Arnon Grunberg



On the sexless marriage - Amanda Montei in NYT:

‘Rose was drawn to how stable Will seemed — so unlike the other men she had dated, who dreaded commitment. Their relationship survived multiple moves, about a year of long-distance dating and the challenges of finding time to be together while living with parents and roommates. Now, seven years into their marriage, they have their own place: a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, where Rose sees Pilates clients. Will is gone during the day, teaching, and at night they cuddle in bed and watch television. “It’s my favorite part of the day,” Rose says. (Rose and Will are middle names. All subjects asked to be referred to by their first names, middle names or a nickname, out of concerns for their privacy.)
As much as Will grounds her, Rose feels that the familiar calm of their relationship also shuts her down sexually. They go months without sex, but they don’t lack intimacy. They have a policy of never refusing a hug, something they instituted to resolve the minor disagreements that inevitably crop up in any relationship. They have also talked candidly about how, for her, the safe predictability of their marriage — the quality she loves about their lives together — dulls her sex drive. She knows that can be confusing, even frustrating, for Will, but she doesn’t like the idea of forcing herself to have sex. Rose’s mother, now divorced, felt obligated to have sex with Rose’s father once a week. That’s not the kind of relationship Rose wants.’


‘During the pandemic, the couple went more than a year without having sex, but they savored their extra time together. Rose used to spend hours driving in traffic to different workout studios, coming home late, not seeing her husband much. Stuck at home, they took walks around their neighborhood. They talked constantly. They started taking online yoga classes together, a hobby that stuck. Will appreciates these smaller opportunities to connect. Rose thinks she’s not the nurturing type, but Will disagrees. “She’s not stingy in spirit or time,” he says.’


‘While some are questioning the standard of monogamous sex in marriage by exploring polyamorous and open relationships, others are pushing back against the pressure to have sex at all. In fact, Americans on the whole are having less sex than they used to — across race, gender, region, educational level and work status. One study found that American adults born in the 1990s are having less sex than older generations; they are in fewer steady partnerships, and those who are partnered are also having less sex. The 2021 General Social Survey found that about 50 percent of all adults polled had sex once a month or less, with half of those people reporting they hadn’t had sex for a year. Researchers have speculated about the reasons for this 30-year sexual low, from isolation caused by technology to cultural conversations about consent.’


‘Michelle and John share a one-bedroom with their daughter, and while they get some privacy during the day, they’re busy working from home. Now, most days, Michelle masturbates in the morning, while John takes their daughter to preschool. He masturbates at night in the bathroom, while watching porn on his phone. For John, it’s merely a physical release, but for Michelle, pleasuring herself serves a different purpose: She is trying to figure out what makes her feel good.’


‘Now she is 59 and has had several operations resulting from a battle with cancer, including a hysterectomy and mastectomy. As a result, her desire lessened, and sex began to feel like “vacuuming the house” — something she did to make her husband happy. And he noticed. “If you are used to somebody responding to you in a certain way, you can tell when they are acting,” she says. “I wasn’t the same person.”’


‘Despite their insistence that sex isn’t essential in their marriages, most of the couples I spoke with still keep track of how often they have sex. They also appear haunted by how far they deviate from perceived norms.’


‘More than anything, they want to enjoy themselves in their own way, to savor the small moments when they can let the rest of the world fade away.’

Read the article here.

The fear of not being normal is enormous, especially when it comes to potentially threatening issues like sexuality.
Once a month? Once a week? Never? What’s normal?

Sex as vacuuming the house, why not? Until one day, you don’t want to vacuum the house anymore.

Even masturbation requires set times and probably even rituals.

Time is of the essence, especially when you have children.

And sexually desire dies easily.

Maybe the question is: how important is it to be wanted?

And: how do people feel wanted?

Perhaps for many it’s enough to know that you are needed (children, pets, plants).

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