Yesterday, I introduced the topic of unmet needs in a marriage and how they can be met outside of the marriage. At least this is true for most needs. The problem is in the area of sexual needs.
The reason I put the spoiler alert yesterday for House is that last week's episode had open marriage as a central topic (and got me thinking about this topic, so hat tip to the screenwriters! :)). For those who don't know, an open marriage is one in which the partners are free to have sex with other people without it being considered cheating.
The physicians were largely appalled by the idea of an open marriage. However, the woman (the one who had asked for the open marriage) said the reason she wanted the open marriage was because she loved her husband. Huh? That's surprising to most people. But let's follow her logic for a moment. She said her husband meets 90% of her needs. The 10% can be draining and can take away from her appreciation of that 90%. And she doesn't want to let that go. I have to say that's a very valid point, although the solution of an open marriage is still questionable at best. But let's explore this a bit more.
Maslow puts sex as a fundamental, physiological need. It's more fundamental than relationships. It's at the same level as food, sleep, and breathing. Now, I would argue that we can survive without having intercourse, but sexual arousal will occur whether or not we like it (ever heard of a wet dream?). We can argue how fundamental a need sex is, but many theorists have emphasized the importance of sex. So I would say sexual need is something that needs to be legitimately looked at within a marriage.
The difficulty is the complexity of sex. There is the "pure horniness" factor, which solely deals with physiologic arousal. Then there's the sexual intimacy, which includes a relational element. Maslow puts that much higher on his hierarchy (meaning, it's not as fundamental to life).