Sexless marriages have come out of the closet in recent years, with people who’ve experienced them referring to themselves as ‘survivors’. A few weeks ago, we asked our BodyRock community to share their stories of how weight gain may have factored into their own experiences of a phenomenon that now has its own acronym ‘DINS’ which stands for 'dual income, no sex'.
Women aren't the only ones refusing sex.
In a recent study of married couples in sexually inactive marriages, it was the men that had stopped sex in 60% of the cases. It’s important to recognize that a low sex marriage is a problem if either partner thinks it is.
David, an IT consultant, wrote that his weight gain had left him ‘cold’ when it came to having sex with his wife. ‘I felt disgusted with myself, my cardio was so weak that I felt winded, I barely had the strength to make love. I beat myself up so badly each night that even when I wanted to be intimate with my wife, I often couldn’t perform. I felt like she was going to reject me, even when it was clear that she wanted to be with me. I felt trapped in this cycle, and I think the discomfort made me seek solace in food. I rejected my wife over and over, until she gradually just stopped coming to me. I hated myself for that, but I just couldn’t meet her’.
'I was bringing flowers home, setting up date nights, lighting candles. Nothing seemed to bring her interest back'.
Keith, a father of 3, found himself on the opposite side when his wife Tracy gained 40 pounds after the birth of their youngest child and started refusing intimacy. Keith shared ‘I offered to sit down and talk more, because at first I was convinced that it might be a communication issue. I started making more effort across the board - I became a clean freak, taking over most of the household chores, because I read somewhere that intimacy can be impacted by a lack of balance with the day to day tasks that go into keeping a household running - so I just took over and started doing it all. Next came this hyper courtship phase, I was bringing flowers home, setting up date nights, lighting candles. Nothing seemed to bring her interest back, although she did tell me often how much she loved and appreciated me. I was stretching myself out, trying so hard, and I started to feel resentful and then angry'.
Keith shared that, 'striking out with your wife over and over is a whole different level of rejection than anything I remember when I was single. This woman knows me inside and out, and used to look at me with longing in her eyes. I liked how that felt, I liked having her reciprocate the desire I felt for her. I was tired of trying to convince this person that I loved more than anything to have sex with me. It was soul crushing, and my self-esteem, as much as I bluffed and blustered, was in tatters'.
Most of the people that wrote in to share their stories, eventually reached the point where they started to question whether or not they should continue to work on their marriage if their partner had no desire for them anymore.
Psychologists have linked repressed sexual desire to headaches, anxiety, panic and depression.
It’s currently unclear to researchers if the amount of sex in marriages has fallen, or if people are just more open to discuss it.
How often do other couples do it?
A study of 20,000 couples between 2007-2011, revealed how often couples are having sex.
12% had no sex in the surveys previous year. 21% had sex quarterly, 34% have sex 1-2 times per month, and 26% were having sex 1-2x per week. 7% were having sex more than 4 times per week. Surprisingly, 90% of the couples surveyed said that they wanted sex more than once a week, but that clearly wasn’t happening - suggesting that a lack of desire might not be the root cause of a sexless marriage. So where is the disconnect? What's getting in the way of our sexual desire?
When Dianna, and interior designer, gained 46 pounds, she said that it hurt her sex life with her husband Rick, but not for the reason that you might think.
‘It was obvious to everyone that I had gained a significant amount of weight, but it didn’t seem to impact Rick’s desire for me. I felt myself getting bigger, and there he was, still getting up all over me. I was increasingly becoming disgusted with myself, and here was my husband, still just as interested as ever. This confused me, and then repulsed me, and with the repulsion came resentment. It sounds insane, but as I started to turn on myself, I started to resent my husband for still wanting to be close to me in that way'.
'I knew that Rick preferred a smaller frame, and I just didn’t want to be intimate with him'.
'I was deep into a total mind fuck on myself, despite the fact that I loved this man, and he clearly was still into me'.
'I was secretly terrified that backing away would hurt him and just make everything worse, but I couldn't shake thinking - how could he still want me when I looked like this?’
Penny, a retail manager, found herself wearing what she described as an anti-intimacy suit at home to avoid being close to her partner of 7 years.
As soon as I got home, I would change out of my work clothes and put on these horrible, oversized, shapeless pyjamas, with ducks all over them. I would layer this over with an extremely ill-fitting bathrobe that I had owned since my first year of college. This thing looked like an ancient bath mat, stained on the sleeves, it was horrific - but my partner John, understood that when I put that on, it was a clear signal that I was not interested in him touching me or seeing me naked. People know. They just know. I wore this ridiculous outfit most nights to avoid having to tell him no. On the rare occasion that this didn't dissuade him, I would make up the standard line of excuses - I was tired, I didn’t feel well, or I had some vague female issue'.
'I could tell that John was hurt and often angry, but what he did not realize is that it wasn't about me rejecting him, it was about my own feelings of disgust that I felt towards myself for allowing my body to transform into something that I felt was repulsive. I had completely lost myself, and to say that I disliked the person that I saw in the mirror each morning was an understatement. This wasn’t me, it felt like an imposter had taken over my life, and I hated her. I felt overwhelming shame and embarrassment'.
For Debbie, sex had become difficult since she had gained 60 pounds, going from 120 pounds to 180 pounds over the course of a year and a half.
‘There was a lot that happened very suddenly in my life. My father, who was my rock, passed away after a brief but bitter illness. There was a big change up at work, and that came with a lot of new pressure to perform. Then I had my own significant health scare, and by that point, I didn’t know what was up and what was down'.
'I barely noticed the first 30 pounds going on, then one day I woke up, put my slippers on and padded to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and barely recognized the woman standing there looking back at me. I felt a surge of hot panic streak through me, and I started to actually avoid my own reflection, which I’m sure didn't do much to improve my appearance at the time'.
'I felt so defeated, so beaten up and fucked over by life that I think I just let go from that point'.
'I didn’t think that I was attractive anymore, much less sexually attractive. My husband, Pete, was just as interested as ever, but I was grossed out by his desire for me. I think that I actually briefly hated him for wanting me still, because I hated the way that I looked and felt. I wanted him to reject me because his desire came across as an acceptance of this person that I had morphed into, and I couldn’t accept him loving or wanting this thing that I had become. I loved my husband, but I would imagine him leaving me, I almost felt it would be just easier if he finally just left me'.
'Finally Pete asked me for a meeting. Usually our meetings were to go over our finances, bills and budgets and that sort of thing, so I wasn't prepared for what came next'.
'Pete is a burly guy. He works as a linesman, and he's out working in some incredibly harsh conditions. He's the guy you see in the middle of a storm up on the pole fixing downed power lines so that people have power. He’s not always comfortable having what he calls ‘Dr.Phil’ talks. We sat together, and he took my hands across the kitchen table, which tipped me off that we weren't there to talk about the credit card payments'.
'He said that he was worried about my health and happiness, and that he was ‘afraid’. I’ve never heard Pete admit to being afraid of anything, but it was what he said next that shattered me. He looked at me and said that he missed me. Not the sex we weren't having, (although I’m sure that was part of it) but me. I had missed me too, for the better part of the last two years, and hearing him say that out loud touched off something really deep inside of me. Some wall or barrier crumbled, and then collapsed, some blockage that had been propping up my resistance, fear and self-loathing'.
He looked at me and said that he missed me. Not the sex we weren't having, but me.
'I cried in a way that I hadn’t since my father died. Hot tears. Scalding tears that left trails on my face. I could feel that I had finally connected with that lost part of myself. I could feel my old-self again, waiting for me just under the surface. I realized that I had been repressing so much, I was holding so much at bay. Pete held me as I wept. It felt like I had been holding my breath for years'.
'Over the following months, we signed up to speak with a couples therapist, which Pete will be the first to tell you felt incredibly awkward at first. Among the things that the therapist gave us to explore as ‘homework’ was looking at exercising together as a way to get comfortable being around each other in a physical way again, and as something physically active that we could bond over'.
That's how we found BodyRockPlus. We stream our workouts in the living room of our town house, it's our daily practice that we do together. We started with the beginner bootcamp series, and we gave each other encouragement, and kept each other on track. Having a common goal that we shared brought us closer. It felt good to move and sweat together, and I started to feel alive again.
There was an intimacy in training together, and we discovered that working out often puts us in the mood for post workout sex.
Within a year, I had dropped 50 pounds, and I'm working on the remaining 10 that I still have to go. Pete is in the best shape of his life and has become my workout partner. I’m back, and I’m not letting myself go again - ever. It just took this little spark, and a few heartfelt words from my partner, to help me find my way back from the brink'.
Note from the editor. I would like to thank the members of our community that so courageously shared their stories for this post. I would also like to invite you to into our community, and to train with us on BodyRockPlus.com. We have a wide variety of introductory workout series, like the Beginner Bootcamp, Introduction to Strength Training and our popular 'Intro to HIIT'. We design our workouts to be achievable and inclusive - no matter where you are starting from. Our trainers are real people, with kids, jobs and busy lives, so they understand how challenging fitness can be.
This link, is an exclusive, extended, 30 day free trial to BodyRockPlus.com. Come and help us find you again.
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You can have sex at any size. Mindset and body positivity seems to really affecting these couples. Yes, exercise to feel good but your self worth is more than one aspect of your life. You are deeply loved.