What if we're sexually estranged?

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At the start of our marriage, we slept together nude. Soon, she started wearing underclothes. She gradually stopped enjoying having me put my arm around her or cuddle up to her. Sometimes, with little or no provocation, she would sleep in another room, which seemed rather callous, and left me feeling lonely and frustrated. Sex grew less and less frequent, and finally she moved into another room, permanently. I was going on the assumption that if she could just enjoy sex more, i.e., have more orgasms, we would have sex more often and my needs would be better satisfied. So, I was always trying to give her a good pounding. Oh well….—Brent

If the problem is that you and your mate are estranged sexually (in your opinion, at least), realize that the true culprit is your mammalian mating program. It is normal to be somewhat out of sync after the honeymoon period, and even more so when you drift away from daily affectionate contact of some sort. In fact, revulsion can actually build up quite easily in one partner or the other without regular bonding behaviors. Your mate’s nervous system may be reacting to you as it would to a snake or predator.

Rest assured that you are just as loveable as ever—even if your partner can’t see it yet—or never sees it again. Find some supportive friends who recognize your true worth. (Online communities can be great for this, even if your cyber pals can’t physically see you.)

You may be able to build the rapport and trust between yourself and an estranged partner by using the few bonding behaviors that do not require the cooperation of your partner. (See The Lazy Way to Stay in Love.) These activities build trust. They need not be draining. If they are, you are doing too much. Start with playful kisses, or a quick hugs.

The late Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita advised disharmonious couples to do several things each day for the benefit of each other, without waiting to be asked. He instructed them not to call attention to what they had done, or expect thanks. Predictably, their selfless care of each other often eased the tension between them more effectively than any other kind of therapy. Even without your mate’s cooperation you may see subtle progress.

Even if biology wins, and you remain estranged, you are more likely to co-exist with, or part from, your mate more harmoniously if you have been using bonding behaviors to whatever degree possible. If you are fortunate enough to cheat your genes of their victory, you will both also have a solid strategy for a harmonious future together.

If your partner responds, your next goal is to exchange generous touch (daily) that is not sexually oriented. Soothe your partner’s over-active stress response, just as you would a child’s recurring nightmares. Suggest foot massages or holding your partner’s head on your lap, or any other gentle nurturing touch you know that your partner likes.

At each stage, stay with less intimate bonding behaviors until your partner spontaneously initiates more intimate contact. However, if your partner awakens suddenly, do not allow yourself to be swept into classic “heat ‘em up” foreplay—however wonderful it feels. Suggest bonding behaviors only, until you have a chance to discuss a new approach to sex. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up back in the same rut.

Since my wife has not expressed interest in Ecstatic Exchanges – even the non-intercourse ones – I’m experimenting with energetic cuddling. I’ve realized that much of the past tension between us was due to my inability to distinguish touch with the intent to give from touch with the intent to take. Our deeply ingrained dance of orgasm had me focused on touching with the goal of drawing out her sexual arousal to feed my addictive nature, when, in fact, my wife deeply needs my giving touch to infuse her low energy state with my abundance. I believe this could very well help her to heal and find the safety and comfort to open up to me over time. So now, many nights I find myself content to cuddle up with her and hold her with healing intent. Magically, I find myself going to sleep with little or no problem.—Reggie

we love each other but are sexually estranged

My husband and I love each other very much, but we are sexually estranged, and have been for the last 10 years of our marriage. I found "Reuniting" about a year ago, but my husband was resistant. However, in the year since then, he has become much more open to the idea of bonding and the whole idea of non-orgasmic intercourse. In the last few days, we have begun to do some snuggling and cuddling in bed, and already it is making a difference in our feelings toward each other, and that is even without "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow" for guidance, so I am hoping that when we get the book, it will help even more :)