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A "Normal" Sex Life?

QUESTION: What would you consider to be a "normal" sex life in a marriage?

ANSWER: As with most things in marriage, the definition of what is "normal" is left to the partnership between two people. Marriage is about meeting one another's needs. What is acceptable to one person might not be to the other. A marriage may be generally considered functional if both partners are satisfied with it.

Often, the quality of sex in a marriage is more important than frequency. Again, if both partners enjoy and feel satisfied by their sexual connection, then it is functional for them. "Normal" sexuality could be defined in context of a person's capability for physiological orgasm. But what is "normal" sex for one couple would vary not only throughout the course of their own marriage, but in contrast to other couples. For example, it is normal -- due to biological changes and environmental stress -- for parents to have less sex in the months after a child is born.

Many things, including hormonal, environmental and emotional stress, affect sexual expression in a marriage. Remaining connected on an emotional level may be reflected in an easy negotiation of sexual needs, while emotional disconnection or alienation can easily lead to sexual disinterest by one or both partners.

Be aware that introducing the concept of "normal" sex (outside of physiological capability for orgasm) may not prove to be a very useful approach in marriage. A partner who is accused of being "abnormal", often because they are not meeting the sexual needs of a spouse, is likely to feel judged or inadequate. This kind of approach usually drives a lover away, rather than increasing interest in meeting the needs of his or her partner.

Sex is a vulnerable part of a marriage because sexual appetites differ and spouses depend on one another to meet sexual needs. This is a part of monogamy that partners must take seriously, particularly if one has a much greater sexual desire than the other.

It is up to both partners to address individual styles and desires. Talk with your partner about your feelings and needs and what your vision of sex is in your marriage. Then listen to your partner,s opinion. While the presence of sexuality in a marriage is an important part of your relationship, the negotiation for when and how these sexual needs are met must be defined by the two of you.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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