One of the most frequent client complaints I get is about a sexless marriage. While sometimes, in case of illness or injury, a complete sexual experience is not possible in a partnership, it is always best to engage in whatever level sexual activity is available to the couple. Marriage without sex is vulnerable to temptation. Don't kid yourselves that you can be just best friends and have a lasting marriage. Sooner or later, temptation will arise, either from a partner's co-worker, another member of the church choir, (this happens a surprising amount) or a neighbor. The drive to have sex is powerful, and it will be satisfied, one way or another. Don't you want to satisfy your needs with your partner?
Keeping love and sex alive in your relationship is what keeps it active and healthy. A good sex life is like the roots that anchor a tree. To keep that vital energy going (and the sap rising!), you need to continually provide something new and interesting. Seduction can be as simple as causing your partner to ask what you've been doing that has you so energized and interested. When you're enthusiastic, you're seductive and at your most attractive.
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Relationships continue to develop in stages, even after the honeymoon is over. Most of us are only familiar with the early phases: meeting, dating, courtship and commitment. Some have experienced moving in, marriage and the exciting honeymoon phase, where everything is brand new and wonderful. This is what romantic songs and movies are all about; it has become what people associate with being in love. Extending the honeymoon phase indefinitely is what people fantasize when they think of "happily ever after."
However, when the all-absorbing process of planning a wedding and honeymoon is over and the couple come home to chores, work, money issues, etc., a post-honeymoon shock can set in. Real life is not as romantic as courtship and nuptials, and the work of developing a great marriage begins now. Because many people in this situation have not yet experienced relationships that have staying power, they have no knowledge or models of the later stages: development of intimacy, and settled partnership phase.
In the development of intimacy, love matures and becomes reality-based. It's the time where the magic fades; both of you begin to relax and show your innermost, less perfect selves. You're beginning to get to know each other, warts and all. You may feel vulnerable and awkward. In this stage, you may argue, struggle for power, become irritable and unreasonable. The fear that your lover will not like this more realistic view of you arises. As a result, both partners need and have trouble providing reassurance and personal space. Many relationships don't make it through this stage, because if the partners don't understand or expect this change, it can feel like something is terribly wrong.
Eventually, if the relationship survives, the couple develops a style of intimacy that works for them. A couple who has made it this far feels more secure. Now the settled partnership issues come up: how to keep love alive over a long period of time, how not to take each other for granted;, how to set goals beyond just being together and how to handle changes.
Settled partnership is the stage in which the pleasures of lasting love are realized. At this point, successful couples know they're loved as they really are. They have become experts in living life together. When all goes well, the couple have a feeling of security, intimacy and partnership that's truly satisfying and rewarding. When problems arise, they have the wisdom and experience to keep their commitment alive through cooperation and mutual understanding.
However, it takes several years to achieve the full benefits of these later stages. Unless you've been through a very long-term relationship before, it's hard to understand the difficulties encountered in the development of intimacy and the settled partnership phases. It's easy to be discouraged and give up. People often do much better in their second or third long-term relationships, because their early experience taught them what to expect and gave them a chance to acquire the necessary long-term skills. Because we lack education and experience, our early unsuccessful relationships often serve as practice for later successful ones. But if this is your first long-term relationship, hope is not lost!
Here are four simple steps to create a successful marriage - complete with lots of intimacy:
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1. Talk frequently and honestly to each other about your frustrations, sex, anger, disappointment, your appreciation of each other, the meaning of life... talk about everything.
2. Strive to work together to solve anything that comes up. Be a team and a partnership. Don't get stuck on who's right or wrong. Focus on what will solve the problem.
3. Keep your connection going through communication, sex, affection, understanding and concern for each other.
4. Have a sense of humor, give the benefit of the doubt and care about each other. Keep reading...
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