This is Part 2 of our series “What Altars Are You Sacrificing Your Sexual Intimacy On?”
A big shout out to Lori Lowe of Life Gems 4 Marriage for shedding more light on the problem of waiting for “ideal conditions” to nurture sexual intimacy in your marriage.
If someone had informed me three years ago when I started my research-oriented marriage blog that I’d be asked to write about sexual intimacy, I would have probably thrown in the towel back then.
But over the months and years, the more research I have done about marriage, the more I have learned about the tremendous impact sexual intimacy has on the quality of a marriage.
In short, experts say: Happy couples have more sex, and the more sex a couple has, the happier they report being. (See Want a happier marriage? Have more sex.)
If only it were that easy to hop in the sack and make every marriage hot and fulfilling. Most days—or weeks—it doesn’t happen that way for many, if not most married couples.
Instead, we are making sure the laundry is folded, the household chores are complete, the kids are shuttled to school, sports practice, dance recitals, music lessons, etc. The shopping and cooking must be done, and the lawn must be mowed. Work must be done, and trash must be taken to the curb.
Then, if there’s time, maybe some nooky.
The big problem with this scenario is we are excellent at filling our days until we hardly have time for sleep. There’s always one more email to check, one more phone call to make, one more load of laundry to go into the dryer. By the time they head to the bedroom, one or both of them is exhausted. Maybe tomorrow night?
(CBS recently shared a survey that showed 70 percent of couples said they were too sleep-deprived at the end of a full day or work and parenting responsibilities to make love.)
If having ample time isn’t the problem, maybe there are other “requirements” by one or both partners to make it a night to remember.
Do both partners have to be freshly showered, with teeth brushed and lingerie selected?
Do certain candles have to be lit while mood music is playing in the background?
Does all the laundry need to be put away?
Do the kids have to be asleep?
Does the game or news have to be over?
Does it have to be a certain time of the morning or evening?
Do they have to go out on a date beforehand?
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be sacrificing your sexual intimacy on the altar of ideal conditions. In other words, at least one of you is waiting for everything to be “just right” before initiating intimacy.
Back to the research.
There are no studies that show couples with the cleanest homes or the neatest yards have the best marriages, but there’s a plethora of research that says couples who have more frequent sexual intimacy have the best marriages.
If we are spending the vast majority of our time and efforts on all these extraneous things, we are saying that they are more important than the quality of our marriage, and that our marriage relationship comes at the end of a very long list from walking the dog to sweeping the garage.
What to do?
- Tell yourself that everything doesn’t have to be “done” to enjoy time (any kind of time) with your spouse.
- Make every attempt to fill one another’s emotional and physical needs buckets. Not having these needs met can be an obstacle to seeking or enjoying intimacy. For most men, respect is an especially strong emotional need.
- Reduce your commitments, order in, hire a maid, carpool, or do anything necessary to give you a little extra time, and then use it wisely. Your marriage absolutely depends upon it.
- Realize that you may be using these “requirements” as an excuse not to be intimate because of something else that’s bothering you. Communicate any deeper issues or concerns rather than sweeping them under the rug.
- Be willing and open to talk about sex and your desire to improve your sex lives. (See How to talk about sex.) Sexual communication is critical to making improvements. Talk about what each of you would like to enhance your sexual intimacy.
- Realize that you don’t always have to be in the mood to get started, and you don’t always need a large block of time. Schedule some leisurely time into your week, but also take advantage of shorter opportunities.
- Give sexual intimacy your attention and focus.
That last point is particularly important for women, who tend to have lower sex drives than men.
I wrote recently of a clinical trial in which women were given erectile-dysfunction pills or a placebo. While the pill was deemed ineffective, more than one-third of the placebo group said their sex lives significantly improved after taking what they thought was medication. The placebo, it turns out, was quite effective. Why? Participants were all highly motivated to improve their sex lives. Second, they were asked to have sex at least three times a month during the study.
The Nike campaign is right when it comes to making improvements in fitness or marriage: Just do it.
Lori Lowe lives in Indianapolis with her husband, two children, one crazy cat and two aquatic frogs. Sign up to receive free research-based marriage tips at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori spent two years interviewing couples across the country who have overcome significant marriage obstacles, from brain injury to child loss to military separation and much more. The resulting book is expected to release in early 2012.
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Copyright 2011. Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.