The Dead Zone

Joy records a home video. "We call this little hallway here the decompression chamber. I'm pretty sure what decompresses out of you when you're walking through here is any type of passion," she says on the walk to the bedroom. Focusing on their bed, she says, "The last time we made love in this bed was … never."

"In the bedroom, my wife is demanding," Mark says. "Before I got married, sex was a game. Now, sex is very limited."

"The last time that I had sex that I truly enjoyed was January 1st, 1988," Joy says. "Nothing happens anywhere in the house. Not on the back porch, not on the front porch, not on the dryer. I'll just do it anywhere at this point!"


Onstage, Dr. Phil asks Joy, "So, what does he need to do that he's not doing?" 

"Anything," she says, laughing. 

Rabbi Shmuley addresses Mark: "I want to ask you a question, Mark, if you don't mind. I understand that you've been afraid of having sex because you've had a few heart attacks, correct?"

"Five," he says.

[AD]"Five heart attacks, and you're afraid that if you have sex with your wife, you might die," he says, "which is, by the way " what a way to go!"

The group has a laugh, but on a more serious note, Mark says, "That thought has been an issue in my life. My condition was very fragile for a while. And just the thought of anything " sex, or anything aggressive " but to have sex and just imagining her having to … It's not what you want to leave your wife, that the last thing that happens is moving your cold corpse off the top of her."

"Well, it depends on what happened before that," Joy jokes.

"I see there's so much love between you, but you know, Dr. Phil, I see this very often, that couples have love but they don't have any lust," Rabbi Shmuley notes. "Now, what's the 10th commandment? ‘You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,' which means you sure as heck ought to be coveting your own wife. Lust is an essential part of a relationship, and what your wife is saying to you is, ‘I need you to touch me. I need to feel attractive. I need to be a woman. I'm not just the mother of your children.'" He asks Joy, "Have you ever described to him what it's like, what you feel like when you lie in bed, and he won't put his hands on you?"

"I do. I try to let him know, but it's usually out of frustration, and I get mad, and I say things I probably shouldn't say," Joy admits.

"Do you put him down?" Rabbi Shmuley asks.

"Yeah, I have," she says. 

"Which just emasculates him even further, making him feel even less sexy," Rabbi Shmuley says. He turns to Mark. "So, in other words, you don't feel a lot of sexual desire, correct?"

Mark says he takes a variety of medications that counteract sexual desire. "I could stop taking certain medicines, and I'm a whole different man when it comes to sexuality," he says. 


Dr. Phil has reviewed the list of nine medications Mark takes. "You're actually taking four different medications that are generally at cross-purposes with libido," he says.


"First off, understand that the definition of sex is not just the act of intercourse, but it also has to do with all the caring and sharing between you: the holding, the fondling, the touching, the being together in a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, every way," Dr. Phil says. "Would you agree with that?" he asks Joy.

"Definitely," she says.

"And you get none of that in any category at this point, correct?"

"Well, the hotel yesterday, but other than that ... " she says with a laugh.

"Dr. Phil's point is a brilliant point, and it's probably the most important point. You need to expand your definition of sex," Rabbi Shmuley tells the pair. "What I heard from you so far, Mark, are a heck of a lot of excuses. You're going to drop dead if you have sex. Your medications prevent you from feeling any kind of libido, because you keep focusing on the body being sexual, and Dr. Phil is saying to you, what does that have to do with a half hour of kissing? Are you saying your mouth doesn't operate? What does that have to do with giving your wife long, sensual massages, and arousing her desire and becoming excited by seeing how you can stoke those fires of desire? You've narrowed sex to such a confined definition that now you can dismiss it because you're saying, ‘I'm sorry, my body's not up to it.'"

Mark's cardiologist has given the green light for him to have sex with his wife, but Mark is hesitant.

Rabbi Shmuley says one-third of all American marriages are platonic, just like Mark and Joy's union.

Joy says she wants to change that. "I have a lot of desires that aren't being met," she says. "I'll tell you what scared me. The night that I wrote in to Dr. Phil, I was watching TV, and one of those online dating things came on, and it scared me that it even entered my mind: I wonder if there's somebody out there that would … and because of my spiritual background, I know that's off limits, and I know I'm married to Mark for better or for worse. We've been through so much in our marriage that we have overcome."

"What you're saying, Joy, is you can't live without affection. It's like food, clothing and shelter. It's not a luxury; it's as necessity," Rabbi Shmuley says. "Now, when you start saying, ‘I would never go in that direction,' of course we know you're not going to do that, but he needs to hear from you that you're beginning to think of other guys, because you're a woman. You're not a cleaner, and you're not a mom, and you're not a maid, and the more he hears that, the more erotic principals are introduced in this marriage. You know what it's called? Sinfulness. Believe it or not, one of the reasons that marriage becomes so boring, is that it's so predictable, so routine and so monotonous. Sinfulness means there's a part of you that can't be controlled, that can't be tamed, that he has to win over. It introduces the second erotic principal. It's called the chase. Most husbands get bored with their wives because they think that they can ignore them, and they're not going anywhere. You just said it yourself. You said, ‘My spiritual commitment means that I'm never going to do anything.' So he can continue to watch TV, ignore you, not buy you a Valentine's Day gift, because you're not going anywhere. He needs to discover the woman in his wife."

Dr. Phil asks Mark, "What's it going to take for you to reinvent yourself sexually? Because I believe days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months turn into years, and you've just kind of gotten out of the habit. She has said that she's like a virgin again! Right?"

"Pretty much, yes," Joy says.

Mark says, "We've been doing some things the past couple of nights and been seeing some things, and I think we're on the right road to starting. And I think it's important to say this green light from my doctor came in January, so there's been a long medical road, and sometimes everybody wants to discount that."

Dr. Phil assures Mark he's not discounting his health history. "My question was what do you need to do to reinvent yourself? You can play the victim, but thank God you do have a green light now. I'm not doing any kind of review of the eight years that you have been through. What I'm saying is the only time is now. What can you do to change this?"

"I think we've made a big start," Mark says. "[Rabbi Shmuley's] book is good, and this is a pretty big step right here."

Dr. Phil tells Joy, "You've got to give him a lot of credit for being here, on the Dr. Phil show, for reading the book. I assume you give him pretty good credit for last night?"

[AD]"Yeah, real good credit," she says with a giggle.

"The truth is that I think you get to the point where you have to behave your way back to it," Dr. Phil says. "And sometimes, people will say, ‘Look, if I've got to schedule it, if I've got to plan it, if I've got to set up a routine, that's not natural. I want it to be natural.' The stranger it feels, the worse you need to do it. You need to truly behave your way back to success." Dr. Phil agrees with the Rabbi that after 9:30 p.m., everything should stop but your time together. "You're not moms, and dads, and bill payers and problem solvers. That's your time. You really need to allocate that and behave your way back into it. And if it feels awkward, then seduce your husband. Don't reject her. Seduce your wife. Behave your way back into it."

Rabbi Shmuley tells Mark, "I'm not saying that your health is not an issue. We're all afraid of death, but notice that love and fear are opposites … You're going to be fine. And you don't have to make it aggressive. She's not looking for you to swing from the chandeliers."

"Actually, that's not exactly true," Dr. Phil says with a smile. He reveals that Joy expressed an interest in having sex with her husband in two areas outside the bedroom: the bathtub and the back of their SUV.

[AD]"So, it's not a chandelier, but it is a car," Dr. Phil tells Mark.

"And the windows are tinted," Joy adds.

"But the idea is you have a very willing spirit, and a very loving and devoted husband. What happened is you really lose momentum, and a lifestyle is a momentum. It's like a bowling ball rolling down hill. It takes a lot to turn it and get it rolling back uphill. We really wanted to give you a wake-up call, and that's why we gave you the book in advance of the show, so you could read it. I think it's a terrific book the Rabbi has written," Dr. Phil says. He explains that the importance of sex in a relationship is only about 10 percent when the sex is good, but when it isn't, or when sex has stopped, it becomes about 90 percent importance. It's really powerful in its absence.