Written by Bunmi Sofola - Vanguard, Nigeria.
Forget the old wives' tale that a married woman must be ever ready to satisfy her husband's conjugal rites' (how archaic!) but when push comes to shove, must a wife always be her husband's 'obedient servant' in the bedroom? Some months back, two couples were asked about their mismatched libidos, and how it affected their marriage.
While one partner claimed to be pretty much always in the mood, the other often felt pressured to have sex when they had little desire to do so. The challenge? For one month, the couples agreed they'd make love every time their partner made an advance. Would this highlight cracks in their relationship-or bring them closer together? Both couples kept diaries for four weeks.
COUPLE 1: Nathaniel, 38 an architect, and wife, Motoke, 40, an industrial nurse have been married for 12 years and have three children. While Nathaniel would like sex every night, Motoke says juggling work and family has sapped her libido, meaning she's only in the mood a couple of times a month. Their score: Week 1: twice; Week 2: once, Week 3: once; Week 4: twice. Total: Six times in four weeks.
According to Nathaniel: I'm so excited at the prospect of being able to make love to my wife more often that, on the first night, even though I'm shattered after 12 hours at work, my heart is racing as we climb into bed at 10.30pm; even more thrilling, Motoke actually makes the first move-I cannot remember the last time that happened.
I spend all the next day fantasising about what will happen later, but after a couple of glasses of wine, we both collapsed into bed and fell asleep. I'm too tired to mind. Sex is then off the agenda for a few days as it was Motoke's 'time of the month', but then she actually asks if we can go to bed. You bet!
The next week doesn't start well. I wake up in the mood when the alarm goes off at 6.30 am, but Motoke grumbles that she wants to go back to sleep as my snoring has been keeping her awake. It seems like we're back to our old ways. The following evening, I pick up a meal from our favourite eatery hoping a romantic dinner might relax her. Later, she's happy to cuddle but while I try to initiate love-making she's clearly tired and things don't go any further.
A couple of days later, we go to bed early, at Motoke's suggestion, ostensibly to watch TV, but a goodnight kiss turns into a passionate embrace, and we make love. The following night, Motoke climbs into bed naked, and is clearly 'in the mood' yet I feel so exhausted. Wow! This is the first time in our married life that I've turned her down. It gives me an insight into how Motoke must feel all those times I've been in the mood and she hasn't.
The next two nights, Motoke is out with family friends but on Saturday evening she tells me we're definitely on for tonight. I don't even have to ask-fantastic. But at the beginning of the third week, while hurriedly ironing my shirt for work I somehow manage to catch my 'manhood' with the iron -a lesson never to iron until you're fully dressed. I can't even think about sex over the next couple of days-Motoke appears relieved and amused. Three days later, we try again but unfortunately I'm still too sore. I suspect Motoke is a little frustrated, and that feels great after years of pestering her for sex.
We finally make love a week after the iron incident. Abstinence seems to have boosted our sexual appetites, and two nights later, we're at it again. Keeping a diary has been great for putting sex at the forefront of our minds and not allowing it to slip off our busy agendas. I love feeling close to my wife and, best of all, knowing that she now actively wants to make love to me, rather than just doing it to appease me. It's made us a lot more playful too, which is great as it doesn't always happen in a long-standing marriage.
Motoke says: I know there's no way Nathaniel will pass up the opportunity on the first night -and I'm surprised it only lasts for 15 minutes. He was feeling tired. We decided to give it another go the following night but after a couple of drinks, sleep becomes a far more appealing prospect for both of us. I'm surprised he's not taking greater advantage of the situation.
Perhaps our libido aren't as mismatched as I've always believed? But when I invite Nathaniel to join me in bed the next evening, his face lights up. Sex twice in one week is unheard of for us. The second week starts with me having a night away. Nathaniel is raring to go when I return. I'm tired but respond to his advances, because that's what we've agreed and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
The following evening I'm feeling a bit frisky and wait for him in bed- naked. I'm astonished when he rejects me. I feel a little hurt - but this is how he has felt the countless times I've rejected him. We're back on course by the end of the weekend. I seduce him in the living room by the dimmed lights of the TV. It's very romantic. The enforced five-day abstinence after Nathaniel's iron accident leaves me looking forward to our next love-making, and it's wonderful, really reminiscent of when we first fell in love. I think it's because having sex more regularly has brought us closer together.
This has really helped us reconnect, both physically and emotionally reminding us that we're not just parents but also lovers. With all the demands of being a working mum it's easy to lose sight of this, but I am determined not to allow sex to fall to the bottom of my 'to-do list' again.
COUPLE 2: Treasure 40, owner of a restaurant and Dipo 41, a legal practitioner have a 3-year-old daughter and an infant son.
SEX SCORE: Week 1: three times; Week 2: five times; Week 3: twice; Week 4: Six times. Total 16 times in four weeks.
According to Treasure: Our experiment doesn't start well. While I spend the first day excited about the prospect of guaranteed sex, plans are ruined when our baby is awake from 10.30pm to 3am. then I'm up with our other child at 6.30am. The next evening, I'm not sure I'll have the energy-but I start caressing Dipo and very quickly realise the answer is a resounding 'Yes!'
The following night, he looks resigned when I start kissing him, though he seems to enjoy himself afterwards. The night after that, realising he might take some persuading, I slip into a silky nighties that usually works. It's all very passionate, but I'm questioning whether it feels like a chore for my husband. At least when we make love normally, I know it's what he really wants.
He works so hard on Sundays so he could get through his back-log of work that I let him off, then spend two nights with our baby who has tonsillitis. But once the baby's antibiotics kick in, I'm back in the marital bed. While many women would want to catch up on sleep, sex actually gives me energy so we make love that night.
The following evening, we entertain friends for dinner and I can't wait to rip his clothes off afterwards. The following two nights, I'm impatient for him to get home from work. I know he's tired but I tell him love-making is a great way to unwind. But not having to work to get him into bed feels really strange-I'm missing the challenge.
My period slows things down a bit in week three. Then I come home from work to a grumpy husband and I know that propositioning him may make things worse-but, after going without for so long, I'm willing to take the risk so I start kissing him. It pays off. The sex is very passionate. As we enter the final week, I know I should feel happy that Dipo can't refuse my advances, but I'm realising our love-life is not as exciting as it was-I miss the chase. This experiment has made me realise how much I enjoy the excitement of not knowing whether Dipo will or won't succumb to my seduction techniques. Perhaps it wasn't so bad before.
DIPO SAYS: I haven't been looking forward to this month. I always enjoy sex but some nights, I'd rather relax in front of the TV. Of course I oblige under the terms of our experiment, but after the first few nights, I feel a bit like a performing dog. To say I'm relieved when Treasure doesn't make any advances-the following night is huge understatement. But when she has to stay up with the baby, I'm surprisingly disappointed not to be cuddling up with her in bed.
Once the baby is better, my wife is back on form. It's not easy getting in the mood on nights when all I want to do is sleep, and I even contemplate faking a headache. When she tells me it's her 'time of the month' the following week, I feel as happy as if she's told me we'd won the lottery!
Like most men, once I get going, I really enjoy it but I don't like feeling pressured and, with a demanding job and two babies, sleep is sometimes more appealing. Once she's able to make love again I don't give in too easily. Work has been challenging, and so are the children, so I'm not in a great mood when my wife starts whispering suggestive things into my ear. However, I'm glad she made the first move because what follows proves to be a great stress-reliever.
All the same, I'm glad when I get to the final week. Not being able to say 'No' to sex is beginning to stress me out - I feel a loss of control not knowing when I'm going to be asked to perform. It's a relief when the challenge ends. Sex should be fun, not a chore. Now I'm going to make her wait a whole week before making love to her again.