In Marriage, Equal Roles Means Less Sex

Egalitarian couples are often happy but have less sexual chemistry, experts say

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 9, 2014 10:18 AM CST

(Newser) – Marriages in the US are more egalitarian these days when it comes to work, household chores, and even extramarital affairs, but that may not be good for married people's sex lives, writes Lori Gottlieb at the New York Times Magazine. She took a year of marital-therapy training and learned what experts are already saying—that people are often happy in egalitarian marriages, but have less sexual chemistry because there isn't much gender-role difference when men are doing the dishes and taking care of the kids. Among Gottlieb's findings:

  • Power complicates sex: Now that women have more power, they feel more comfortable voicing their submissive sex fantasies—but husbands committed to the "50/50 marriage" don't necessarily want to play the bad boy in bed. They're more likely to see that stuff online, which leaves wives feeling rejected.
  • The culture doesn't help by telling us marital sex lives should be steamy. Consider that people are now older when they get married (50-year-olds used to be grandparents), and women have sexual histories on par with men's, so both partners have hard-to-fulfill expectations.
  • More women are prioritizing career goals, and a new study shows that when the wife earns more than the husband, unhappiness and divorce rates are higher. "And that discomfort, more often than not, leads to less sexual desire—on both sides," writes Gottlieb. According to the study, the lowest divorce rate comes with wives earning 40% of the income and husbands doing 40% of the housework.
  • Many people want a partner who's similar in interests and background, but a study of women smelling unwashed male T-shirts showed they really wanted guys with genes different from their own. Scary detail: Women on the pill desire men with similar genes, so when they get off the pill to have a child, they may lose interest in their husbands.
Are there ways around these dilemmas? An informal online poll showed that 60% of married people have resorted to scheduling sex with their partners, the Telegraph reports. But maybe all sexual eras are unhappy in their own way, and we should just accept more sibling-like marriages. "You deal with that loss," says couples therapist Esther Perel. "It's a paradox to be lived with, not solved." Click for the full article.

  (Shutterstock)
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Before we got married, we always said we’d have a 50-50 marriage, and you’d think that would be great for our sex life, but instead it’s the one area where we’re having trouble. Everything else is great. - Husband in a couples session

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