People always give reasons. Over the years, I’ve heard lots of them from couples, especially on the subject of sex.
These usually come in the form of complaints from husbands and excuses from wives, although it is the other way around more often than you might think. The excuses are frequently indirect expressions of marital discontent. Unfortunately, spouses do not always read these for what they are, especially men.
As you might have heard, men are from Mars (where a different language is spoken)! And, frankly, it is a planet where bluntness comes easily, and romance and consideration can be in short supply.
Many things have been known to come in the way of sex: depression, exhaustion, communication problems, physical difficulties, fear of performance failure, anger, an abuse history, and stress, not to mention a partner’s clumsiness and selfishness (or indifference) in the course of the act itself.
Here are a few of the reasons for sexual refusal that I’ve heard about most often, followed by thoughts concerning the failure of some males to get the message, the power of women, and a poetic plea on behalf of passion:
- You aren’t kind to me.
- It’s too early.
- It’s too late.
- Where were you when I needed help with the kids?
- Maybe tomorrow.
- You just yelled at me and now you expect me to make love?
- I’m tired.
- I’ve got a headache.
- I’ve got a stomach ache.
- You don’t treat me right.
- That’s all you think about.
- The kids might hear.
- Wait until I finish my chores first.
- I’m having my period.
- I’m feeling unattractive.
- I just need some “down time” to rest and be alone.
- I don’t like the way my body looks.
- I’ve got to study.
- You mean the football game is over?
- I wanted to watch this program (movie).
- I’m feeling too full.
- You never compliment me.
- I need to get something to eat first.
- You need to shave and shower.
- I’ve got to clean.
- Your not tender enough.
- There isn’t enough time.
- I just put on my makeup and did my hair.
- Why is this the only time you show me any affection?
- It doesn’t seem like you really want to do this.
- I’ve got to do my nails.
- I’m upset. I need you to listen to me, not get frustrated and insist I do things your way.
- I’m waiting for a phone call.
- The repair man is coming.
- I’ve got a cold.
- You never help with the chores, the errands, and the shopping.
- I’m too warm.
- I’m having a hot flash.
- We never talk.
- I want an apology first.
- I’ve got an infection.
- Where were you when I asked you to help with the cleaning?
- I was just going to exercise.
- I think I pulled a muscle.
- My back hurts.
- I’m not in the mood.
- I feel too much pressure.
- It didn’t work the last time.
- You need to be more romantic.
- Why do I always have to initiate it?
- You finish too soon.
- You criticize me too much.
- You take too long.
- You fell asleep the last time before we could do anything.
- I don’t like it when you are drinking.
Instead of indirectness, some women might be advised to take a page from Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, first performed in 411 BC. In the title role is a woman who organizes other Greek females to withhold sexual favors from their husbands or lovers until they agree to end the Peloponnesian War.
On the other hand, I’m reminded of the poem To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, the seventeenth century British poet and statesman. The narrator speaks to his reticent love about the shortness of life and her reluctance to seize the passionate and sexual day.
Unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, Marvell didn’t also pen a companion rhyme that favored the need for kindness, romance, shared responsibility, respect, and sacrifice in order to set the stage for passion as well as marital bliss.
Still, most men will identify with Marvell’s sense of urgency, all too aware that life is not infinite: “Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime…”
He continues: “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.”
The poet reminds the woman he loves that they will not always be in the bloom of youth and beauty, or capable of the explosive rush of passion that the springtime of life offers:
Now therefore, while the youthful hue, sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires…
Marvell closes with the idea that while they cannot stop the forward motion of time, at least their physical passion can make the most of it:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Like it or not, fair or not, marriages do die for lack of sex.
Sometimes that leads to infidelity, sometimes to divorce, and too often to a grim stalemate that is a bad imitation of what marriage can and should be, rather like being members of a two person prison chain-gang — something for each partner to think about before the flame of mutual attraction goes out.
The above image is Lovers by Jacob van Loo, a seventeenth century Dutch painter. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.