How do couples keep that fire lit for years of a healthy marriage? Sex/Intimacy therapist's 5 ways.
I am working toward a national TV show that teaches people what healthy marriages look like. My goal is to teach or have the show mentor how to build a strong marriage, the sorts of issues that arise and the healthiest way to resolve conflicts. Current television programs as well as magazine articles, movies and music don’t represent marriage very well. The area they do the worst job covering is married sex. In many ways, even though most of the single people I know want to get married, the marriage rate has gone down (especially among the uneducated). Couples who believed that cohabitating would keep their sex hot have been disillusioned and disappointed when they found that what keeps sex hot is the security and commitment to one another. Moving in together without a commitment to one another may have made the sex better at first, but once the couple began leaning more on one another and having expectations of one another, the sex dwindled just as it does in a marriage that isn’t working.
No matter how perfect you are for one another or how great your marriage is, you will get bored with one another from time to time. It is fascinating to talk with a couple that has been married for twenty years and try to imagine what they still see in each other. How can anything be novel or exciting, and how do they beat the boredom? What you must remember is, no one is the same person each day, each month or each year. A healthy marriage helps each person grow and evolve. I think it’s fair to say that the healthier the marriage the more you can embrace and expect each person to grow and change. The way they communicate their love changes too. My husband says things and touches me now in a way that is much deeper than when we first married. When we call each other from another city, our way of communicating is different than it was when we first married. I get him, and he gets me. Couples who have been happily married for a long time understand the concept of feeling “freer” with marriage than they were being single. A healthy marriage supports both people’s ability to become the people they want to become.
Great sex is highly correlated with understanding your partner. For women, the more secure and comfortable they are with their partner, the more unconventional and open to new things they will be. This affects their partner and is what makes their partner love sex with them. Men’s need for visual variety is much higher than women’s. Men may use this as an excuse for why they visit men’s clubs or invest in pornography, when in truth; this is a rote, “in the box thinking,” excuse. If couples talk about this need, they can both do things that will help provide variety and not lead to the potential problems that men’s clubs and watching pornography may cause. When a married couple is struggling with their sex life, the biggest obstacle is convincing the couple that they must keep talking about their sex life. One of the assignments I give each of my married couples who are unhappy with their marital sex life is to talk about their sex life for 10 minutes, four days a week. This proves excruciatingly painful for them, especially the women. Couples can go on “date night” and talk about their kids all night, but if one of them interjects, “Oh wait, we have to talk about our sex life now,” you would most likely hear silence at best, a groan at worst.
Some of women’s views about their sexuality are directly related to the way society affords more social accolades for being a good mom than they do for being a wonderful, intimate partner to their husbands (the media also projects husbands as being another child for the wife to look after). The fact that it is not valued by society contributes to women not valuing intimacy or sex as much as they do their children and their numerous other chores. Women don’t use sex as a stress reliever as men do, because it isn’t a stress reliever. It becomes a chore when a woman feels as if she has numerous jobs to do, and lists pleasing her husband as another one of those jobs. Many women don’t understand the importance of their sexual health and how important sex is to a healthy marriage. It isn’t uncommon for me to counsel a forty year old woman who has been married for years but has never had an orgasm and has no idea how to achieve one. For this woman sex is a stressor and a chore. It takes understanding on both sides; the wife needs to understand that sex is a stress reliever for her husband, and her husband needs to understand that sex may be an additional stressor to his wife. If a husband can help alleviate some of her other tasks, and she can do little things such as touching and embracing him more, it may help alleviate some of his stress without adding to hers. Many women will tell me the reason they don’t hug or touch their husband more is because the husband’s mind goes directly to the goal of having sex, and she feels “too tired to get into all of that.”
If we are going to build healthier families, we must begin with building healthier marriages. If we are going to build healthier marriages, we must build healthier communication. If we are going to build healthier communication among married couples, we must be able to talk about our sexual feelings with our spouses. If you are going to talk about your feelings toward sex, you have to become aware of your sexual/sensual self as a person. Below are a few suggestions to help you get started.
1. The brain is the largest sex organ. You have to start here to feel good about sex. If you are angry or anxious about a partner, you have to deal with the brain first. Anger that is held in does not create good sex nor does it help you feel sexy.
2. Your attitude. Embrace yourself—you don’t need to be a perfect size. If you have curves and hips, embrace them. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of women. Most of us have flaws, cellulite, acne, wrinkles. These “flaws” will not distract from a beautiful smile or a warm embrace. Take a lesson from your man. Men are much better at embracing and not seeing their flaws than women are.
3. Fantasize. The more you think about sex, the more you will want it, so be sure to take time to think about it. Read romance novels, listen to music, and watch movies. I caution couples not to share their fantasies unless they involve one another.
4. Get to know your body. Touch yourself so you know the sensitive areas of your body. Where does it make you feel good to touch? This knowledge is very important and helpful to the person loving you. Your partner cannot read your mind so let them know what feels good.
5. Foreplay. The name tells you what it is for. Healthy marriage foreplay starts first thing in the morning and lasts all day. Make sure you stay connected during the day with a quick call or text. Sexual intercourse is only one small part of sex. There are so many ways to be intimate in your marriage, why get hung up on only one?
Note to remember: Women have less stress when they are emotionally connected. Guys have decreased stress when they are physically connected. (Guys, talking and listening to your lady decreases her stress. Sex happens when women are NOT stressed).
It would be short sighted for couples to get married and talk about “till death do us part” if they didn’t consider what they were going to do to keep their sex life interesting. Yet, that is what happens to most couples who wed. Couples talk about their new place settings, TVs, and bedrooms sets, but are naïve about the issues that will have a huge impact on their ability to keep their marriage healthy. Married sex has the capacity to be the best sex, but only if the couple values its importance. In the end, it’s not the lifestyle of marriage that causes the snore factor. It’s the couple who sets it and snores. –Mary Jo Rapini
Special note: Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sex whether it is hot or not, is the opinion of the couple. Many couples have sex once a month in the same position and love it! Others feel unloved if it isn’t every day. It’s not a problem, unless one of the partner’s is complaining. You don’t need to swing from a chandelier to be happy. Mjo
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