‘I’d rather mop the floor than have sex with my husband!’ Why one in three Brits see sex as just anotherBy Shona Sibarychore
The end of another long day. Like thousands of women across the country I have spent the evening on a treadmill of duty — preparing dinner, ferrying children around, policing homework and then, finally, sorting laundry for the morning.
Now, as the Ten O’clock news finishes, I wipe my last surface and switch on the dishwasher. The house is blissfully quiet. Then a voice — my husband’s — calls hopefully from the top of the stairs: ‘Are you coming to bed now?’
Standing there, dishcloth in hand, my heart actually sinks. This is the moment when I know that my day is far from finished. There is still one, last, conjugal chore to be performed.
Too tired for sex? Writer Shona Sibary with her long suffering husband, Keith
And before you all shout at once, I know that sex is not a job to be ticked off my never-ending list of things to do. But, boy, does it often feel that way! And according to a national study released last week, I know I am far from alone in dreading my husband’s advances at bedtime.
Benenden Healthcare Society, a health and wellbeing mutual organisation, surveyed 2,000 adults and revealed that one in three Brits finds sex a chore, with many claiming they would rather ‘read a book’.
I can think of hundreds of things I’d rather do at bedtime than have sex with my poor, long-suffering husband, Keith. Sometimes it’s sleep, other times it’s watching re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy.
There have even been occasions when I have opted to mop the kitchen floor over love-making because, quite simply, it requires less input.
And before you all accuse me of being a frigid old bag, I know that many of my female married friends feel the same way.
‘It’s the nights when I come to bed and can hear him in the bathroom gurgling with mouthwash and “freshening” that I start to panic,’ one friend admits. ‘Sometimes I manage to creep back downstairs really quickly before he’s seen me and I spend the next hour or so in the utility room ironing so I don’t have to come up with yet another excuse as to why I don’t want sex.’
Another friend with a daughter in my son’s class admits to cleaning her teeth for 15 minutes until she hears her husband snoring.
‘I know that as long as he’s in a horizontal position for long enough without moving, his heart rate will drop and he’ll eventually fall asleep,’ she says, sounding like someone who has researched the subject quite extensively. ‘It’s just a case of waiting it out in the bathroom.’
So what’s going on here? Why is it that after ten or so years of marriage the desire we all felt for our husbands seems to have dropped off a cliff faster than a ten-ton truck?
Paula Hall, sex and relationship psychotherapist for Relate and author of Improving Your Relationship For Dummies, says it can partly be blamed on biology.
‘When we first get together with somebody we’re producing PEA [phenylethylamine] — the chemical responsible for lust, fluttery stomachs and the fact we can’t keep our hands off each other,’ she explains.
‘Unfortunately, that wears off after 18 months, which is the time in which evolution reckons you should get pregnant.
‘After that, we’re producing oxytocin — a bonding chemical — which is all about keeping us together. Nobody, after a decade of marriage, feels huge amounts of lust for their partner — especially women, who have around 40 per cent less testosterone than men. They have to work harder to keep their sex drive going.’
Certainly, it seems the same wherever I turn. Coffee mornings and book clubs are now dominated by us all bemoaning the fact that marital sex is nothing more than another domestic chore — something we know must be done at least once a month (like cleaning out the fridge) but ideally should be ticked off on a weekly basis along with changing the bed linen and Hoovering under the sofa.
But how has it come to this? I can still remember nights in the not-so-distant-past where I would climb into bed, look at Keith, and think without any prompting at all: ‘I quite fancy a bit of a romp.’
Nowadays, I start avoiding the inevitable hours in advance. There are evenings when I have been known to flag up a headache as he walks through the front door at 5pm, and others where I will change into my ‘Don’t even think about it’ tracksuit bottoms. If he doesn’t get the message then I strategically place a box of tampons next to his toothbrush mug and keep my fingers crossed.
Lawrence Christensen, spokesman for Benenden Healthcare Society, blames this lull in our libidos on the strain of modern life.
Exhausted: Modern lives are taking a huge toll on peoples’ sex lives – and the older you get, the harder it is
‘Sadly, it appears sex lives are taking a downward plunge within marriage,’ he says. ‘Couples are finding that their priorities are elsewhere.’
While it’s a comfort to learn I’m not alone in the extents I go to avoid love-making, the survey also reveals how the average Brit now prioritises a whole host of menial tasks over sex with their spouses — including making up the kids’ lunch for the next day and watching TV.
Paula Hall says she isn’t surprised. ‘It’s something I hear all the time. But couples need to work at wanting sex. It’s a myth that your sexual desire should be triggered by your husband. In a long-term marriage you have to take responsibility for your own sex drive.
Rather than getting into bed, looking at him and thinking: ‘Nope, it’s not working, mate,’ focus your energy on creating the environment and circumstances to get your own brain and body in the mood. Read Fifty Shades Of Grey or other erotic books. Play lovely music and have a pampering bath. Do whatever it takes to get in the right frame of mind.’
Paula strongly believes that one of the pitfalls to a successful sex life is waiting until you get into bed at night.
She explains: ‘You go to bed because you’re tired, right? If you weren’t tired you’d probably still be up doing a whole host of other things. So schedule sex at different times. Be creative.’
Somehow, it seems so much easier said than done. I don’t want sex with Keith to be yet another thing that needs ‘working’ at. What I want is to get into bed with him at some point before we’re both too old to care and feel more like having sex with him than sorting out my tax return.
Paula tells me there’s still hope. ‘Wanting to want to is half the battle,’ she explains. ‘I tell my clients to work on the traffic light system. Red means ‘I don’t want sex.’ Green means, ‘I do.’ Amber is, ‘I could be persuaded.’ You need to learn to go on amber. If you’re constantly waiting for green you may as well forget it.’
So I’m revving my engine and ready to go. But if Keith is reading this, can I just say there is no way it’s happening tonight unless that recycling under the stairs is sorted.
Sorry, but first things first . . .