Q: My wife and I have been married for 15 years. We have three children who are doing very well in school, church, and at home. We have an active social life and good jobs. The only thing that seems to be lacking is our sex life--and it's really lacking. We have sex once a year, if we're lucky. And it's usually under some sort of unique circumstances, too, like after somebody's wedding, after a big party, etc. We are very committed to family, and spend most of our non-work-time with the kids. Do we have a problem?

A: People have a problem if they believe and feel that they do. Only you can decide that. It sounds like most of your life is good. You may have unconsciously decided that sex just isn't important to either of you. Or, you may be avoiding sex for some reason. Research on healthy, happy couples points quite clearly to the importance of sexuality in the relationship--not wild, passionate, frenetic sex all the time; but a theme of comfortable sexual relatedness that permeates the relationship. Lack of sexual desire is the most common sexual dysfunction of the past 2 decades, and it usually occurs for 2 reasons: 1) people are afraid of the emotional intimacy that goes with a good sex life, and so they over-focus on their children as a way of avoiding this issue, or 2) they are over-committed and tired all the time due to a belief that more and more activities for themselves and their children equals a better life.

A study of healthy parents and parenting done by the National Institute Of Mental Health yielded some very important conclusions. Among them was a statement by parents who had raised healthy children into a healthy adulthood. These parents said, unequivocally: "Put your marriage first. Child-centered families do not make for healthy children or healthy marriages." We agree, as long as you realize, of course, that the other extreme is true, too (i.e., neglecting children is not good for them or us, either).

If you don't have time for sex, make time. If you are afraid of the emotional intimacy required to have a good sex life (i.e., sharing feelings of hurt, shame, fear, anger, lust, joy, etc.), then remember-- emotionalintimacy is required for any good relationship, including that with your children and friends. So if you don't do emotional intimacy well, you may be fooling yourself into thinking that the rest of your life is humming along just fine.

Take a risk.. Improving your sex life isn't just good for your marriage. It's good for your souls, as well.