In July, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson said in an interview that he had not had sex with girlfriend Ciara in the three months they'd been dating. "If you can love somebody without [sex]," Wilson said, "then you can really love somebody." The interview sparked a new conversation about abstinence: Can quitting sex be good for a relationship even if you're not virgins? It's one thing to swear off chocolate pudding if you've never had it. It's a lot harder to try chocolate pudding and then say, "You know what? This is great, but I'm going to keep this out of my life." Curious if abstinence could still enhance a relationship if you've (1) already had sex together and (2) are married, I crazily committed my wife and myself to swearing off sex for two weeks to see what would unfold.
It didn't sound so bad in theory. Two weeks isn't crazy-long. When you're married and working full-time, it's not uncommon to come home, shove some food in your mouth, and pass out with a quick peck on the lips; you don't feel obligated to have sex after every night out like when you were dating. I figured the first week would go by quickly and week two would be a slog but we'd get through it.
It was terrible by night two.
Actually, day two was the worst day of the whole two weeks. The first day we had just agreed to do this, so things were still fresh. We had also had sex the day before, so what's a day off of sex between married people? But day two was a Saturday with nothing to do except hang around the house and stare lustily at each other. Why wouldn't we have sex right now? I couldn't think of a good reason, and neither could my wife. By the time Monday rolled around, going back to work was a massive relief.
The stereotype is that married couples don't have sex. I very much disagree with that (and in fact, a new study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior shows that married sex can actually be way, way better) but I do think that unmitigated sex access is, at least in my experience, something that is easily taken for granted. The second that access was taken away, all we wanted to do was have sex. We didn't want to cuddle on the couch and watch TV. We didn't want to read together in bed. We wanted to have sex. We came close a few times. Really close. If we weren't doing this in the name of science, there's no way we would've lasted.
We're not even a couple that only has sex in common, but we still had to be very careful about other things we did. Cuddling couldn't get too cuddly. Kisses had to be brief and to the point. Don't make out. Don't lead yourself into temptation. Deliver yourself from evil. We typically have sex a few times a week, but after only a few days, it was tough to ignore. Getting a good night's sleep used to easily trump boning, but now I lay awake thinking about sex. I guess the best way to describe how I felt after the first few days would be "dangerously horny." I would've ignored necessities like food and water or responsibilities like going to work if it meant we could have sex. But I didn't bend, because I had agreed to do this.
The only thing that kept us going by the second week was knowing the end was nigh. My wife simply said, "It sucked. And I never want to do it again," which is a fair summary. When we finally allowed ourselves to have sex again, it was explosive. I'll spare you the details, but I'll just say that my wife got her period on the last day of the experiment and that did not stop us. It felt like we'd just gotten married again. But I'm sure, just like after we got married, we'll slide into a routine again. I don't think we really got to know each other better in these two weeks. I loved her before this and felt very close to her, and I still love her and feel very close to her. Abstinence might work better for people who are still in the lusty throws of dating like Ciara and Russell Wilson, a way to force your dates to actually be dates and not just "Netflix and chill." For us, we'll stick with doing it every couple days, when we're not too tired, and if our sex life needs spicing up, holding off for two days should be plenty.
By Frank Kobola
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