partner who
no longer wanted to lie together naked, feeling each other bodies,
those who were denied touch, intimacy, that stood out like a sore thumb,
or something like that.
The book was based around men documenting their fantasies and
experiences in sex diaries and highlighted the problems for men when
that ill matched desire come to the surface.
In one case study after 19 years of no sex, a man finally walked out on his wife, while another wrote:
“Try sleeping next to your wife night after night not being able to
touch her. Try watching her shower, dress and undress and not be able
to have her,” wrote one man in ‘What Men Want In Bed’.
The reality is that in relationships men want more sex than women.
Initially a couple can work through the issues but within 4 years
of the start of a relationship a woman’s sex drive plummets. Only 50% of
women over 30 years old were found in one German study to want regular
Why, how can it be that women loose their sex drive so quickly?
Maybe it is the repetition, the same routine the same touch the same old
sex, week after week.
Add into the equation one child, then two and it’s a constant
battle for who gets mom’s attention. She needs space, more importantly
she needs sleep, he needs attention, he needs sex.
Here lies the dilemma, as Arndt points out as the evening comes
whats on a man’s mind is sex, what on a woman’s is a good nights sleep.
In the end while they may be both working towards a common economic
goal, both are uncomfortable, often unhappy, sometimes feeling like a
“5 years after we married, my wife lost interest. In the end I
thought it was about me, that it was me who had a sexual problem. For
years I felt completely useless until I had an affair and suddenly it
dawned on me that it wasn’t about me at all, it was all about my wife,”
Last month his cousin Peter was celebrating his wedding
anniversary. As he sat beside his wife at dinner the realization that
it had been 10 years since they had had sex that finally, he put down
his folk, right in the middle of dinner and walked out, never to return.
Yet Arndt solution to this issue, a wife, a partner should simply
lie down and take it. “The right to say ‘no’ needs to give way to
saying ‘yes’ more often—provided both men and women end up enjoying the
The rebirth of monogamy, ho hum where women lie back and pretend to
enjoy sex, oh a man would never realize the truth. Why? It’s an easy
solution, slight problem – no-one is really content.
On moving towards the inevitable separation Greg lay it on the
line, “we have sex, or I’m out the door”. Reluctantly she agreed, pulled
out the lubricant and allowed him 10 minutes. As soon as she could she
placed her hand on his lips and whispered, “that’s it”.
The other option, one that society has so quietly kept under a
thin, veil for those who dare, is the joy of having affairs. I met one
man who had for the first time in had sex with a lover, “I came alive,
for the first time in 20 years the sun shone.”
Here is a different pool of sexual people, men and women can thrust
themselves into a world of mutual pleasure. The sexual routine with
someone new, the thrill of discovering someone else’s body and sex wins
back it’s thrill again.
Since the dawn of monogamy having affairs has been equally a part
of society. It’s worked. Maybe for some it causes a marriage to break
down, yet for an equal number it’s seems to keep the marriage together.
“Honestly, I’m doing my wife a favor by having an affair,” said one
man. For him, life at home with little or no sex was intolerable.
Without an escape, somewhere to embrace the pleasures of another human
body his marriage would be over. He loved his wife, he respected her,
there was no great desire to change, all he needed was a little
“Harriet, your doing a favor for the local wives,” said a friend after we discussed a number of affairs I had.
Having affairs is such a mutually beneficial arrangement, everyone
is happy, wives, lovers and husbands finally could go home at night
content, relaxed – pressure off.
In fact from all accounts a surprising number of women either
subtly or rather blatantly encourage their husbands to ‘take care of
themselves’ as one was reported to have remarked. Take care of
yourself? Well he did, and surprisingly everyone was happy.
Yet, such arrangements work, it makes marriage once again a
stronger institution but still it’s taboo. The social concept of
‘betraying your wife’ is ironically frowned upon.
Why, there is no logical basis for it, sex is simply a basic human instinct, monogamy is the social construct.
Rethinking our objections to those who want to find sex outside
marriage is the most sensible option to support that old statement ’till
death do us part’.
Writer: Harriet Bay
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For other major stories:
It’s A Corker: Theory Links Alcohol To Monogamy
Sex With Friends For 50’s
Planning For Infertility: The Rise Of Egg Banks
For a full reading of the University of Virginia
For Bettina Arndt’s Book “What Men Want In Bed”: http://www.bettinaarndt.com.au/docs/What%20Men%20Want%20In%20Bed%20Intro.pdf