So continuing from the last two days, sex is a need at some level. If it's not being adequately met (and it's not met in many marriages), how can that need be met without destroying the marriage?
One option is masturbation, with or without porn. Christians have a lot to say on both masturbation and porn, often with passionate arguments on both sides. My supervisor recently gave a lecture to a group of female nurses on sex addiction. He started by asking them if their husbands were masturbating to an image of a beautiful nude woman on their computer screen, how many would consider that cheating. Only about 1/3 raised their hands. Adjusting the situation, the woman is now in the room, while the man is doing nothing different. Now the whole audience thought it was cheating. Sure, there are dynamics as to why the man would be in the same room as the nude woman. However, the action itself is the same, under slightly different circumstances.
This emphasizes the very fine line between what is considered cheating and what is not. Affairs are a clear example of being on the cheating side (that's the definition of affair). But what about blow-up dolls and other anatomically-correct tools to self-stimulate?
So then there's the option of an open marriage. Both parties agree that sexual needs are not being met within the relationship, so they agree to let them be met in other ways.
Interestingly, most people are more appalled at the idea of an open marriage than affairs. We are not shocked to hear spouses straying. We're not even shocked by pastors having affairs. Yet a couple has found (what they believe to be) a mutually satisfactory solution to a problem in their lives in which they can protect their marriage. The couple in House brought up this point. I think it's an excellent one and shows the hypocrisy of much of our societal judgment on sexuality.
This reminds me of a point a friend made about a group he knew of that attempted to "help" homosexuals. In the group, the people were encouraged to discussed ways they "slipped" into having a one-night-stand or anonymous sex. But talk about a meaningful relationship, and you're out of the group. Interesting approach that is very similar to this topic.
How can we approach the topic of unmet sexual needs without condemning and while finding a satisfactory solution. Open marriage and affairs are not particularly satisfactory on a theological, psychological, and emotional level. Masturbation for most people is not satisfactory on a physiological level (or emotional level due to the lack of emotional intimacy).
Many marriages have unmet sexual needs due to relational, physiological, emotional, and psychological reasons. As I provide therapy to these couples (or an individual), I would not be sure what to suggest. There does not seem like a good solution about ways to get these needs met.
Of course, to complicate and at time negate this whole conversation, it's also important to remember that sexual desire is also a symbol for other desires within a relationship and may, in fact, have nothing really to do with sex...