Improving Sexuality in Marriage- the Why and the How

Offering a three step plan to improve sexuality in marriage: read and research about it, make a sex plan, and talk about it a lot!

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Twice in recent memory I’ve been with a group of my girl friends, all of whom are married,  and the topic of sex came up. 

Both times the general consensus seemed to be that they didn’t care much for sex. “Ugh! I don’t care at all about sex.” “I’m so over sex.” “I have no sex drive at all.” Shrug. 

This reminded me of an email I received in response to my recent ‘what is your biggest struggle with sex?’ question I posed last post. This reader said,

“My biggest struggle is that I just don’t care about it.  I’m not sure if that’s just being a tired mom, or if it’s because of a medication I take, but I have ZERO sex drive anymore.  I make it a point to make sure we have sex once a week for his sake, and I don’t mind it because I know that he likes it, but I feel like I could go without sex for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t even notice.  I wouldn’t say it’s a source of contention for us, but I know he would love it if I were more into it.  But it’s so hard to muster up the energy.”

Most questions I get about sex, I don’t feel at all qualified to answer (that’s why I’ll be interviewing a sex therapist to answer your questions later this month), but this one?  I think this one I can tackle.

Because I’ll be honest. I could have written this two years ago (minus the medication part).

This month’s reader question is “What has made your sex life go from ‘meh’ to ‘awesome?'” (And I’m appreciating all the responses! If you have an experience to share- please respond in this post).

Next week, I’ll be posting all of YOUR answers to that question, but this week, I wanted to open up and share my answer.

You ready for this?  Things are about to get personal . . .

grab your popcorn

I can honestly say that two years ago, our sex life went from ‘meh’ to ‘awesome.’ (and I didn’t even think there was anything wrong with it in the first place!)

As a result of this blog and writing this series, Rich and I conducted an experiment two years ago where we REALLY prioritized improving our intimacy. I’ll explain more below, but basically we drastically increased the quantity (having sex pretty much every other day) and the quality of our sex life.

And I could not have been more surprised or pleased by the results.

Improving sexuality in our marriage was so great for its own sake, but what I wasn’t expecting AT ALL was how much this transformation improved almost every other aspect of my life – my mood, my productivity, my happiness, my parenting and most certainly my marriage.

Everything seemed easier. I was less stressed, more quick to forgive, to love and I was just happier. Just all the time happier and more easy-going. Not to mention, to date, I think those were the best months of our marriage EVER (yes, sadly we’ve regressed, more about that at the bottom of the post).

It was like a domino effect and it surprised me to no end how drastically improving our sex life improved and enhanced every other aspect of my life.

I would have worked harder to improve our sex life sooner if I had known how much it would positively affect everything!

The biggest reason I have for those of you “low desire” partners to put a little more ‘umph’ into your sex life is that you really never know what the outcome will be until you try! Like, really try.**  (and if you are experiencing pain as a main barrier, please read this post)

Improving Sexuality in Marriage | Click through to read how to take your married sex life from meh to awesome

I’ve been chewing over what exactly we did that made such a big change and I’ve come up with three things:

  1. Reading and researching about it (This one is first for a reason!)
  2. Making a Sex Plan (not making sex dependent on our moods).
  3. Talking about it A LOT.

1 Reading and Researching

I can’t stop thinking about this quote from Steven Covey that says “If you want to make small changes, work on your behavior. If you want to make quantum leap changes, work on your paradigms.”

This has been SO TRUE for improvements in our sex life. I had to change mindsets I didn’t even realize were there, mindsets I didn’t even realize were a problem. Finally two years ago, after seven years of marriage, I started reading up on how to improve our sex life mostly to research for posts for this series on improving intimacy.

Everything I read helped a lot to give me new ideas and new mindsets about our sex life, why I act the way I do, why Rich acts the way he does and what has been holding us back.

I think I was scared of sex books before. I’ve been a bit of a ‘good girl’ my whole life (perhaps an understatement) so I had this mistaken idea that sex books were NOT something I should be seeking out.

But there are SOOO many amazing resources out there to improve your sex life. Sex books that, no matter your comfort level, won’t feel  icky or uncomfortable. Christian sex books, books to get a marriage going again.

The books I read were simply invaluable to me and were the exact spark I needed to make some changes. I simply would not have and could not have made the changes I did without these new ideas. Just improving the quantity of our sex lives really would have done little to improve the QUALITY had I not read these books.

So what did I read?

  1. I started with 31 Days to Great Sex, which I discuss at length here. My first sex book 🙂 A short, helpful, read from an openly Christian author.  Great one to start with if you are new to sex books. I don’t think any couple could go through those 31 challenges and NOT come out with a better sex life (also SUPER recommend her book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex).
  2. I took Jennifer Finlayson-Fife’s The Art of Desire e-course for women, which I discuss here. This isn’t a book, but it definitely helped to change up some mindsets and break up some of our roadblocks.
  3. I read the book Slow Sex. This was recommended by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and I have to give a warning here that the author does curse quite a bit and her descriptions of sex could be considered vulgar. I think I might have set it aside rather quickly had I not already gotten my feet wet with the above two resources first 🙂 HOWEVER, this book gave us my absolute favorite and most effective foreplay tool to date. And we use what we learned ALL the time. I’m really glad I read it.
  4. I read Passionate Marriage. This one starts out by providing the most helpful marriage mindset tool ever, differentiation, which I describe here, and then goes on to discuss sex. It’s a very large book and I’m still in the middle of it, but its already given me lots of new ideas. I just love how David Schnarch thinks about marriage.

If you feel like your sex life is in a rut, READ A BOOK!!!  You don’t have to read one of those, research your own. I promise there is a book out there for YOUR SPECIFIC problem- look it up (and then maybe make sure to sign into YOUR amazon account instead of your parent’s account to buy the book. otherwise you might get really embarrassed next time you see them).

2 Making a Sex Plan (not making sex dependent on our moods)

For years we never scheduled sex because it seemed so unsexy! Shouldn’t sex be spontaneous?

The truth is, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Left to its own devices, your free time will sprout legs and walk itself to the nearest screen faster than you can say, “What do you want to do tonight?”

And the real problem with not ever scheduling sex is that it leaves it up to our moods. If one or both of us is tired, lacking energy, or just in a kind of blah mood, sex just wouldn’t happen. And sadly, one, if not all of those characteristics describes one or both of us. . . um . . . . EVERY NIGHT!

I suggest talking it over together and making a plan of when and how often to have sex and then stick to it as best you can.

So. Two years ago, after diving into some of those sex books, we decided to have sex every other night for a month or so (hey!, that sounds like this month’s love experiment!) and I for the first time, sex wasn’t conditional on our energy level or moods. And it was great! In fact, 99% of the time sex improved both my energy level and my mood even if I wasn’t “in the mood” at the outset (which with juggling 3 kids all day? I rarely am).

Improving Intimacy in Marraige
sexy . . .

3) Talking About It-  A LOT!

Since we’ve been really consistent about having our weekly marriage check-ins (we call it inventory) every week for our entire relationship, and sex is often discussed, I always assumed we had ‘communicating about sex’ thing down pat.

Two years ago, I thought I understood Rich’s feelings perfectly.

But then we ran this series, which Rich was really involved in (being the one to actually interview the sex therapist we interviewed) and we talked and talked and talked about sex.

Then I read all those sex books and each book we read assigned specific questions to ask and discuss together. And we did them! (Rich read most of the books on his own too!)

Even though, I thought I knew it all, boy howdy did I learn a lot about Rich and his feelings in those few months! I learned there was so much more to learn about him than I ever assumed there was.  I thought I knew his feelings exactly, but I didn’t. In fact, I was often flat out wrong about how he felt about sex and why he felt it.

For example, I didn’t realize how important it was to him that he feels desired by me (or that just viewing himself as a desirable person mattered to him), or that if he had to choose between sex that *I* didn’t find enjoyable or no sex at all, he’d usually prefer to skip it altogether.

Improving Sexuality In Marriage

I’m so grateful for the whole experience of talking A LOT about sex. It REALLY improved our marriage.

Not only did it help to understand Rich’s thoughts and preferences- it really helped to explore and articulate my own! Never have I dug and dug and dug into why I feel about sex exactly the way I do.  I learned about myself and my likes and dislikes without judging myself one way or another and then I was able to articulate to Rich better than I ever have exactly what I like and don’t like AND why (the why was something I had never explored before).

But I’m so glad I did.

I think most times we discussed sex in our inventories, one or both of us were trying to push our own agendas on the other one, which really doesn’t lead to great communication. But being genuinely curious about what each other thought and wanted and cared about, learning for learning’s sake, made a HUGE difference.

 

So even if you think you know PERFECTLY your spouse’s thoughts and likes and experiences with sex, I encourage you to go deeper. Communicate and counsel together and maybe read a sex book together and see what comes out.

Even after knowing how much it improved my life and our lives,  I’m slightly embarrassed, but still won’t hesitate to say that we’ve slid back to our old ways since that time.

Peaks and valleys- that’s how life works sometimes. That’s how marriage works.  We’re certainly not perfect. Our energy, moods and agendas all get in the way. Its so easy to fall back into not prioritizing sex.

BUT all is not lost- that’s why I’m so excited for our love experiment this month, which if I haven’t mentioned is to have sex every other day for a month!**

So what do you guys think? Has increasing the quantity of your sex life also increased the quality? How do you prioritize sex?  And have any of you read any books you’d recommend about sex?

You can answer in the comments are email me at celeste{at}marriagelaboratory.com

 

 

** Important caveat to this month’s experiment- if you are the low desire partner and are legitimately feeling pressured to consent to have sex more often than you feel comfortable with, please don’t let my experiment or words make you feel guilted or pressured into doing anything that goes against your conscience.  Likewise, if you are the high desire person in your relationship, you need to be willing to let your partner move at their own pace. Communication from both partners needs to be encouraging and consensual, NOT coercive. Please see a therapist if you feel like your partner is pressuring you into sex against your will. 

 

3 thoughts on “Improving Sexuality in Marriage- the Why and the How

  1. For me, increasing the quantity will improve the quality of sex. Aside from that, it also changes the way we react with our spouses like it will lessen misunderstanding or other negative reactions. We became more soft spoken.

  2. Now I’m so curious, would you share the foreplay tool in the book you mentioned? Sounds like I need to order it and read it! Thank you for the great articles, my husband and I have recently discovered your site and have really enjoyed the 5 love languages challenge .

    1. Thanks Brooke! Without getting into too much detail, the tool is called OM or Orgasmic Meditation. It’s basically an exercise we use so I can get my head clear and in tune with my body. I think its really effective!

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