Let me tell you a story that will be a good segue into my topic today.
I have spent more than a decade broadly—and the past year intensely—immersed in caring for an elderly parent. I have had a front row seat to what it looks like to age poorly.
It has compelled me to better understand what it means to age well.
Choices matter, and I have a better appreciation for choices that fuel health and wellbeing compared to choices that do the opposite.
These sorts of things don’t register with 20-year-olds, because few 20-year-olds, especially relatively healthy and spry ones, can fathom what it will ever feel like to have sore knees, failing eyesight and declining mobility.
50-year-olds, though, can imagine such things. And I am 50. So my stage in life, as well as being an eyewitness to what daily life looks like for someone 80+, has presented me a golden opportunity to chart a different course.
I want to age well, my friends.
That sounds horribly taxing, doesn’t it? I mean, righting the ship takes a bit more effort at this point. But you know what? I have discovered the secret is in incremental improvements. Kind of like remodeling the house section-by-section, rather than gutting the whole thing all at once, which can feel quite overwhelming.
You can build something solid incrementally.
Let me give you an example.
One of the key things I have observed about aging is that leg strength is a linch pin to so many other things. If you can’t get yourself up out of a chair and move around freely, lots of other body systems start to decline.
Weak legs lead to weaker legs. Not getting up much leads to barely getting up at all, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle.
As a result, other aspects of a body and life start to decline as a result. The digestive system, which works best when we are regularly up and moving, starts to slow down and become irregular and unpredictable. Joints stiffen even more. Weight gain accelerates. Isolation can set in because of the sheer effort it takes to leave the house.
So I have observed that strong legs are vital. So how does one make sure they have strong legs for a lifetime? This is the incremental choice I have made…
From a sitting position in a recliner, I stand up without using my hands and arm strength to push off the arms of the chair. I do not push myself up, but rather I go from sitting to standing solely with my leg strength.
As an exercise, I do this 10 times in a row at least once a day; sometimes two times a day. And then I also make sure I do it whenever I am getting up out of a chair.
It’s incremental, but I’m confident that even I did only this one leg exercise for the rest of my life, I will greatly bank the odds in my favor that I will have significant mobility 5, 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years from now.
So imagine if I then add to that incremental activity more incremental activities to keep my body healthy, flexible and mobile? Quite revolutionary, isn’t it?
By now I bet you are wondering what all this has to do with sex. Here I am 500 words into the post. I believe we can apply the same philosophy of incremental changes to any area of our life, including our sexual intimacy.
Many couples want sexual intimacy to improve in their marriage, and it can feel like the only solution is to go big or go home. But what if you could make even small incremental changes that then build to more improvements?
Every marriage is different, but consider these four areas and see if there are incremental changes you can make:
If frequency of sex has been a struggle in your marriage, then intentionally figure out together a reasonable compromise. Then work in that direction. If one of you wants sex three times a week and the other one wants sex once a month, there’s ample middle ground to explore.
You both have to be willing to give. If you don’t, then what often happens is each person digs in their heels even more and resentment starts to overshadow any desire to have sex.
Instead of sex three times a week or once a month, how about once a week?
This is a complaint I hear. Sex has become predictable and routine, whereby a couple always follows the same pattern and uses the same touches.
Sexual intimacy has the potential to be quite the playground of delight, and you can begin to discover that by introducing even one new touch, one new position or one new technique. Incrementally begin to broaden sexual arousal and enjoyment for both of you.
This could be something simple as starting foreplay in the living room rather than waiting until the bedroom. Can you dim the lights, turn off the TV and begin to caress and kiss each other on the couch?
Or if you only have sex in missionary position, could you try a different position? One of the easiest changes in this regard could be the wife being on top, which can be quite arousing for both the husband and wife. It’s not a drastic change, but it’s something that can bring variety and spark new arousal.
How can you incrementally incorporate more variety in your lovemaking?
3. Clothed Affection
Being intimate lovers has so much to do with being intimate friends. How is your friendship with your spouse? Have one or both of you slacked a bit in the way you show interest and affection while clothed?
And I’m not just talking about sexual affection. If anything, I am talking way more about genuine connection that does not have a sexual undertone. This kind of companionship lends itself well to drawing the two of you together, which not surprisingly, makes for a smoother path to sexual desire.
Incremental changes in affection could be things like having more consistent date nights, showing interest in your spouse’s hobbies, making an effort to cook a meal together once a week or going on a walk together.
4. Exploration of Deeper Issues
Sexual intimacy in many marriages is thwarted by unresolved deeper issues that are below the surface—sometimes way below the surface.
Whether the root of these issues began years ago before the two of you exchanged vows or they are actually part of experiences within your relationship, what incremental steps can you take to start to unravel the grip these have on your intimacy?
When I think of unresolved deeper issues, I’m thinking of things like past sexual abuse, past promiscuity, skewed messages received about sex when growing up, pornography addiction, infidelity, and body image struggles. Overcoming the negative impact of these is not impossible, but without even some baby steps toward healing and growth, it’s going to be hard to develop a mutually-enjoyable sexual connection.
Incremental steps could be things like making an appointment with a counselor, reading a book that addresses the specific struggle, seeking an online or in-person support group, or digging into the Bible to see how God talks about sex in marriage.
Authentic sexual intimacy in a marriage is built on transparency, healthy vulnerability, trust and respect. The best sex in a marriage is rarely one dimensional. And rarely is it built—or rebuilt—with broad sweeping overhauls.
Incremental steps count.
What is one incremental thing you can do now to strengthen the sexual connection with your spouse? Do that thing. Then take more incremental steps along the way.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.