Asta Charles

Asta Charles
Los Angeles, California, USA
December 12
Myth Maker
A foul-mouthed commentator on life, society, politics, pop culture, and economics. I spend a lot of time in bars. I wrote a manuscript about the perils of online dating and its ultimate cost to society. It's not published. Meh.


Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 16, 2009 2:42AM

Oh my! Monogamy!

Rate: 21 Flag

I'm newly engaged. Which, because I'm an easily amused and obsessed pessimist, means that I am not obsessed with my wedding - but rather issues that can and do affect married people. If you're married, or have been, you're probably already way ahead of me and you are probably already bored with this drivel pouring from the keyboard of a 25 year-old monogamy novice, but it is.

So what are these issues?
- Potential divorce
- Life insurance of spouse
- Joint bank accounts (we have a joint bank account...mine)
- Children (we've decided I'm preserving my genitals, if I could cryogenically freeze them I would, instead, I'm just going to adopt)
- The general maintenance of monogamy

Some of these things I may never have to deal with. Others, or all, I may. The one that is completely unavoidable and all people and couples deal with in varying ways is the general maintenance of monogamy.

Recently, several friends of mine have reached a point in their life that is full of foul marital downgrades. Either their own or of other close friends. Loss of libido, other intimacy issues, parenting disagreements, and life stage realizations and changes. Some will choose to get therapy, deal with them, appreciate their spouse and trudge down the road of "for better or worse". Others, will choose to hang up the towel and move on and create another life.

Overwhelmingly these issues have been sex related. I listen. I hear stories about no horrible defamation of the relationship, no horrible wrong was done, no great upset created by either party. The female just decides she doesn't like sex any more, but she is still in love.

This has got to make the other in the party feel a bit disenfranchised, a bit fooled. However, the female typically feels somewhat vindicated by society. Other females empathize and agree. Comedians(ennes) commiserate. Sitcoms mock, middle-aged radio DJs make euphemistic references to the same situation - it doesn't even need to be spelled out. It's just common - after a while, women don't like sex.

So I must ask: do women stop enjoying sex because they really don't enjoy sex with their partner any longer? Or do they stop because it sounds like it's okay to stop?

We mock fat people because it's the last acceptable prejudice.

Maybe this is the same situation.

Just like being fat is a symptom of our superpower advantage of having as much shitty food around as we possibly want, maybe losing desire to fuck your husband is a result of having so many condolences around us all the time. Both are overwhelmingly understandable and therefore universally understood.

But...but...but...I DON'T UNDERSTAND.

I've been in a relationship in which I no longer wanted to fuck the one I was with. He became repulsive to me. He did not make me feel beautiful. He made me feel like I was nothing but a ball and chain on his Oedipus leg. So, I broke up with him. I didn't marry him, obviously, and I shouldn't have. I also had a boyfriend whose secret non-verbal method of breaking up with me was just to stop having sex with me and let me figure it out. Figure it out I did. It was like I dumped myself. Now that's a mindfuck.

On the other hand, I cannot get enough of my finace. Largely because I will never forget what it's like to be treated like shit, and my fiance on the other hand, treats me like a gold encrusted diamond fused with rubies and sapphires and emeralds.

Maybe this didn't happen to most people. Maybe most people don't know what it's like to be the opposite of lucky.

It's very easy for me to sit here and say that this will never happen to me, this mysterious loss of libido. I have many reasons to believe that this is so, however, I do not know what happened in these other relationships. Maybe there was no abuse, verbal, emotional, or otherwise. I don't know. I will never know. I only wonder, what's this problem with monogamy? If you have it, you don't want it and show it in a variety of ways, and if you don't have it, you want it and humans are pretty fucking good at sabotaging getting it.

Historically, marriages succeeded (and the definition of success being solely that there was no divorce and one spouse didn't kill the other) because it was socially required. It's presently completely optional. Whether or not you want it is completely optional. It should not, and is faulted if it does, depend on what world allows you to do.

I can safely say that if my plan works, and my reason for believing that we can thwart a lot of standard marital issues that rear their bulbous heads over time, it will be because neither of us will forget what it was like to be the opposite of lucky. We feel insanely lucky. I know that part of our success has much to do with our remembrance of our failures, and others having failed us.

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Good luck with all those sentiments.
These are great questions. The loss of desire in a relationship can be a tricky thing. But, ultimately, I think it's the relationship that matters. The mutual respect and affection help sustain monogamy even after the infatuation cools.

Insanely lucky? I know the feeling. I think my wife and I understand that not everyone has what we have. No one gets married looking forward to the day they'll be divorced. But when you know it's right, deep in your bones, it's really special.
"the opposite of lucky. We feel insanely lucky."

That should work. The idea that one "gets lucky" when bedding one's spouse or SO. Because, in fact, that's what happens. And hey, the idea that maybe you will "get lucky" tonight -- what's not to like about that?
Your last paragraph is key. I wish you all the best on the journey of marriage, never forgetting that a good marriage is better than no marriage at all, and a bad one is infinitely worse. And may you always be treated like a gold encrusted diamond fused with rubies and sapphires and emeralds.
I can't speak for all women, but look around on OS, lots of women love sex and are writing about it quite graphically. Your question is are they married and is it their spouses they are writing about. Don't know. I think sex just keeps getting better as you get older for the woman i know. Hope it stays as wonderful for you. r
I am with rita. And all the middle aged women I know still love sex and are having it husbands and lovers.
I love sex. Often. It's only gotten better as I have gotten older. And now that I'm in a monogamous relationship, it's gotten even better. What does it take to make it work? Well, communication, for one thing. And an acceptance that if either one of you is not in the mood at that particular moment, it's not the end of the world. It may be the middle of a tough hour. And sometimes, those moments pass so quickly that you're having sex again before breakfast.
I don't understand why women lose interest in sex. I wonder, though, if the "ED" that men suffer from isn't a form of the same thing. Only they see it as a physical affliction and can beg off sex because of their high blood pressure. Maybe some people are just programmed to not be as tactile as others.
I have friends whose devotion to food is not something I understand. They love the various flavors of a good meal over the various flavors of a good love-making session. I guess different strokes...
You already know the answer, it's right there in your posting. When your partner made you feel like a "ball and chain," you lost interest in sex. What goes on outside the bedroom affects what goes on inside the bedroom. It's impossible to feel sexy and resentful at the same time.
I believe - and it's just my humble individual opinion - that women stop having sex with their partners because they stop liking their partner. (for the most part.) Some of it is waning libido as people age (and I'm talking about mid-fifties), but for the many women I know cheating on their husbands, it's mostly because they're relationship has become antagonistic, or there are some never-resolved issues that have become something like a repetitive stress injury, making women sub-consciously angry and unable to find joy in pleasing their spouse. I have a friend who's husband cheated on her 25 years ago when they first got married. She "forgave" him and the marriage soldiered on, but now she uses it as a rationalization for why she's having her own affair.
well believe it or not, you can love being married to your spouse, love your spouse, love monogamy, feel lucky to be married to him, and still have have much sexual desire. In my case it is mostly health-related, and I hope that it will improve as my health improves. My husband never had as big of a sex drive as I did anyway, and now (a mom and employed full-time, in my early 50s) I just feel too tired to do much. I love cuddling, and he enjoys it too. He meets his needs on his own, and is there for me, but for the most part, our relationship is deep and satisfying and sex for me is something nice but not mandatory. I have found that sex waxes and wanes for me, for us, and I'm sure it will change again.
ok, typo. "and still have not much sexual desire." sorry
I agree with many of the comments above, but I also think there are decisions that have to be made around sex that are neither romantic nor sexy, but workable.

One piece of excellent advice I read recently was, "Have sex less often than the partner with the stronger libido wants it, and more often than the partner with the lower libido wants it." This seems entirely sensible: we're two different people, so we have to compromise, and we trust each other enough to feel safe doing so.

I also read somewhere years ago that when we're feeling less than eager about sex but guilty about feeling less than eager, we could consider sex in terms of intimacy and in terms of willingness, rather than seeing it as a question of getting all hot and bothered. "Am I willing to have sex tonight? Can I see it as a chance to be close to my partner and share something intimate with him/her?" The idea that we have to be out of our minds with desire in order to enjoy sex is ludicrous. Sex comes in all sorts of enjoyable degrees and forms.

These tips make it all sound very clinical, but the fact is, when the libido cools, firing it up again shouldn't be an agonizing guilt-ridden ordeal. It can be fun, playful and practical - "sexual hygiene," but less like a brisk hot shower and more like a tub full of bubbles and toys.
Quite a few of my married friends no longer have sex, but in most cases it involves disease. Yet, they're still together. I think that's called love.
Love the piece. Interesting questions. R
From my experience libido calms down eventually. That is when the liking and respecting and loving and enjoying part matters the most, Choose a partnership with those last qualities for both of you and then affection will never wane, even if/when lust does.
Maybe most people don't know what it's like to be the opposite of lucky.

On the contrary. It's my experience that most people have no idea what it's like to be LUCKY. We spend our lives feeling like an afterthought - standing on the icy sidewalk, watching you and your kind dance and smile behind the brightly-lit windows.
"- Joint bank accounts (we have a joint bank account...mine)"

Uh huh. That's not a joint account. Start an actual joint account, with an agreement that you'll each contribute x portion of paycheque...(not everyone has a regular paycheque all the this what you are getting at?) and maintain your own separate accounts for private interests. Seriously.

My partner doesn't suffer from MAS (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome) or the more common GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome)...I do. (Both). She doesn't buy 'em for me, and if I don't have the money in my personal acct, neither do I. Keeps me honest, and frankly, lucky (after 25 years). Although my collection is not what it could be, my marriage is intact.

So don't neglect this aspect of the relationship in favour of worrying about sex...I believe there is more tension in most marriages relating to money than there is about sex, which ranks number two.
I am one of those females who really enjoys sex. Unfortunately, my husband decided he didn't want to do that with me anymore very early in our marriage (and then it got through to me that he'd never really been that hot on the idea at all). For various reasons, I'm now on a journey where I am attempting to learn to live without it, and that's incredibly hard. But I having been married for a good while, I can confirm a couple of things for you: 1) no matter how well you start out--and let's face it, most of us think we're starting out fairly well--things will change, and you have to know that; as it used to say in the marriage service of my church, "Every day will not be like today". That can include things related to sex, so be prepared to consider your context as it changes. 2) marriage survive through sheer acts of will, not because married people wake up every day wanting to be married. If you want to stay married, it will be because you've decided you're going to do that. I can guarantee you that eventually sex, or boredom, or something else will make walking away look like a pretty sweet prospect. That's when your decision will come.

The very best to you, and may you be treated as a precious ball of gems for as long as possible. It's a great thing, however long it lasts.
Looking back at the sex life I had when I married at 25 (I'm now 40) is like looking at a surreal TV sitcom. Fifteen years and three kids later, I still enjoy sex but just am too tired to crave it so much. It's kind of like when you're dreading going out to a party on a rainy, cold Sat. night but once you get there you have a great time.

Unfortunately, being a mother and taking care of a home drains you like nothing else. I think it's inevitable that desire wanes, but the important thing when that happens is to get away once in a while (without the kids--my libido returns to its former self at those times) and appreciate marriage for all of its benefits. And of course, utilize the "quickie" when your husband's needs exceed yours!
I would focus on now and my incredible good fortune to be with a man I want to actually marry...who knows what will happen tomorrow - there is no formula...wishing you love and happiness and super wedding...and hot sex...
What you REALLY need to be aware of is that marriage is a serious public health issue: half of all marriages end in death. It kills one of the spouses. Mine will.
My beloved Spousal Unit has the libido of a sloth. I, on the other hand, am closer to a jackrabbit. *Shrugs* Most of the time, I don't let it bother me. I try to remember how much I love him and focus on the parts of the relationship that are always compatible.
Way back when, I asked an old friend of mine (who is still married) what he would advise people getting married and he said - "In the beginning you do everything together and then, when you want some privacy, it can be difficult. I would suggest maintaining alone time from the start" I don't know if this is a magic answer but I think I get it.
The whole business of "sleeping on the couch" has connotations of dysfunctionality (and often it is dysfunctional). But, personally, I think sleeping alone once in a while is a good thing, and I use the guest bedroom. I don't have to sleep with my partner every night for the rest of my life. I know it sounds weird, but it works for me.
i enjoy sex. but then, i didn't get married until i was 40 and I lived quite an illustrious lifestyle beforehand. How i survived unharmed is forever a mystery.

One thing: my spouse and i don't have kids. personally I think that matters in terms of communication, energy and attention... but i have nothing to compare it to.

sex with less known lovers is always more exciting than sex with a well known spouse, but i've chosen (yes, chosen) to sacrifice a bit of that raw excitement (which I admit I sometimes miss) for being with my best friend emotionally and physically. Its sort of sweet.

BTW, the sex at 41 is way better than it ever was when I was 25, even with relative strangers. Go figure.
I am lucky my partner and I are in "synch," when it comes to libido. Sometimes one is more ready than the other, but in the end it reconciles itself. The connection is important. Sex is only a portion of that. I say if you feel lucky, you are :)
Just so there's no confusion, I was talking about sleeping not sex. When you're an old fart like Noah, good sleep becomes very important.
Thanks for sharing this. I have to say I get monumentally irritated when I see loss of libido presented as mostly a female issue. I was in a sexless marriage for a loooooong time, and it was most certainly *not* OK with me and directly contributed to my divorce. My h didn't want a divorce, he was still in love. And I was too, but I couldn't handle the difference in our sex lives any more. Nothing was not enough for me, and almost nothing was just as bad.

Maybe you only start noticing a problem when it's your own. I learned our problem was far from unusual - a good friend left a 15 year relationship after the third 5 year dry spell - she told her h why, and his response was pretty much "But this is the way I am, and it doesn't mean I don't love you." I have 4 other friends who ended marriages b/c of the husband's lack of sex drive.

It is the great taboo subject - men are supposed to want sex from adolescence onward; their everpresent sexual desire is the myth that defines the man, for many. Women count on it - ask any woman how it feels when the guy she wants to bed can't get it up, and she'll admit to fearing it's due to her lack of desirability. Because guy's are always in the mood, always up for 'it' - that's the mythology.

But the thing is, they're not. Some are, and some aren't. Like women. And the reason people lose interest in sex might be social factors, i.e. where deep bonds of love and intimacy are missing, sexual desire goes missing as well. Or maybe it's a lack of curiosity about the familiar - allowing familiarity to breed contempt. Or maybe we're just wired to have a libido that ebbs as well as flows and women talk about it more.

I dunno. I'm remarried, and we're well-matched, so it's all academic to me now. :-)
There's sex and there's intimacy and there's love and sometimes all three converge but as long as two and three exists, one may go but will come again and your definition of what it means to "have it" will greatly expand.

Throwing rice your way!
I think it goes both ways. Some loose interest in their spouse as a person and the sex goes out the window and some when the sex goes out the window loose interest in their spouse. Personally I think the first is the major cause.

I have been married for 34 years and both myself and my spouse consider sex to be an integrated part of the relationship and requires time and effort. It is not a separate issue from all the other important parts of marriage.

Raising kids, careers, dealing with aging parents, growing older, and just the stress of life can take it's toll on the sex life, but that is still no excuse for letting it die. Other than illness I can't see a legitimate reasons to allow the sex life to end.
@Bill's dubious: Absolutely neither, it was a joke. Apparently a shitty one. Still hopefully, that's one that I would hope most people grasp prior to gettin married...and as you noted...that is unlikely.
@Sandra Stephens: Thank you very much for bringing up that point. Frankly, I don't think this is one of my best thoughtout blogs so I'm a bit bummed that it's being read a lot. And that is one of the things that I didn't mention - that loss of libido is not solely a female issue. I have been shocked a few times that my fiance may want to talk to me, and y'know, learn about my day rather than stick it in me. I do assume that men have libidos of mice, but not always.
These are the things I think can kill sexual passion:
1. Unresolved conflict with your spouse
2. Being taken for granted by your spouse, or vice versa. This leads to putting no time or attention into how you treat your spouse, and vice versa.
3. Children. Having small children leads to sleep deprivation, exhaustion, unrelenting irritation when they are fussy, etc. They are also the number one cause of conflict with your spouse (#1), and it is all too easy to become focused too much on the kids' needs, while ignoring your spouse (#2).
4. Housework. Arguing over who is and is not contributing to running the household is a major romance killer. Be sure you have settled this issue BEFORE the wedding.
5. Exhaustion. Full time work + kids + housework wears most women out. They simply have no energy for sex.
Before I wrote this post, we weren't planning on having kids. Now I'm considering having my tubes tied.

I kid, I kid.
I've been married for 18 yrs to the same man. I always want to be intimate w/ him & he w/ me. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. Kids, jobs, school, bills, in-laws. It may sound silly, but we "set a date" and make time for ourselves. Send the kids to grandma's, plan to go for movie & dinner. (Sometimes we never leave the house!)
Remember, sex isn't the most important factor in marriage (though, it helps). The marriage essential- in my opinion-is love. If you have unconditional love for your spouse/partner, intimacy will always reign both of you together!
The second key to keeping intimacy fun, exciting, is to communicate with each other. If you don't like something, say so. If you really, really get hot and bothered by a particular position, say so and do more of it. Know what you like and what your partner likes. Be open to sharing these details w/ one another. Respect each others likes and dislikes. Compromise is paramount in the bedroom. Also, there are plenty of sexual positions, toys, etc available for married couples to enhance "alone time." Make a small investment that both of you mutually agree upon.
Finally, more important than anything else, including your love for each other, is God. Read your Bible, and pray for each other, together, separate, whenever. Accept one another's faults as easily as you accept each other's strengths. Forgive & forget. Its really hard to get "worked up" if you're holding a grudge about not getting help doing the dishes.
Good luck and may you be blessed with a long, loving marriage!
thanks for the thoughtful post, I enjoyed reading it as well as all the comments. It has to be a topic on the minds of most young people on marriage's threshold, yet it's rarely discussed openly with the thought and diverse opinions it deserves. R
monogamy. the golden cage.
you only touch on this, but sex is a sort of power issue in many relationshps. a bargaining chip. this works ok to a small degree. but many people fail to understand the sometimes subtle difference between negotiation/bargaining and extortion.
bottom line. there is a [high] price for sex with a woman. that price is monogamy. =)
Like some commentary presented, women are not super heroes. If you factor in a career, raising kids, and taking care of the home something's gotta give. (Well, let's take that back, we are super heroes). It's not that women married for a long time lose interest in sex, they're just sometimes too tired. Things do get better as kids get older and sleep through the night. But if ties are based solely on looks and youth, well, let's face it, skin sags, stretchmarks happen. Illnesses can take their share. Factor in midlife crises, and these affect all aspects of a person's life. It sometimes becomes a momentous time, when everything becomes a matter of examination and questioning. True love should be able to overcome these bumps. When you get married you pledge your vows, and they care called vows for a reason. You're really swearing to make it through thick and thin, and people forget this, rushing into marriage thinking divorce is a sort of malpractice insurance. On the other hand, it seems you and your partner are extremely clear on how much you want to be together. I am glad that you feel precious in your beloved hands. Never let that go.
Sex is used as both a weapon and a tool. The reasons for the war that stops it from one partner or the other are usually based in other things. Starting with money.
There could be a lot of reasons your friends have stopped having sex and you're probably not getting the whole story, but I do think women are still not really supposed to like sex. Good girls are still supposed to wait while boys are expected to be boys. The problem is when girls wait they don't get to experiment and find out what they like and what they don't. I think there are a lot of women out there who are not having orgasms on any kind of regular basis and if the sex is meh...well then why not stop?

As I read the comments too I think older women know themselves better, have more confidence and feel more secure in voicing their desires. This may be part of why sex is not necessarily so great when you're young (and it's supposed to be so great because you're all supple and hot- ah the irony) You still don't know yourself that well, you're not that confident and you haven't had enough experience. Sex gets better with communication and experience, but you have to get there with the right partner. If all you have are bad experiences- well then...yeah.

But you sound like you're going there with the right guy. I wish you the best in your lives together.
@ everyone:
Thank you every one so your contributions to this, both for your advice and your kernels adding to the debate. I think I have even more questions after writing this, but I'm glad, because that only indicates that this is something that needs to be discussed.

And thank you to ALL the well wishes...
Nick Carraway
Kathy Riordan
Rita Shibr
Lea Lane
Leonde delmar
The Wanderer
Nikki Stern
v. seijo
Just today I read somewhere here on Salon that what makes people compatible is faults that complement each other, rather than good qualities. Interesting concept.

Of course no one has a crystal ball, and life does have a way of inflicting itself. I think where you said you feel lucky to be with your fiance that is key. My honey and I (we'll get married eventually) have been together just over 3.5 years. We both still think each of us is the lucky one. He can't believe I take care of him; I can't believe he puts up with my shit. There are ups and downs in any relationship but on the whole, it's been really wonderful for us.

Best of luck to you and I wish for you the same happiness that I have.
@thesaurus rex (great name, by the way): I completely agree with that statement, but they may not be faults, but also (or instead) they could be personality traits that one lacks but the other has. My fiance and I are relatively unremarkable people on our own. We don't get much recognition and no matter how loud or interesting we are, we get ignored. But together, we have ultimate power. Very interesting.
best wishes!!

(my mom told me i'm supposed to say that to brides. the groom get congratulated for bagging you)

anyway, hang onto that lucky feeling. i think that's the trick to staying married and happy.