What is an unconsummated marriage or relationship?
I’d like to share part of an article written by Talli Rosenbaum Physiotherapist and Sex Therapist) because she shares the thoughts that I would like to share with you perfectly.
Unconsummated marriage is a term that is used to describe a situation in which sexual intercourse between a married man and woman has not yet taken place. The exact prevalence of this phenomenon is unknown, but is thought to be more common in more traditional and religious cultures. This may be due to several factors including lack of information, insufficient premarital education, a cultural context strongly proscribing sexual behavior, and the expectation that intercourse take place immediately after the wedding, necessitating a radical shift from sexual abstinence to sexual intercourse.
The term “unconsummated marriage” therefore, is somewhat self- limiting in that it implies a social problem rather than a sexual one. It also fails to take in to account the distress of so many couples in committed relationships who are not married, do wish to achieve sexual intercourse, and for one or a combination of reasons, are unable to. Unconsummated relationships, therefore, is a more accurate and inclusive description.
Whether a couple is married or not, when both the man and the woman in a relationship have made the decision to have intercourse, yet despite their attempts they are unable to accomplish the act of vaginal penetration, the relationship may be impacted in profound ways. Some couples turn sexual intercourse in to a mission, attempting every position, lubricant, and well intentioned advice to have a glass of wine or a tranquilizer , in order to “achieve their goal.” These couples often use goal oriented words, referring to sex as “attempts” and the outcome as a “failure” or “success”. Other couples may avoid attempting intercourse out of anxiety or fear of replicating past negative experiences. Among couples in unconsummated marriages who do not have sexual intercourse, there also exists a wide continuum of intimate and sexual behaviors. Some couples may refrain from physical intimacy, others may enjoy a great deal of physical affection without it becoming sexually arousing, and others may enjoy all sorts of sexual activities including oral and manual sex but precluding intercourse.
Another feature that varies amongst couples is the amount of time they exist in the reality of an unconsummated relationship before seeking professional help. Some couples, particularly in traditional societies where there is a communal expectation that intercourse takes place shortly after the wedding, will seek professional assistance after only a few trials. Other couples live together for years, even twenty or more, before deciding to deal with the issue. There are also differences in the amount of distress couples feel about the problem. Some couples, in particular those who enjoy a satisfying intimate life without intercourse, may be less distressed. Also, within the couple, one partner may be far more distressed than the other, creating conflictual relationship dynamics which eventually may require the help of a couples therapist to resolve. Finally, the trigger for seeking therapy may vary amongst couples. Some couples are inclined to seek treatment immediately upon realizing a problem exists, sometime because of religious or communal expectations as noted, or simply, because they just want to “be normal”. Other couples may seek treatment when they want to start a family. Another couple, particularly in a relationship where one partner is distressed about the situation and the other is less so, may turn to treatment as the result of an ultimatum issued by the more distressed partner that they deal with the issue “or else”.
The causes of unconsummated marriages and relationships may be varied. A problem with the sexual functioning in one or both of the partners in a couple can prevent intercourse. Often the anxiety resulting from repeated attempts at intercourse contributes to the sexual dysfunction. One or both partners may be anxious that penetration will be painful, that there will be bleeding, or that the woman will get pregnant. While a certain amount of anxiety surrounding sexual activity is normal, when one or both partners are overly anxious, sexual function can be affected in the following ways: The male partner may have difficulty maintaining an erection strong enough to allow penetration or he may lose his erection just prior to intercourse. Anxiety may contribute to premature ejaculation, also just prior to reaching penetration.
Anxiety may prevent the woman from relaxing enough to allow penetration. She may close her legs or contract her vaginal muscles. She may experience persistent or recurrent difficulty to allow vaginal entry of a penis, a finger, and/or any object, despite her expressed wish to do so. While anxiety may indeed be a factor contributing to and perpetuating many sexual problems, there are many components to sexual problems, including physiological ones.
Together we can start working towards helping you understand the variables that are affecting and impacting upon your attempts to participate in penetrative sex, helping you work towards a solution.
I appreciate how difficult this conversation can be for many people. Whether it’s because you have never spoken to anyone about this before or you have gone to other people and not been able to work out what the problem is. I promise to help you feel as relaxed as possible during the session and to respect your story and your culture.
If you are ready you can contact me here or book in your own session here.
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