With exploding egos, stressful lifestyles and altering attitudes, the image of enduring marriage is crumbling. However, traditional prescriptions of love, communication and respect for each other hold good today, when men and women need each other even more than ever before
Intimate matesIn its truest form, sex is not only connected to a sense of pleasure, but also to love and commitment. The ultimate sexual experience is a deep and satisfying union that is emotional, spiritual and physical. Sex undeniably plays a vital role in a marriage. The richness that can be experienced through sex will follow when the other essential ingredients—represented by commitment, love, union, pleasure and oft times even the possibility of procreation—are in place. Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Intimacy, correctly says: ‘‘It is when we stay in a relationship over time—whether by necessity or choice—that our capacity for intimacy is truly put to the test.’’ Strong emotional bonding often precedes warm and intimate sex. Neglecting either aspect could lead to problems, such as the man looking out for better sex, or the woman nagging her way out due to sexual frustration. Dr Bhavna Barmi points out that sex has the power to salvage a marriage. ‘‘Physical proximity is important in sustaining a marriage. Often, despite marital discords, if the sexual relationship is good, the marriage survives,’’ she says. Sex is a healthy form of releasing frustration and resolving conflicts. The saying ‘‘All fights should end in bed’’ is true. Ramon and Anku second this. ‘‘If you have a fight then sex works a lot.’’ However, most couples insist that sex, though important, is only part of the larger picture. Shalini and Vikram, who choose to call it love-making rather than sex, testify that it helps them bond better. Ella and Sandeep give physical intimacy top priority in their marriage. ‘‘We make it a point to spend at least half an hour together each day. It’s important to make those little moments special, by holding hands, taking a walk together, touching, talking about the day before going to bed.’’ After 13 years of marriage, sex as an act is not as important for Sukhdeepak and Anjali. But the couple have a deep physical connection, even if simply touching. For Sunjoy and Puneeta, sex is an expression of oneself, a means of communicating with each other. But Sunjoy insists: ‘‘Sexual fidelity is of no consequence in a marriage. If you love each other, you can have a fling or a one-night stand. As long as the basis of your relationship remains strong, it won’t be affected.’’ Both of them have had affairs. But they believe that fidelity is not the be-all and end-all of the relationship. There’s more to a marriage, including a basic foundation of trust and honesty. Says Sunjoy: ‘‘Marriage gives you an avenue to explore your sexuality. But you need not restrict yourself. If you feel the need to explore and understand your sexuality, you should go ahead.’’ Counselors like Arpita Anand and Barmi insist that sex does not have a causal relationship with marriage. It’s not that because the relationship is not good that the sex is not there, or that the relationship is sour so the sex is not good. But if sex is a problem, then it can certainly have a negative effect. Over 20 per cent of the cases referred to counsellors have to do with sexual incompatibility. Barmi generally recommends that couples have sex on a daily basis in their first year of marriage, then slow down towards the 30s to twice or thrice a week and to once a week when they hit their 40s.
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