No wonder your spouse isn't in the mood.
S-E-X. Those three little letters cause so much stress and conflict in relationships.
Couples hear endlessly that having frequent sex in marriage is "essential" for marital bliss. As a result, they're constantly worrying and evaluating whether they're having enough.
But, what if I told you that the key to a happy marital union is less about sexual frequency, and more about fostering a profound, intimate connection with one another?
In a recent YourTango "Happy, Healthy Sex In Marriage" survey, only 3 percent of experts said "frequent sex" or "frequent orgasms" equated to a happy, healthy marriage. So what exactly did they deem as an important factor in creating a successful relationship? Forty-seven percent said a "soulful, intimate connection" and another 44 percent of experts said "prioritizing pleasure for both partners."
Which means sex "just to have it" is not even close to enough, despite what all the "frequent sex" advocates would have you believe.
Let me say it again ... loud and clear: Frequent sex does not equal a happy marriage!
People fall on a "hot" to "cool" continuum for how often they enjoy sex. Conflicts arise when partners fall on opposite ends of that spectrum.
When their sex drives don't align, they often feel pressure and resentment — which completely kills intimacy and desire even more. Which is tragic because there is NO magic number for intercourse, so stop arguing about who's right and wrong — it's a personal preference!
I've seen couples use sex as a weapon every which way — withholding it as punishment, feeling obligated to do it, or using it as manipulation to get what they want. It's only when sex serves the purpose of deepening a sense of desire, devotion and connectedness that it actually enhances "marital happiness."
Take a moment to reflect. Do you use the frequency of sex in your marriage to gauge your current relationship satisfaction? Don't be misled, quantity is not better than quality!
Don't get me wrong, great sex, at a frequency that satisfies both partners, is definitely important for long-term relationship success, but it's not the foundation.
Whether it's sexual or nonsexual — creating a soulful, intimate connection with your partner involves opening yourself up, being affectionate, and creating a sense of loving familiarity. It takes time to build a stronger and more meaningful marriage, so consistently tending to keeping intimacy alive is crucial in your efforts.
Here are some tips help you better cultivate your connection:
1. Measure your "relationship happiness" in a new way
Rather than evaluating your marital happiness based on how often you jump in the sack, ask yourself: How close and connected do we feel?
Rate your "relationship satisfaction" today on a scale from one to ten. Next, ask yourself: What would boost our fulfillment one point higher? Do you need a hug? Do you want your partner to cook a meal for you? Maybe you just want your significant other to inquire about your day.
Now it's time to communicate. Pick a stress-free time to tell your partner what would make you happier. Remember, he or she is a not a mind reader, so you have to talk openly and non-defensively. Identifying each other's needs becomes easier when you make a habit of checking in with yourself and your partner on a regular basis. It also helps a great deal when you learn to speak each other's love languages.
2. Show your partner a little appreciation
Do you really notice all the amazing "little things" your partner does to improve your life? If not, it's time to bring more awareness to your relationship!
While battling the daily grind, couples often forget to mindfully appreciate the little ways their partners support them. Rather than taking these things for granted, start a new routine before bed each night by saying "thank you" for one specific moment that day. Make an effort to express genuine gratitude and appreciation for the small things, such as when your partner puts the kids down for the night, when you laughed together, or when you shared a "good morning" kiss.
Feeling appreciated has a powerful and lasting effect on enhancing intimacy in your relationship. In fact, 56 percent of YourTango's experts said people feel most attracted to their partners when their spouse "makes them feel needed or appreciated" ... and on the other side of that coin, 40 percent said "feeling unappreciated by your partner" is the number one cause of infidelity. So, gratitude matters!
3. Make time for pillow talk — clothing optional!
There are two stereotypical differences, between men and women, that often play a big role in a couple's sex life. It's important to consider that many women crave emotional intimacy outside of the bedroom before connecting inside of the bedroom. The second difference is that for some women, it can take up to 20 minutes to reach full arousal, while this process is much faster for many men. So while hubby is ready to go, wifey is still thinking about her to-do list, and if he doesn't help her tackle that to do list first, sex may not happen!
Combat these hindrances to sex by prioritizing pillow talk. Go lay in bed together — the fewer clothes the better! Try it when you first get home from work before you're "too exhausted." The one rule is that there is ZERO pressure to actually have sex. Just give yourselves 20 minutes to connect — touch, cuddle, massage, kiss, fill each other in on your days, smile at each other — perhaps, this is all you need for things to get hot and heavy!
For many couples, I suggest keeping boundaries about no "kid talk" or "work talk" during pillow talk. If you need an instant boost of intimacy, hold each other while you reminisce about your first date or the first time you slept together.
Remember, marital happiness is not a numbers game.
Your relationship loses when you reduce sex to X number of sex acts = love. Your relationship wins, however, when sex becomes part a bigger and better goal — developing and sustaining soulful, intimate connection.