Married Sex Doesn’t Have to Be Lame

The search string, “married sex is lame” led someone to my neck of the blogosphere yesterday. I’m not sure why that combination of words led to me because even though I’ve written a little about sex and more about lame duck marriages, I’ve never written that married sex is lame.

Because I don’t think it is.

Or at least, I don’t believe it has to be.

I guess it starts with a dissection of what is meant by “lame.” Since the Googler isn’t here to explain him-or herself (don’t assume it was a man typing that; I’ve actually heard from more women dissatisfied with their sex lives than men!), we’ll have to make some assumptions.

First, a diagnosis of lame could come from a deficit of either (or both) quantity or quality. A dissatisfaction with the frequency of sex (by one or both partners) could be further broken down by external causes – children, time, illness – and internal factors – resentment, shame, aversion. This may be the entirety of the problem, or it may coexist with a qualitative unhappiness with sex, where physical intimacy is described as boring, predictable or uninspiring.

And sex is important to a marriage.It separates the romantic relationship from friendship. It nurtures a physical and chemical (thanks to our good friend, oxytocin) bond between the partners. The best sex transcends the physical act and becomes an expression of vulnerability and a gift of shared pleasure.

When sexual satisfaction wanes (especially when it decreases unevenly between the partners), it’s something to take seriously. It’s either a sign that something is amiss or it’s a factor that can contribute to the erosion of a marriage over time.

Sex in a marriage is important.

(And please, please, please consider sexual compatibility before entering into a commitment with somebody. If sex is very important to you, be honest about that and find somebody who matches your needs. If you tend towards the asexual, don’t try to be someone you’re not. And also refrain from marriage until after the initial sexual energy of a new relationship has settled. The honeymoon phase is just that – a phase. Not a time to make life-altering decisions).

What Do You Owe Your Spouse?

And you don’t have to settle for the stereotype that married sex is lame sex, becoming more crippled with each advancing year. Of course, you also have to accept your sphere of influence – it doesn’t extend much beyond you. In sex, as with any other endeavor, you can only control your actions and reactions. But even that can be pretty powerful:

Expectations

Because if you believe married sex is lame, guess what kind of sex your marriage will have? If you accept that sex inevitably declines over time, guess what will occur in your bed? If you expect your sex life to continue to be the way it was in the beginning, when you had your oxytocin and dopamine boosters filled to the brim, you will perceive the inevitable ebbs as a sign of impending doom.

Expect sex within a marriage to be good (and even great) and accept that, as with anything, perfection is only illusion.

Prioritization

Think back to the early years of your sexual explorations – Could you imagine having to schedule sex at that point? It practically scheduled itself into every waking hour, at least in thought.

That emphasis on sex will change. Which is good. After all, would you entrust your health to a surgeon with the pervasive sexual fantasies of a 17-year-old boy? I didn’t think so.

Marital sex takes intention. It takes creativity and persistence (and often a calendar and a door lock) to fit it in to the nooks in our busy lives. That’s not a sign of impeding doom. It’s a sign you have a life.

Expend Effort

Anything worthwhile in life requires effort. You won’t have a great sex life if you don’t nurture a great sex life.

And be careful of habit. When external pressures require a decrease in sex for a time, it’s easy to simply allow inertia to carry you along that path. Once the external circumstances allow, make an effort to climb back up into bed. Or the counter. I’m not judging:)

Periodicity

Sex in a relationship will wax and wane. There will be periods of more sex and times of less. There will be phases of fireworks and spans of quiet coupling. Ride the waves. Trust that ebbs will be followed by flows. And allow the troughs to help you appreciate the crests.

And don’t blame those dry periods on the marriage. They would happen if you were single and on the scene too – you just wouldn’t have a convenient scapegoat.

Novelty

There’s a reason that people are generally not sexually attracted to family members (with or without a blood connection). When someone is too familiar, they are no longer sexually attractive. We gravitate towards and over-familiarization of our spouses. Partly from time and proximity and partly from a desire for a feeling of security. But security and passion are mutually exclusive. See your partner as he or she is – an independent person that can still surprise you.

Release of Negativity

If you allow it, a marriage can create quite a collection of perceived hurts and wrongdoings. If you carry those stones of displeasure throughout the relationship, you will begin to resent their weight. And bitterness is certainly no aphrodisiac. Instead of sleeping with the partner who has disappointed you or bruised your feelings, try having sex with the person you fell in love with. They’re still there.

Understand the Role

One of the truisms about gender differences in marital sex is that women often have sex because they feel close to their partner, whereas men have sex to become close. We all too often reduce sex to its mechanical components. And yes, the physical act and release is important. But it’s not everything. Sex is a shared experience, bringing closeness.  It is an opportunity for vulnerability and acceptance. It is a time to give and share pleasure.

Express Desire

One of the most common reasons you hear for an affair is, “It felt so good to be desired again.” That’s sad. We all have a need to be wanted and accepted. That’s perhaps the biggest gift you can give your spouse -the continued and open expression of desire along with the temperance of judgment.

“I see you. I accept you. And I want you.”

Self-Acceptance

It’s not just your partner you have to accept – it’s also yourself. It always makes me sad when I hear people (usually women on this one) bemoan their “fat” bellies and expanding hips and assuming that their husband finds them repulsive.

Another truism comes to mind here – “Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear.” When we love ourselves, we invite others to see us in kind. Don’t give society the power to define what is sexy; you create your own sexy. And then own it without apology.

Curiosity and Openness

We become bored when we are boring. Harsh, I know. But true. It’s easy to build boxes and then live within the walls. Through away the recipe. Mix up the dance steps. Play. Explore together. Be curious rather than conclusive.

And I leave you with…

Top ten reasons married sex is the best sex:

  1. Practice makes better. And you’ve had plenty of opportunity to rehearse.
  2. You can help someone you care about feel wonderful. And they can return the gift.
  3. You don’t have to decline an invitation for sex just because you are wearing the underwear with holes in them or you forgot to shave your legs.
  4. Sex is better when you’re relaxed and comfortable being open and vulnerable, both of which come easier when you’re with somebody you know and trust.
  5. You’ve already been accepted by your partner so you can put away the worries of does he/she like me.
  6. You have a shared sexual history. So not only can you engage in fantasy, you can also engage in memory.
  7. There is less pressure to appear perfect, either in appearance or performance, since you’ve seen your partner both at their best and at their worst.
  8. Vacation sex.
  9. You have opportunities to explore and refine, selecting what works and discarding what doesn’t.
  10. Because everything is better with love. Even the naughty stuff.

And I hope the Googler in seek of help can discover that for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Passionate Protection

One of the most common complaints in a relationship that has gone the distance is the lack of excitement. Of passion.

The spark fades and is replaced by a sense of comfort.

Of predictability.

It’s natural to look for stability in our relationships. We want to feel safe. We want to limit that oh-so-scary feeling of vulnerability. We may be willing to trade some of that early excitement for the comfort of knowing that our partner will be there and that we will be safe. We exchange passion for security.

The problem with this transaction is that security is merely an illusion. There is no such thing as a relationship that is divorce-proof. There are no guarantees. We are trading real goods for the promise of a return that may never come.

It makes sense to take certain precautions. Much like most pay their rent on time so they don’t have to live with the daily fear of being evicted, it makes sense to be cautious in love. But not so cautious that you trade all excitement for the false promise of invulnerability. Even perfect rent payments do not protect your home from burning down around you.

There are problems inherent with assuming too much security. You become complacent. Bored, even. You may begin to seek excitement and novelty outside of the the relationship. Eventually, your internal narrative regarding your spouse changes to match your perceptions, reinforcing the idea that the lack of passion is par for the course with him or her. The very assumption of stability can erode away the foundations of a relationship.

You can maintain passion. You can draw out excitement. But it does mean letting go of the illusion of security. It means protecting your passion even when it can be scary.

Try listening to your partner with an open mind rather than leading with assumptions. He or she will surprise you if you allow it. When you believe you know all there is to know about someone, you begin to fill in the gaps automatically. But if you listen, really listen, you may discover something you didn’t know. Of course, that something may also be against your preferences. There’s the trade-off.

Look at your partner as an individual. Watch them in their element. See the best side of them come alive. It may or may not be a characteristic that you normally witness in them. See it. Appreciate it. Recognize that you are a team but not a single entity. Your partner is his or her own person. As you are yours. Maintain some separation, some mystery. In that way, you always leave room for discovery.

Be proactive about maintaining experiences as a couple outside of routine. Routines allow us to function but they also become suffocating if you never deviate. Try new things. The excitement will transfer to the relationship. Embrace a certain amount of unpredictability. Don’t restrain laughter. Be willing to try and look foolish.

Don’t depend upon your partner to create passion. Find it yourself.  Explore the things that bring you joy, that give you purpose and allow you to create. Your partner may not share your interest in gardening or ju-jitsu, but you can share the energy that  it brings you. Take responsibility for your joy. Passion has a way of being contagious. Pass it on.

Amusement parks have created an entire industry around the balance of security and excitement. They know how to give you the feeling of vulnerability, with its associated joy when you emerge unscathed,  without too much of the risk. You can find that balance in a relationship as well.  Let go of the illusion of security. Actively seek excitement and novelty within the relationship. Protect your passion as diligently as you protect your heart.

Related: Of Teddy Bears and Security Systems

Lisa Arends on The Moffett Message

The Moffett Company was founded “out of a desire to see businesses and their employees thriving, not simply surviving; passion is the centerpiece” of their message. Sean Moffett coaches his many stellar clients to not let fear make their decisions and how to create opportunity out of hardship. If you’re at all familiar with my writing, you know that those are familiar themes for me as well as I discuss how I used my tsunami divorce as a springboard for positive change.

I am honored to be an invited guest on Sean Moffett’s live, on-air broadcast on November 21 at 12:00 EST. You can view the show and participate in the live chat on The Moffett Message. Check it out and learn how you can choose to maximize your life!

Lisa Arends on The Moffett Message
Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 12:00 EST

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