Internet Marriage

Letter #1

Introduction: This week I have chosen letters from those who met on the internet, were subsequently married, and are now having trouble adjusting. In both cases, they married soon after they met.

Dr. Harley,

I read your response to the Q & A's (How to Meet the Need for Sexual Fulfillment (Part 1) and (Part 2)), but still need help ...

Quick Background: I'm a 33 year old female, 2nd marriage to 40 year old male never married before. We met on Prodigy and he told me he was a Christian. We had a clean, value-based, long-distance relationship. Married 8 months later. First 5 months of marriage were okay, good sexually. After that, he started to lose his sex drive. We went from having sex every day to having it every once in awhile.

Ten months after marrying, I caught him having computer sex (he was at work, I signed onto our computer at home, under his i.d. and got his screen). Not only was he having dirty sex, he told the woman he was divorced. After I confronted him, he denied it, insisting it was a janitor or someone else on his computer. But 8 months later he finally confessed and I don't think he's doing computer sex anymore.

However, his sex drive is terrible. I've only wanted sex 3 times a week, or at least once, feeling it's important to connect this way for marital intimacy. But we've gone 3 weeks with out making love, despite my advances, which he's rejected throughout that 3 week period. I've asked him if he wants me to talk dirty, try new positions, what he likes, etc. etc. He always says everything's good the way it is.

He refuses to go to counseling. I've tried leaving him alone, not pressuring him, surprising him creatively, reinforcing his desirability (he's gained 75 lbs. and says his weight makes him self-conscious). I don't know what else to do. We have no children, allowing the pleasure of spontaneity, and yet, he is never spontaneous. Sex is always pre-planned by appointment, which I've been receptive to for the sake of having sex.

I am very attractive, long brown hair, size 8-10 range, and I always dress nice for him, looking my best when he comes home from work. He is affectionate physically and complimentary and appreciative, so I am baffled by our sexual problems. I'd appreciate your perspective on my situation.


Dear B.K,

As you've already noticed, marriage has its surprises, and sex is usually one of them. You'd think two adults would be able to figure it out to each other's satisfaction, but if you knew what was going on in most marriages, you would see that sexual incompatibility is the norm.

One of the problems with internet romance is that there is an illusion of honesty and openness. People who e-mail to each other assume that they are getting an unfiltered, even raw, glimpse into the lives of others. The truth is that there's a lot of role playing going on, and when people fall in love on the internet, they may be falling in love with an actor, or at least only part of a person.

I'm not suggesting that people should avoid meeting people on the internet, or even avoid marrying people they meet. What I am saying is that internet romance should lead to face-to-face relationships that last long enough to get to know the other person (I recommend two years), and have time to strip the facade that one of you may have created.

Getting to your problem, when you discuss your sexual frustration with him, he seems to be suggesting that it's not a problem for him. If that's the case, you should explain that it's your problem and you would like him to help you solve it.

The first step in solving it is to describe it as clearly as possible and then describe what a resolution of the problem would be like. How often and under what circumstances would you like to make love. It sounds to me that three times a week would work.

Then, you should try to understand why he does not want to make love as often as he once did. He could have a low sex drive, but his adventure on the internet after marriage suggests we look for other answers. What's more likely is that he has developed tried and proven ways to masturbate that he prefers over making love to you. Masturbation is simple and predictable -- no muss no fuss. If his masturbation satisfies his sexual need, it could account for his reluctance to make love to you.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that married couples should try to avoid sexual experiences outside each other's company. My reasoning is that sex is so enjoyable that the pleasure people receive from it should not be squandered. To review my "Love Bank" concept, whenever you have pleasure in each other's company, you deposit love units in each other's Love Banks, thereby increasing your feeling of romantic love for each other. If you limit your sexual experiences to times you are together (especially if they are often), the feeling of love will be enhanced.

On the other hand, if you have sexual experiences with others, even over the internet where it is essentially a fantasy, you build feelings of love toward those people instead of your spouse. Even masturbation, with no one present and no object of fantasy, takes the place of times that love units could have been deposited in marriage.

Most sexually experienced women who are in love can outlast the men they love. You mention that you and your husband made love every day for the first five months. You may also have made love for hours at a time. It's possible that you have worn him out. He may have decided that sex with you was too much work, and has reverted to what he did before he married you, masturbation, which was less work and more satisfying.

He may also be back to computer sex, only this time he's figured out a way to prevent you from seeing his screen. Whether he is just tired, or channeled his sexual energy elsewhere, honesty and openness is the key to revealing what it is that is inhibiting him. I have an article on my Basic Concepts page, "The Rule of Honesty for a Successful Marriage." It may be something you and he could read together, and then see if he will agree to it. It may be that he has been keeping his sexual behavior from you because he knows you would be offended by it. Besides, he already knows what you do when you discover it -- you make him quit!

He knows what the problem is better than anyone else, and, if he wants to, he can explain it to you. It may be a sexual problem or it may go beyond just sex -- it may be some other aspect of your relationship that is turning him off, although you have said that he remains affectionate and complementary toward you.

After you know what it is that keeps him from making love to you more often and more spontaneously, create a plan together that addresses his concerns. The secret to success in this step is to brainstorm. Come up with as many ideas as you can think of and don't start filtering them until you have given your imaginations a chance.

Finally, select the plan that appeals to both of you. It may mean that he is more spontaneous in return for not having to do as much whenever you make love. He might want to limit sex to 10 minutes. Whatever obstacle to lovemaking he identifies should be overcome in your final plan.

Above all, be sure that your negotiations are SAFE and PLEASANT. If your discussion becomes threatening or unpleasant to either of you, break them off and reschedule them before you hurt each other.

(Men should follow the same procedures when their wives do not make love to them as often as they want. Safe and pleasant negotiations offer effective and lasting solutions.)

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