Anita, a mother of four, is happily married to her high school sweetheart and living what seems like a perfect suburban life in Phoenix, Arizona.
But Anita, who asked that her and her husband's full names not be used, has a secret -- something that many American couples are afraid to admit: She had been living in a sexless marriage.
“It was really bad,” she said. “Even when I would try and put the kids to bed, he was tired, completely tired.”
Concrete data is difficult to gather but experts generally define a ‘sexless’ marriage as one in which the couple is having sex less than 10 times per year.
Anita said their dry spell lasted four years, and even though she adores her husband, Alton, their sexless marriage had been devastating to both of them.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the times we got to connect and have sex. It wasn’t enough,” she said.
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They aren’t alone. Google reports that “sexless” is the top marriage complaint term searched on their site, with tens of thousands of inquiries every month.
AshleyMadison.com, a popular infidelity website, said 58 percent of men and 40 percent of women who use their site said their primary reason for cheating was from a lack of sex in their relationship.
In the early years, Anita described the sex in her 15-year marriage as “very fun, young, vibrant, constant.”
“We wouldn’t have four kids if it wasn’t,” she said.
But after years of getting up at 5 a.m. every day to go to work, pick up the kids at school, then come home to tend to them and help with homework, Anita said she was spent. And sex was the first thing to go in their relationship.
They say they were very much in love, but missing that one important element.
“We were so tired and exhausted and not making the time,” she said. “That’s the reason it wasn’t happening.”
To reverse their bedroom curse, Anita and her husband Alton took a radical step and entered the “Sex Box.” In this new reality TV show premiering on WeTV on Feb. 27, couples enter a large, completely enclosed and sound-proofed room, like a box, to have sex as cameras roll outside, and a live studio audience and a panel of experts wait to see what happens.
At first Alton said he wasn’t up for it. But then he came around. “My thing was anything helps,” he said.
The show’s panel of relationship and sex experts give couples counseling before and after their love-making session. Licensed sex therapist Dr. Chris Donaghue, one of the experts on the “Sex Box” panel, said the show helps people recognize that sex is healthy.
“The couples on the show are the exact same couples that come into my practice,” he said. “A lot of couples place their value in their partner’s eyes of how much sex they are having. If your husband is not making moves, is something wrong? Often not the case. It’s hard to imagine that for 25-plus years we will have a lot of sex, or evolve and change.”
On the eve of Valentine’s Day weekend, Donaghue encourages couples who are looking to re-kindle the fire to try a few options, such as visiting sex toy shops and watch pornography.
"It’s very controversial but pornography is a really good way to learn about some other sex behaviors sex techniques," he said. "Clients have discovered upon things they never realized were arousing to them, but they were watching pornography with their partner, they found things they were comfortably able to try together."
Donaghue added that he counsels couples to talk openly about sex.
"I tell them to talk about how it feels, what did you like the last time you had sex, what did you not like and really learn more about your partner's sexuality." he said. "I tell my clients every time you had sex you need to go into it like a virgin, find out what feels good and what’s interesting to them."
Since going on the “Sex Box,” Anita and Alton said their sex life is now going strong.
“Alton came up with the idea to have sex every day for 30 days. If you do something for a month it becomes your life,” she said. “It’s not that difficult. Every day is great, sometimes morning, sometimes [we] shower together.”
They don’t expect to keep up that pace, but say their new and improved sex life is here to stay.