For the majority of people fortunate enough to be in loving long- term committed relationships, fantasies, vacations, and lacy underwear aren't going to reverse those brain chemicals back to the good old days, or exorcise every last one of those vulnerability demons. They might jumpstart things a bit, and probably will, as long as both partners are open to change, and there are no other issues to deal with, which is often not the case. And even in the most optimal of relationships there are, apart from the workday itself, the mundane routines necessary to keep the house hold going—bills to be paid, groceries shopped for, meals prepared and dishes washed, garbage taken out, not to mention the kids. Even if these chores are shared reasonably, married life is still very different from those early months of dating. The everyday aspects of a well-functioning marriage are not to be trivialized; they can in fact be calming and build contentment and security, but sexy they're not. And all the magazine articles in the world telling you to light a bunch of candles and run an aromatic bath can't explain how to transition from a steamy hot soak to a steamy hot night of sex.
Anger is a powerful sexual Novocain, and 44 percent of the men said they were furious. They felt criticized and controlled, undervalued and insignificant, yet many couldn't, or wouldn't, talk about it with their partners. Afraid of yet another fight, or a long list of things they're doing wrong, they shut down emotionally and sexually.
"My wife is so overly critical, in every possible way, starting with my work, telling me what I should or shouldn't be doing and telling me how I should be living my life. She treats me like a child, saying things like "If you don't put your shoes away, I'm going to throw them outside the door." (Male, 47)
Clearly, the marriage described in the preceding quote is filled with bitterness and disappointment. The wife has become an annoying bully; he has shut down completely and withholds the only thing he thinks might hurt her. They probably both feel underappreciated. Couples need to learn how to discuss their issues with respect, and to really listen to each other.
We have to wonder what benefit each is getting from this seemingly unhappy partnership. Do they find comfort in their assigned roles of nagging wife and henpecked husband, reenacting unpleasant yet familiar scenes from their childhood? Does the wife's constant criticism give her husband the needed psychological ammunition to withdraw from her sexually? Is that something he would want to do anyway?
"I'm angry at her because she knows it all and always has to be right. She wants to keep talking about things until I'm sick of it."(Male, 49)