(NEW YORK) — Can the cure for the common marriage simply be to have more sex? Some couples whose marriages have grown stale, whether it’s from the kids, money woes or a laundry list of other reasons, are trying a new and radical approach to saving their relationship: Have sex every day for a week and see if it rekindles the flame — a form of extreme couples’ therapy, if you will.
Once upon a time, Anna and Anthony Sinopoli said they were madly in love. Now, when they have heated arguments, Anna will threaten her husband with the “d word,” as in divorce. They have been in and out of couples therapy.
For Chantal and Derek James, it’s been a decade since they first laid eyes on each other — and it was love at first sight. Now, Chantal James takes care of their three little ones at home, while Derek, an IT specialist, goes to work.
Both couples say they used to be hot and heavy, but now they go long stretches of time without sex.
Some psychologists estimate that 15 to 20 percent of couples describe their union as “sexless” these days, which several therapists believe contributes to America’s high divorce rate, which hovers around 50 percent.
Family therapist Terry Real, who has counseled couples for 30 years, said he isn’t sure if sex could save a marriage but it can “certainly help out a lot.”
“One of the things that research tells us is that particularly happy couples report that they have more than usual amounts of sex,” Real said. “Sex is good for relationships.”
If this all sounds like a good plot for a reality show, well, it is. Lifetime’s new reality TV series, “7 Days of Sex,” follows 18 couples, all who agreed to put cameras in their bedrooms. The Sinopolis and the Jameses are two couples featured on the show and gained new insight into their relationship, such as wooing a wife is not as easy as wooing a new girlfriend.
“It’s too late for flowers and it’s way too late for chocolate, so, come on, sweetheart, what can I do for you?” Anthony Sinopoli asked his wife in one episode on the show. “You could start by giving me a 10-minute break,” Anna Sinopoli replied.
Chantal James complained of being exhausted from taking care of the kids full time. “I don’t think sometimes he understands how serious that is for me,” she said of her husband. So Derek James volunteered to become Mr. Mom for a day to give his wife a break. “It is a challenge, because everybody had different needs at the same time,” he said.
So the big question is: What do women really want? Respect, it seems. Real said Derek James taking over handling the kids for the day by himself was important because he could then understand what his wife’s world was all about.
As for the Sinopolis, Real said they are having a hard time re-kindling their marriage because Anthony Sinopoli feels like his wife, who loves going to the spa, is overspending on luxuries.
“There’s no shortage of women out there who get mad at their husbands and go shopping,” Real said. “It’s a kind of resentment shopping. And it does the job. It sort of gets them.”
On the show, Anthony Sinopoli did try to win back his wife’s affection with a little vacation — a camping trip — but it nearly backfired. He surprised her with a luxurious tent, but there’s no spa. At first, his wife was disappointed, but she grew to appreciate the gesture.
Something else the couples on “7 Days of Sex” learned about each other: While the men wanted foreplay, the women fantasize about “chore-play” — husbands picking up after themselves and the children.
“Don’t treat me like a maid,” Chantal James said.
But she did give her husband the spice he was looking for too, and hired a lap dancing coach.
It seemed as if these couples were really trying, and love might have been there all along. It was just about finding it again.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio