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Monday, November 23, 2015
Discover the key factor that distinguishes a great sex life from a poor one.
The fact that our society has largely separated sex and marriage does not change the fact that God created sex as the ultimate expression of marital intimacy. A healthy amount of sexual intimacy is essential to the strength and longevity of every marriage, yours included.
But how much sex constitutes a "healthy amount?" It's a question that every couple needs to answer for themselves, of course, because needs and desires vary greatly from person to person.
I can however, tell what most couples say is enough sex based on the 450 responses to my Sexual Satisfaction Survey. (Get the full report in my free download here).
Before I share with you the numbers from my survey, I want to stress that sexual frequency is not the sole determining factor in sexual satisfaction. If you aren't both actively engaged and fully aiming to meet each others needs during lovemaking, then regardless of the frequency, it's not likely to lead to a fulfilling sex life. Those needs will vary greatly between men and women, between the high-drive and low-drive spouse, the stage of your marriage, and also depend on what is happening in your marriage outside the bedroom.
Still, I would argue pretty strongly that in most cases, sufficient sexual frequency is a minimum requirement for a healthy, happy sex life.
Now let's look at what constitutes "sufficient."
The Once-a-week Wall
In my survey results, there was a direct correlation between sexual frequency and sexual satisfaction. That is, more frequent sex led to a higher level of reported sexual satisfaction for both husbands and wives.
Overall, the people who took my survey reported an average of about 7 sexual encounters per month or a little less than twice per week. (I didn't ask people what qualifies as a sexual encounter.)
Here is the interesting part: there is a stark divide in the numbers, as portrayed in the chart below. It's what I call the "once-a-week wall."
Overall, couples who had sex more often than once per week were 12 times more likely to report having a great sex life than those having sex less than once per week. Specifically, 59% of those having sex more than once a week gave themselves an 8, 9 or 10 in overall satisfaction on a 10 point scale ("a great sex life"). Only 5% of those having sex less than once a week reported having a great sex life.
There was a similar dramatic divide in those reporting a poor sex life (1, 2 or 3 on a 10 point scale). Couples having sex less than once per week were 11 times more likely to rate themselves as having a poor sex life. Specifically, 69% of those having sex less than once a week reported a poor sex life, but only 6% of those having sex more than once a week were in the group with the lowest satisfaction.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you are a husband or wife who has made sex a low priority, for whatever reason, it's time to change that. Begin with being aware of how much sex you are having, then set a goal to improve on that, ultimately working toward having sex at least twice most weeks.
Figure out what is impeding sexual intimacy in your marriage and make the necessary changes to eliminate those impediments. Being your spouse's only valid avenue of sexual satisfaction is both a great privilege and sobering responsibility.
If you are a husband or wife whose spouse does not seem interested in more frequent sex, who even maybe is completely withholding sex from you, it's time for some direct dialog on the subject. Or maybe it's time for an additional, and perhaps different, direct dialog.
And it's time to get God involved in some three way conversation. He has thoughts on this subject that I'm sure he would like to share with you and your spouse if you invite him to.
If whatever you have tried in the past isn't resulting in the progress you want, it's time to try a different approach.
Do What it Takes
I'm not suggesting that you beg more sincerely or shout more loudly. No, I'm talking about having a sincere dialogue about what's missing in your marriage on more than just a sexual level. Is there enough intimacy in other forms? Emotional? Spiritual? Do spend enough time together? Do you get real with each other?
I often find that sex is simply a barometer of what's happening elsewhere in the relationship. Step back and take an honest assessment of the whole of your marriage.
There are a bunch of my marriage blogging friends that focus on sexual intimacy in marriage. Check out what they have to say about how to improve your sexual relationship and how to deal with high-drive, low-drive issues, among other topics. Here are but a few suggested resources:
- The Generous Husband
- The Generous Wife
- One Flesh Marriage
- The X-Y Code - Decoding the Male Mind
- Intimacy in Marriage - Encouraging Christian Women toward Healthy Sexual Intimacy
- Hot Holy & Humorous - Sex & Marriage by God's Design
- Forgiven Wife - Learning to Dance with Desire
- Bonny's Oysterbed - Encouraging the Low-libido Wife through a Christian Lens.
Bonny has two posts from yesterday and today that are very timely to our discussion: Starting the Sex Conversation, and Gently Blunt Sex Conversations. I highly recommend these thoughtful posts.
Is my finding of the once-a-week wall surprising to you? Does it line up with the experience in your own marriage? Leave a comment.
If you'd like to see more fascinating results from my recent Sexual Satisfaction Survey, you can download my free e-book from Noisetrade.
The e-book digs into the intimate lives of 450 marriages with the purpose of helping you have a meaningful dialog with your spouse about sexual intimacy. Each section lists key takeaways from the findings and offers questions that can prompt open conversation.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Get my brand new free eBook "How to Have a Succ-sex-full Marriage" now!
New Reader Poll is any indication, it's a universal desire.
I actually think intimacy should be the main goal of every marriage, as I explained in What If Intimacy Matters Most.
It's important to grow together in all forms of intimacy, whether it be emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial, intellectual or whatever. But sexual intimacy is the only form of intimacy uniquely designated by God to be enjoyed inside the bounds of the marriage covenant. You are your spouse's only valid avenue to sexual fulfillment, and that makes physical intimacy both a wonderful privilege and a significant responsibility.
Intimacy Requires Vulnerability
My observation is that many couples struggle in their sexual relationship, settling for a less-than-satisfying sex life. Why? Because your sexual relationship is a place of extreme vulnerability, and vulnerability brings with it the opportunity for hurt feelings, misunderstandings, accusation and shame. This makes it hard for many couples to communicate constructively about sex, choosing instead to keep their true feelings hidden from their spouse.
If that describes your marriage, or if you just want to take things to a new level, I've got a great resource for you that can prompt a deeper dialog with your spouse about the physical intimacy in your marriage. It's a free e-book, How to Have a Succ-sex-full Marriage, available for download through Noisetrade books. Based on the results of a sexual satisfaction poll I ran on my blog and social media outlets, the findings represent an inside look at the intimate lives of 450 marriages.
Intimacy, in whatever form, requires vulnerability. Perhaps physical intimacy requires greater risk than any other, but the rewards are greater too. Lovemaking is where intimacy in your marriage reaches its zenith. God designed it that way.
So I encourage you to get my new e-book and use it to help you engage with your spouse in meaningful and helpful conversations about the sexual intimacy in your marriage. Each section includes key takeaways from the survey findings and questions to prompt discussion.
One of the findings from the poll was that only 7% of respondents ranked their sex life 10 on a 10 point scale. That means for 93% of us, there is room to grow in sexual intimacy. Truthfully I believe even the 10's have room to grow. There is always more intimacy available.
In a recent post, Sexual Settling, blogging friend Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband talks about why it's important not to just settle for the sex life you have. I agree with what he says, "Failing to have the sex life God intended seems to me as wrong as failing to follow His will in any other area of our lives."
Sexual intimacy is important to every marriage - to YOUR marriage. God designed it that way. He designed our bodies for pleasure and then asked us give them away to each other for our mutual satisfaction and fulfillment.
I hope you'll get my new e-book, and I hope and pray it will help in your journey toward deeper sexual intimacy in your marriage. And I hope you'll come back here after you've read it and let me know what stood out you or surprised you in the findings. Or feel free to send me an email. My contact info is here.
Monday, November 2, 2015
A lesson in the physics of marriage.
I have this strange habit of gleaning marriage principles from some rather unlikely places. In today's case,we find ourselves at the curious intersection of George Gershwin and particle physics.
Don't worry, I'm not going to do a deep dive into quantum mechanics or particle wave theory. I am, however, going to introduce you to something called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, named for early 20th century German physicist, Werner Heisenberg. Grossly speaking, Heisenberg postulated that at the quantum physics level (you know atoms and electrons and all that), the mere act of observing particles affects their behavior.
His theory was a particular application of something known in science as "the observer effect."
The act of observation introduces changes to the observed.
It just so happens that this principle also applies to marriage.
I've written here before about the importance of watchfulness in marriage. In simplest terms, watchfulness is about keeping your marriage off auto-pilot. It means being attentive to and intentional about the most important human relationship in your life - the one with your spouse.
Watchfulness starts with watching yourself by being aware of how what you think, say and do affects your spouse. There's so much incidental damage done in marriage simply because we aren't aware of how much of an impact we have on our spouse.
Watching over your marriage means guarding and growing in every dimension of intimacy: physical, spiritual, emotional, financial (yes, that's a thing) - the whole of your marriage.
Watchfulness also includes watching over and watching out for your spouse. Is he/she being crushed by busyness? Are there relationships that are draining the life from your spouse? Does he/she take sufficient care of themselves physically? It's not that you attempt to control these things, like a parent might, but you are simply helping your spouse be watchful too.
Watchfulness in a nutshell: pay attention!
Enter George Gershwin
You might be surprised how much your spouse actually longs for you to watch over them, husbands and wives alike. Watchfulness tells your spouse that you care, that you value your relationship and that you are willing to put forth some mental, physical and emotional effort to maintain and grow intimacy.
George Gershwin, the famous early 20th century composer was ironically a contemporary to Heisenberg. Gershwin penned the famous song, Someone to Watch Over Me, in 1926, a year before Dr. Heisenberg introduced his uncertainty principle. A bit of historical serendipity for today's post. Here's an excerpt from the song.
Someone to Watch Over Me
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could always be good
To someone who'll watch over me
Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key
Won't you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me
The song may be a bit dated, but the principle remains. Everyone wants to be "watched over" in some way or other. It's part of the oneness of marriage.
The Double Blessing of Watchfulness
Not only does watchfulness help you take care of your marriage by keeping you off auto-pilot, but it also brings into play the "observer effect."
The mere fact that you are being careful to observe what's going on in and around you, your spouse and your marriage, will begin to affect positive change in all three.
Let's look at a few examples of how this could play out.
1) When A Kiss is NOT Just A Kiss
(I'm using an example here of a husband arriving home from work as an illustration, realizing that in many cases wives also work outside the home. The example could certainly work the other way around as well.)
Let's say a wife decides to be intentional about the way she greets her husband when he comes home from work by meeting him at the door with a long embrace and a passionate kiss. Let's assume for the example that his homecoming had been little noticed by her in the past. The first day this new little ritual catches him completely off guard, but in the best way. Nice surprise! When it happens again the second day, he makes a comment about how much he enjoys this kind of welcome home. By the third day, he is anticipating that kiss on his drive home, eager to take her in his arms and reconnect physically in that small way after their day apart. For her, she now watches the clock in anticipation of his arrival and makes sure to be available during the time frame when he usually comes through the door.
It costs her 30 seconds, a little vulnerability, and a dose of intentionality, but this small investment pays great dividends for both of them. It's a small example, but it shows how a small act of watchfulness can build anticipation, grow passion and create an atmosphere of intimacy.
2) A Compliment a Day
For another example, consider a wife who is struggling with self-image issues (no real stretch to imagine this common situation). Her husband, who sees her as beautiful and radiant, decides to get intentional about helping her see herself as he does. He sets it in his mind to pay her at least one sincere compliment on her appearance every single day. While she may never come completely around to his way of thinking, his frequent encouragement makes her feel cherished and attractive in his eyes.
Here are a few examples from my own marriage.
3) The Safety of Proactive Protection
I tend to be pretty proactive in my role as Jenni's protector. I don't do it in a heavy handed or interfering manner, but I do watch out to see that she doesn't get over-committed or over-stressed. She has come to value and invite my input in this regard, because she knows I have her best interest in mind. It makes her feel actively taken care of and safe.
4) Knowing What's Up
We are both attentive to what's going on in each other's lives and intentional to inquire about it. I'll ask her about her morning in children's church. She'll ask me about an important work meeting or project. I'll ask her about her church staff meeting or her lunch meeting with a friend. She'll ask me about my blog or offer her thoughts on a post. Paying attention to the details of each other's lives in this way, builds a cycle of intimacy and that fuels a deep and abiding connection between us. It's now become somewhat second nature to us both.
Maybe these examples don't ring true for you. That's not really the point in sharing these simple examples. You have to decide what watchfulness looks like in your own marriage and with your own spouse.
There are dozens of ways in which being watchful over your spouse could cause a positive change in your marriage. The point is to pick something and start there. Think about what would say "I love you" to your spouse, and then do that on a consistent basis.
Monday, October 26, 2015
The closer your spouse moves to your love, the further they move from their fear.
The reason for this focus on fear is because of what it does to us and to our relationships. Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear antidote for fear: love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.Fear Fills a Love Void
1 John 4:18 (NIV)
It's important to remember that the way love is expressed is typically different for men and women, and if you aren't expressing love in the way your spouse needs it expressed, then there is a love void. For many men, things like respect, being sexually desired and being trusted top their love list. Many wives, on the other hand, want emotional intimacy, time and attention, and to feel cared for in order to feel loved.
It takes determined effort to love intentionally in the way your spouse most feels loved, because our default is to love in the way we want love expressed to us. Thus you may think you are communicating love, but your love is not being received by your spouse.
Where there is an absence of love expressed in a marriage relationship, fear rushes in to fill the void.
What kinds of fear and insecurities fill a love void?
- He doesn't love me any more
- She isn't attracted to me
- I'm not good enough
- He doesn't think I'm worth his time
- She doesn't respect me
- He/she wouldn't still choose me
It's interesting to me that the Scripture above says that "perfect" love casts out fear.
What is perfect love? It's the unconditional, overwhelming and powerful God-kind-of-love that pursues us relentlessly, even in our brokenness and weakness, even when we reject Him. In the face of that kind of love, fear can't last. It just can't.
But my love is not so perfect. I can be selfish. I can put conditions on my love. I can be forgetful and thoughtless.
Still, in all my imperfection, I realize that the closer I come to giving my wife the kind of love God gives me, expressed in the ways that are meaningful to her, the more fear will be forced out of her thinking. The closer I get to loving her the way she needs, the further she will move away from fear.
Why does it take "perfect love" to cast out fear? Because fear is a stronghold. And once we start to agree with the lie that created the fear in the first place, it can be hard for us to discern the truth. Fear creates filters that keep us agreeing with the lies that created the fear in the first place.
If I became convinced that my wife did not respect me, I see her actions through the lens of disrespect. So if she made an effort to show me respect, I would likely either miss it altogether or disregard it under the assumption that she was simply faking it.
Where fear has gained a foothold, it takes strong and consistent expressions of love to overcome it. So if you've renewed your commitment to love your spouse well, have a little patience as the fear begins to dissolve. It might take time and persistence.
Here's another truth about love and fear. Where love is not persistent, even relentless, fear will sneak back in. It doesn't take a lot of feeling unloved before we begin to agree with the lies that held us in fear to begin with.
You're Not on Your Own
You may think I'm asking too much of you, to love your spouse well, consistently and fervently. The good news is that it's not all up to you. We have an amazing and limitless love source in Jesus. That's not just a trite saying. It's truth!
But how do you tap into this Love source in a way that can benefit your marriage? With out a doubt, the best way is to experience for yourself the incredible and unstoppable love Jesus has directed toward you and to fully embrace it.
Soak up the love of God for you until it overwhelms you and comes spilling out of you. Experience for yourself what it means to be fully known and yet completely loved. Experience the joy and peace of secure love.
The Place of Secure Love
I call love and grace the two bookends of marriage. They are what hold the whole thing together. Grace and love work in concert to keep your marriage from toppling over.
Grace says, "I will choose to believe in your love for me, even when it is not evident, even when your actions or words seem to run counter to that belief." Grace also says, "I will love you no matter what, assuming the best, loving you as if you are already loving me as well as I know you want to."
Grace is not always an easy choice. In fact it can be really hard. But grace, in the form of the absolute belief in the love of your spouse, brings you to the place of secure love, where fear cannot break in.
The primary way our heart feels secure is when we know we are loved. No doubts, no misgivings, no shadowlands where second-guessing and fear play games with our confidence. Among other things, Christ died for us so we can know once and for all that we are completely, ultimately, and profoundly loved.Just imagine for a minute what your marriage would be like if your husband or wife never, ever doubted that you deeply loved him or her! What if you never doubted that you were loved just as deeply? How delightful would it be to do everything out of the security of the love you share instead of out of trying to earn it or perform for it.
Grace Filled Marriage, p. 63
Let me suggest you start here, by listening to this video, This Love, by Housefires. Close your eyes and let the love they sing about wash over you. Let it strike your heart. And when it is finished, pray and ask God to stir the same kind of love in your for your spouse.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Are you living the story you want to be living?
So what is your story?
I recently read Don Miller's awesome book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's all about story, and it opened my eyes to the fact that good, bad or indifferent, our lives tell a story.
To me, your story is about partnering with God to live toward your full identity and destiny. The logical extension of this is that the story of your marriage is about partnering with God to see that your spouse also comes into their true identity and destiny.
Two Stories Become One
Because you are married, your story doesn't stand alone. You are also an integral part of someone else's story. The idea of "two becoming one" extends to the story a husband and wife are writing together. Of course you each have unique roles in the story, but the characters are intimately intertwined.
Don Miller describes it this way. "It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help."
I actually think God's role is stronger than that of a "helper" in a story we write for ourselves. I believe that in a sense God is the author of our story, with us as the co-writers. Or maybe it's like God is the ghost writer (Holy Ghost writer?) but we get to put our name on the book. It's not that he dictates it line by line, but God creates us for a purpose and places inside of us a unique identity for accomplishing that purpose.
I believe God is also the instigator of our hopes and dreams and the One who provides constant encouragement and guidance. Too often we act as if our aspirations are a divine guessing game, as we try to figure out God's plan. But I've had times of earnest seeking when I've asked God to show me the way, and I got the sincere impression that he simply asked me in return, "What do you want?" I sometimes think we see our dreams as not being "holy" enough unless they involve selling all our possessions and moving to Africa to preach the Gospel. I believe all the dreams God puts in your heart are holy. Don't be afraid to dream big and believe that God can and will redirect you if it's not a good way to go.
Don't Be Afraid to Change Your Story
What's holding you back from living a larger story? For many, it's fear. Fear of failure? Fear getting it wrong? Miller say that, "great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear. The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is 'Do not fear.' It’s in there over two hundred times." He goes on to say that, "most of our greatest fears are relational. It’s all that stuff about forgiveness and risking rejection and learning to love. We think stories are about getting money and security, but the truth is, it all comes down to relationships."
"The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life."
So what do you want in your story? What do you want in your relationships? Specifically, what do you want in your marriage? Yes it can be scary to risk wanting a larger marriage story than the one you are currently living, but that is the stuff of life.
Change your Story, Change You
"If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation," says Miller. "We were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change."
Yes, living a larger story in your marriage will change you. It will transform your marriage, and will probably significantly impact your spouse as well. Change can be frightening. After all we are creatures of comfort. Most of us don't tend to like change. It's disruptive and can be difficult work. But inevitably, if you want a better story, you've got to throw yourself into it and embrace the inevitable change.
"We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants." I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a participant than a victim.
Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence
The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about story lately. It seems to be everywhere I turn. As I was reading this book, I heard a sermon preached by Eric Johnson entitled, "Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence."
I'm not sure why, but we seem to get stuck in our stories. We are struggling in a single sentence and somehow think that's the whole book. As Eric said, we may linger at an unhappy paragraph or a page and forget that our life is an entire book, yet unfinished. Maybe it's even a volume or an entire library, as our story intersects the many stories of others in our lives.
Miller's reason for us getting stuck in our story is that, "Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."
I've come across a lot of unhappy couples who seem stuck in their marriage story, trapped in a sentence, unwilling or unable to embrace the vulnerability required to write the book God has in mind for their future.
How would you like to change your story and the story of your marriage? Are you willing to risk dreaming a larger dream and to do what it takes to see it come true? Are you willing to risk dreaming with your spouse?
If you've read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Leave a comment below.
Book Refrences: Miller, Donald (2009-08-26). A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Image Credit: aaron007 / 123rf.com
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