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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.
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