How important are mutual interests in marriage

Sexuality in marriage

With a few exceptions, marriages are made out of love. The bride and groom feel deeply attached to one another and want to be together forever and ever. This love includes the sexuality of the partner. The loving person does not marry a cold statue, but a person who can be touched, and he is not callous himself, but wants to kiss and be kissed. Most people think and feel love and sexuality closely together. Despite the relative independence of the two areas - one can have sexual feelings without loving, and one can love without being sexually aroused - for most people, sexuality has its ideal place in a firm love relationship. It gains its great human dimension through love, just as sexuality belongs to love.

If marriage is based on love, and if that love includes sexuality, then it is clear how important love and sexuality are to the continuation of the marriage. If love and lust pass away, then marriage has lost its meaning for people who have just married under these conditions; then in the vast majority of cases it is not happiness, but misfortune for them. Only the fragile form remains of the pure relationship.

Variety of functions

Closed out of love, founded on love and realizing love as the noblest form of human interaction, marriage fulfills a variety of functions. As a rule, it is partnership, intimate community, domestic community, shared apartment, economic community, parenthood. The husband (and accordingly the wife) is a lover - and at the same time a friend, confidante, partner, interlocutor, playmate, leisure journeyman, the most important sanction giver, perhaps also a cook, housekeeper, craftsman, buyer, launderer, cleaning man, sometimes also a nurse and, as a rule, also Father and later grandpa. Most of it has little or nothing directly to do with sexuality. Above all, the two spouses are employed; they both contribute their share to household income and appreciate independence through their own participation in the primary social activity of work. It has become increasingly rare for women to give up their work when they get married. Both take part in social life at work or alongside their work, cultivate leisure interests and socializing, and have contact with other people. Marriage is tied into a network of social relationships and can only exist through this.

Sexual behavior in marriage has to do with the complexities of marital functions and conditions; it does not exist in isolation from them. In the broadest sense, it is learned socially and is realized under specific social conditions. The reasons for a fulfilled sex life, but also for disturbances in the marriage, are therefore not primarily to be found in the sexual area, but in the overall marital and the given social conditions. At the same time and in connection with it, sexual behavior is part of the overall behavior of man, and behavior in love and sexuality always depends on the whole personality. The personality of each of the two spouses is revealed in their shared sexuality, and at the same time this intimate behavior has an effect on the individual. Marriage does not mean the closure of personal development, on the contrary: the newlyweds still have most of their lives ahead of them, and the continuity of their marriage, the family happiness, will depend precisely on how the spouses develop as personalities, how they cope with their lives how content their everyday life is.

Sexual agreement versus conflictuality of sexual needs

The sexual match up to the most intimate exchange of tenderness is neither an isolated event that only includes the immediately sexual, nor a paradisiacal honeymoon condition given for all time. The sexual match is determined by the overall match between the two spouses and has an effect on them. It is based on the personality of both and influences personal behavior far beyond the sexual realm.

The most general requirement for sexual agreement in marriage is that the partners generally get along, like each other, can smell each other, and are not disgusted with each other. But it is just as important that they match sexually. This means, in principle, to have the same or very similar views of love and sexuality and to be willing and able to shape a sex life that is satisfactory for both sides. They find each other erotic, like to flirt with each other, have a lust for each other, are physically sympathetic, know what is good for both, and get along in bed.

If there is no such basic agreement and if it cannot be established despite the best efforts, then the marriage usually does not go well. Partners who are not at all sexually compatible should not get married in the first place, even if they get along well. With the sexual conflicts, others soon arise as well. My (and other) studies, on which all of these statements are based, show that marriage is really only possible in exceptional cases despite sexual intolerance, just as, on the other hand, sexual agreement alone holds a marriage together only in the rarest of cases. However, agreement in principle does not mean that the two spouses are sexually identical in every relationship and at all times, that one is often always in agreement about how and how.

How should one behave when one has sexual desires that have not yet been fulfilled? The best way to do this is to communicate what you want and what you don't like - most lovers do this successfully with words and gestures. It is quite attractive to get to know the other's most secret wishes and to respond to them, perhaps even making them your own for a profit. Sometimes the fulfillment of such wishes is only the prerequisite for the sexual togetherness to be pleasurable, satisfying and happy at all.

But it can also happen that one cannot or not always respond to the wishes of the other, perhaps because they are very unusual or because the wishes of the partner completely contradict one's own feelings or even trigger dislike of the partner. Then it is worthwhile to look for compromises together. It will be easy to find that many things are possible which give one great pleasure and which is by no means unreasonable for the other. Here too, mutual respect is the decisive yardstick, mutual respect.

Just as most spouses quickly find out what gives the most pleasure, they also develop a sense of the right time and also of the frequency of sexual interactions. For some, once a month is just right, for others ten times. On average, married couples have sexual intercourse 5-8 times a month. This corresponds somewhat to Luther's saying: “In the week between, it won't harm you or me”.

Most married couples like to sleep together. There can be no talk of a decline in heterosexual coitus in modern industrial society, in marriage or in long-term relationships. Variants of sexual activity have become more common; a closely coitus-centered thinking, male-dominated, was broken down. Nevertheless, the sexual union member in the vagina is perceived by most women and men as particularly intimate, as something special. Most women orgasm during sexual intercourse as easily as they do with masturbation (and more frequently than with all other forms), but recent research shows that they find the coital orgasm to be particularly intense. In terms of female and male pleasure, intercourse is superior to all other forms of sexual interaction, and some women only orgasm during coitus.

What should you do or not do if your partner doesn't do it as often as you want? That is an unsatisfactory situation in the truest sense of the word, a sad state of affairs. There are few options:

(1) The obvious and perhaps most important one is to try to win the partner, to seduce him. But that has its limits. They are drawn by respect for the partner and his desire; everyone has the right to displeasure and their own feelings. As beautiful, funny, honorable as advertising can be, just as bad, bad, hurtful is an urge that the partner cannot or does not want to follow and that threatens to become invasive. The partner is not a machine that can be charged with electricity at the push of a button, and nobody wants such a machine. Nor is it a thing or a commodity that you simply use when you feel like it and then put aside again. Nor is he a slave or subject who has to obey willlessly or fulfill a conjugal duty, but is an independent personality, the subject of conjugal sexual behavior. A sexual get-together that should be beautiful, passionate and satisfying for both is only possible if both want, can and participate.

Nor does it help much to use all sorts of tried and tested tricks to set the physical reactions of your partner in motion and use them for your own purposes. The psyche of the partner is easily disregarded, he is only taken as a body. Usually this has harmful consequences. The relationship is strained, bent, degraded - and the next time is even more questionable.

(2) Another option is masturbation, and this option is the method of choice for many. It is operated when the sexual pressure becomes too great (or because - even with an otherwise satisfactory marriage sex - one simply feels like doing it again). There is nothing wrong with that. Masturbation is harmless and easy. But it is not for everyone. Some (few) believe that it is an evil at all, others - mistakenly - only accept it as a transitional phenomenon for adolescent boys or at best in an emergency situation, while the third tolerate it, but do not want it for themselves. Some are also not free from outdated views that ostracize masturbation and declare it unworthy, and are also ashamed in front of their spouse, who may notice this and be offended or react insultingly. On the other hand, many spouses today know and tolerate the other's occasional masturbation.

(3) Another way to compensate for the sexual discordance in the marriage leads to another sexual partner, with or without financial interests, for a short time, once, or even longer or repeatedly. This route is taken quite often; often it destroys the marriage (or is it a sign of a ruined marriage), mostly unexpected complications of all kinds arise, and only sometimes it not only burdens the marriage, but maintains it: monogamy can only be lived through polygamy, they say .

However, most lovers do not consider the fling as a way out. They also want to be sexually faithful to the one they love. You have a love model that tends to be exclusive. Although fidelity is no longer formally linked to marriage, it is tied to love. Only when this has passed does the claim to loyalty cease to exist. One after the other is tolerated, but not next to each other - not loving, and certainly not random coexistence.

(4) Often the only possibility and inevitable solution is to cope with the sexual tension, to turn to other things, to be patient, not to cultivate the frustration and to look forward to the next intimate get-together with the partner. In fact, it is seldom true that both spouses have exactly the same desires. Usually there are more or less big differences. Sometimes the woman is insatiable and overwhelms the man who just wants his peace and quiet, and sometimes it is the man for whom the wife is not loving enough.

This is also often the case in young marriages, e.g. when one is not yet sufficiently attuned to one another, when one is tired, sick or has great worries that one cannot break free from in bed. The young mother, who may not be used to housework, feels overwhelmed and thinks about the child who may be sick and less about the healthy man. The young man works overtime or expands his apartment after work, possibly neglecting his wistful wife. The current sexual needs of the spouses can vary, and sexual conflict is not uncommon.

Sexual conflict or marital conflict

Often the conflicts are not to be found in the sexual at all. Behind this there can be a partner conflict of a much larger dimension, not infrequently coupled with a life conflict and dissatisfaction in general. The partner relationship is disturbed, the marriage has become unstable. If one wants to come back sexually, then the relationship has to be put in order. This is also the case with current annoyances. Most married couples who really love each other do not find each other in bed when they are emotionally separated, when there is something uncleared between them.

It also happens that at times one is over or believes to have over the partner - or that one does not feel like doing anything at all. Such symptoms of oversaturation exist in every marriage and they can only be overcome with patience and sensitivity. You don't just live together on Sundays or only meet when you want or feel like it, but - at least in most marriages even today - you are constantly together, no matter how you feel at the moment. In the long run, no spouses manage to just show their sunny side, to always pull each other together, always to be fair, loving, attentive, attractive - that is also not necessary at all. Rather, part of a real partnership is that you can be relaxed, let yourself go from time to time and not forget great love over the small weakness of the partner. Too much rigor, discipline and control kill just as much as an endless arbitrariness, excessive tolerance, fashionable liberty from the human-emotional and prevent to the harm for body and soul an active, spontaneous, joyful living out of the feelings and their development. This is also the case in the sexual area. Similarly, no matter how careful an agreement, no matter how good an agreement, no amount of good agreement between the spouses guarantees the avoidance of all conflicts, the absence of behavioral errors or occasional misunderstandings, when the basic trust in one another has waned, the basic trust is missing.

Disregarding the fact that a certain amount of sexual tension has to exist in the first place in order to develop a sexual desire, every human being must learn that he can endure sexual tension - even greater ones. No life situation is such that one can indulge in lovemaking at any time. That is what one will strive for. And that is the basis for married couples finding each other again and again, kissing and kissing each other and sleeping together thousands of times.

Sexual discordances in marriage can not only have their cause in the partner relationship itself - inside the marriage - but they can also be favored by external influences. Fears of all kinds, especially fear of the future, the hopelessness of being able to lead a secure life, the damage to self-esteem through the experience of not being needed, painful biographical breaks or social breakdowns can make the partner relationship in the marriage asymmetrical and serious sexual behavior influence. Only by changing your living conditions can you really get better.

The interest of living together with a person depends on many factors, on the nature of this person and on oneself, on the love for one another, on the content of the common life, on the professional tasks, on the quality of the social and personal relationships that the both partners have, from their cultural profile, from the overall lifestyle. In addition, there are factors such as development ability, enterprising spirit, activity, inventiveness, etc.

The wealth of one's own personality is brought into the marriage and is the basis for an interesting sex life. But there are also special possibilities for refinement, variety, variation, which are often used far too little. They do not exclude the possibility that at some point you will know your partner's body and his intimate behavior very well and that no new stimulus can emanate from this, but only the stimulus of habit, the certainty of a good togetherness. That is much.If the sexual encounter is an expression of a really deep bond, then the purely sexual takes on a different status anyway. The boredom in marriage, it is meant to be said, cannot be avoided - if at all - primarily through sexual interest, but through a rich overall content of the marriage. But at the same time everything must be done to avoid sexual monotony and to maintain or even increase the common pleasure.

Tenderness as the first love technique

The first and fundamental love technique is tenderness. It is an expression of the relationships to one another and promotes this relationship. She practices sensuality and sensualizes the practice. “A tender woman makes herself and her lover happy,” says the wise Diderot, but the same is true of the tender man. The most common association with love, as with sexuality, in women and men is tenderness. Love is tenderness, sexuality is tenderness.

Not every exchange of tenderness is erotic and aimed directly at sexual arousal. It has a comprehensive and fundamental position in the everyday life of the couple. Tenderness means warmth, closeness, contact, affection, security, harmony, affection, activity, relaxation, being able to surrender to one's feelings. The boundaries to the erotic-sexual exchange of tenderness are fluid.

Almost every millimeter of the human body is sensitive and receptive to tenderness. You can give tenderness with anything you have. It would be too narrow to limit sexuality in marriage to sexual intercourse, including foreplay and epilogue. The old model of having (short) sexual intercourse in the evening before going to sleep to satisfy the man has long been suspect. The decisive factor is the overall erotic shape, which brings the highest level of pleasure for both. Any technique that is suitable for this is good, any variant that supports it is appropriate and welcome. Each couple choose their sexual technique as it deems right and good. If a single standard is enough for him to be happy, he cannot be accused of that any more than the desire for variation. Books on sexual techniques and tips from the mass media can be informative and stimulating. But all sorts of tricks, taken by themselves, cannot get the sex life in marriage going.

Sexual Fulfillment

Sexual fulfillment means that the woman and the man reach sexual climax, orgasm. This has become a matter of course for married couples today, even though being together intimate can be nice even without an orgasm. The woman does not have an orgasm every time in every marriage, but other times it may have a particularly intense one.

The emphasis on orgasm is correct and understandable, but not the ultimate wisdom, as sexual togetherness is not a competition for an orgasm, as important as it is and as beautiful as it can be. Ultimately, it's about the couple and their feelings, and not about having an orgasm in any way - not about orgasm cult, but orgasm culture. The orgasm is a component, albeit a special one, of sexual togetherness, in which it is about closeness, tenderness, trust, well-being, to and fro, enjoyment in the other and in togetherness.

The sexual reactions of man and woman are far too different to always be led to a climax synchronously. Simultaneous orgasm is a myth. Well-rehearsed couples will be able to climax around the same time. But you also know that it doesn't necessarily matter. Exactly simultaneous orgasm is rare in sexual practice and rather accidental, in any case it can be organized even less consciously than one's own. The spontaneous pleasure reactions are beyond the control of the cerebrum on a certain level of excitation. This control would also be detrimental to pleasure.

The differences in male and female reactions are always a source of conflict in marital sexual behavior. It is worthwhile for spouses to deal with it theoretically and practically, also to get to know the peculiarities of the two sexes and the other body. This can mean, for example, finding out the parts of the body that are particularly susceptible to tenderness and targeted stimulation - the so-called erogenous zones or centers. This can reveal, for example, whether and in what way the partner (and yourself) likes touching the external sexual organs with hand and mouth. This can, for example, lead to a preference for a certain position or no certain position during intercourse. This can mean, for example, choosing the most favorable rhythm for each individual.

Often it is necessary to curb or accelerate one's own actions and reactions if it is for one's own and common enjoyment. The man, especially the young one, will endeavor to delay the ejaculation and enjoy the pre-orgasmic pleasure. That can be trained. As a result, he does not get into the situation where his member only stays in the vagina for a short time due to rapid relaxation and he basically does not experience much pleasure. Most men are unable to immediately get pleasure and erection or have another ejaculation. Many, but not all, still enjoy the exchange of tenderness. But in any case it is better if a man takes his time with the ejaculation, also with a good feeling when his wife wants the ejaculation herself. The woman, on the other hand, does not generally have to slow down, she is sometimes capable of multiple orgasms, which can also merge into one another. But there are also women who just want one big orgasm.

It is very important for the man to recognize what triggers pleasure and orgasm in his wife. Usually he does not come to this knowledge alone; the woman will help him. In the same way, the husband should help his wife to find out what is most beautiful for him. The mere fact that he ejaculated is not a sign that the man really enjoyed making love. The woman is sensitive, the man too. The normal man can usually be quickly brought to an effusion by an experienced woman; it is then quickly over and over for him. He can also be sabotaged in his lust at any time, brought to visible impotence. Then he just can't. The man, on the other hand, can only be concerned about himself, disregard the feelings of the woman, even become overbearing. In bad marriages, such behavior can be part of a marital war.

In good marriages, sexual togetherness is a shared experience in which both want to give each other maximum pleasure. The togetherness creates a new quality of pleasure: an oneness. 1 + 1 = 1.

Planned parenting

Spouses have intercourse because they love each other and they like it - and not to father children. Older couples, parents and grandparents also have sexual relations with one another for the same reasons. Nevertheless, for most people, children are still part of the happiness of a marriage, even though far more marriages remain childless today than in the past. Most married couples find it easy to father a child. If pregnancy does not occur straight away, restlessness or even fear quickly ensues, usually without a reason, because everything takes time - and the right time for fertilization: the fertile days. But if it doesn't work out, then advice is to be sought. Today there are many ways to help women who cannot easily conceive or men who do not produce many or very active sperm cells. Many marriages with an unfulfilled desire to have children can be helped better than before (cf. the articles “Infertility and artificial insemination” and “Psychological counseling in the event of an unfulfilled desire to have children”).

The ideal of most married couples and the normal case today are the desired child and the planned parenthood. Couples want to be free to decide when to have a child and to have sexual intercourse without fear of unwanted pregnancy. Thanks to modern contraceptives, this possibility exists today and it is used by millions of married couples. Although it is usually the woman who takes action against fertilization (pill, IUD), both have responsibility. That is the basic moral starting point, and it goes without saying in most marriages.

Today, people get married quite late and have their first child late, often beyond the most biologically favorable age. This changes the family structures. The likelihood of having another child drops rapidly. A grandparenthood is a long way off. The gap between the generations is growing. Grandchildren like to have young grandparents, and grandparents, in turn, consider their children and grandchildren to be important for their happiness in life. If it is difficult today to be young - or at all - mother and father, then no one can accept it, especially the married couples themselves - it is best if they simply father a child.

As far as sexuality is concerned, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and care for young children cause considerable irritation (see article “Sex in Pregnancy”). In general, it can be assumed that after the birth of a child, the more loving the spouses were to each other before and during pregnancy, the quicker the habitual and desired sexual behavior will be restored, and if the child is wanted and not just as a burden, but as a a revitalization of the marriage is considered (see article “After the birth - when is sexual intercourse possible again?”). Incidentally, women with children have not less, but more frequent sexual intercourse than childless and generally more sexual pleasure - and more pleasure in life and love.

Parents' sexuality - children's sexuality

Are the children allowed to notice the sexuality of the parents? There is no reasonable reason for denying one's sexual activity in front of adolescents. That is not even possible. Even if they are by no means or should not be eyewitnesses during intercourse or other sexual practices, the children and adolescents will notice something anyway. The decisive factor is how they experience, evaluate and process it. Are you surprised, scared? Are you embarrassed or even disgusting, repulsive, ugly? Do you feel reset? What conclusions do you draw from this for your own behavior in love and sexuality?

Those are the really important questions. The answers are given by the socio-cultural traditions, the norms of society as a whole and the conditions within the family under which the children grow up. If sexuality is regarded as a sin, as forbidden, as low, as something that only young married couples are entitled to for the purpose of procreation, then the children will develop little understanding for the fact that older people - and the parents are regarded as such - still have sexual intercourse and Find fun in it. If the upbringing in the family prevents the adolescent from developing tender feelings, then one cannot expect any understanding on the part of children brought up in this way. They will inevitably respond negatively and blankly to their parents' sexual needs and actions.

Much has changed in this regard in the meantime. In most homes, attitudes towards love and sexuality are positive. The adolescents notice that the parents are tender not only to the children but also to one another. It is important that the children feel that parental love does not mean turning away from the children, but on the contrary increases the emotional wealth of the whole family. There is nothing that children suffer more than the absence of love, affection, and tenderness.

Of course, every family member, including mother and father, has their own and independent right to love and sexuality. Respect for parents also includes affirmation of parental sexual activity, during which they want to be undisturbed. The sexual encounter is a very intimate affair that affects the two partners and in which the other has no function. This intimacy is to be accepted in every way, just as parents later watch out for the first sexual activities of their young children.

Research results clearly show that adolescents who are capable of love and marriage are far more likely to come from their parents' homes, where there is loving care, where love and sexuality are not taboo, where children can talk to mother and father about love, partnership and sexuality when they are want it in which mother and father are tender to each other and have a positive attitude towards sexuality. A fulfilled love and sex life of the parents not only has a close effect on their own well-being, but also a long-distance effect on the next generation.


Prof. Dr. habil. Kurt Starke is a sociologist / social researcher and sexologist. He heads the research center for partner and sex research in Leipzig and is the founding chairman of the Society for Sexual Science e.V. Leipzig. His work focuses on youth research, family research and sex research. Since 1972 he has carried out empirical studies on over 55,000 people.

Recent book publications

  • Kurt Seikowski and Kurt Starke: Male Sexuality. Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers 2002
  • Kurt Starke: Fit for SexPower? A sexual science study on BRAVO GiRL! Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang 2001
  • Cornelia Helfferich in collaboration with Wilfried Karmaus, Kurt Starke and Konrad Weller: women live. A study on résumés and family planning on behalf of the BZgA. Research and practice in sex education and family planning. Volume 19. Cologne: Federal Center for Health Education 2001
  • (Collaboration) Gunter Schmidt (ed.): Children of the sexual revolution. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag 2000


Prof. Dr. habil. Kurt Strong
Reudnitzer Str. 6 A
04758 Zeuckritz

Tel .: 034361/55860


Created on June 14th, 2002, last changed on March 16th, 2010