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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Get your sex life off the merry-go-round and ride the roller coaster once in a while.

As part of my Gift of Sex series, we have looked so far at giving more sexually, both in terms of frequency and engagement.

Today I'm concluding my Gift of More segment with one more area that comes into play for many in determining sexual satisfaction: variety.

Sexual boredom can hinder sexual fulfillment whenever couples fall into narrow routines that limit activities during lovemaking. It's easy to get comfortable and even lazy, because we humans tend to be creatures of habit. We tend to gravitate toward familiar patterns.

Competing Chemicals

There is an interesting tug of war going in your head, whether you realize it or not. Brain science has shown that these two competing forces are: 1) our desire for comfort and 2) our need for adventure.

Young love is dominated by the presence of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which act like a narcotic and give us that head-over-heels-in-love feeling. Over time, these chemicals lessens and are overtaken by oxytocin, which is important for bonding the long-term relationship and puts us in a more contented, even keel state.

What does all this have to do with sexual variety?

The excitement in our brains over new sexual experiences causes us to feel similar sensations to when we were in that early, head-over-heels, giddy-in-love stage of our relationships, aka the honeymoon phase.  At the same time, over the same set of experiences, we can also experience fear and be driven by a desire to seek “safer ground” for the relationship.

When it comes to sex, our desire for the security and safety of the familiar fights against our desire for the thrill of the new and different. Depending on your personalities, one or the other of these may have a stronger influence on you than on your spouse.

Where's the Line?

You see a lot of marital advice about "keeping things fresh" in the bedroom. Certainly changing things up from time to time and trying out new sexual territory together can keep your relationship from getting stale, but it's important to keep focused on the fact that sex is designed to build intimacy. Growing in intimacy should be at the heart of every discussion you have about new sexual experiences.

The goal of sexual exploration is not experiences for the sake of experiences, but experiences for the sake of building intimacy.

So where is the line between what's okay to explore and what isn't?

The fact is that the Bible doesn't draw many of those lines. If it stays between two married people and both agree, then it's probably not out of bounds from a biblical perspective. But just because it's permissible, doesn't mean it's a good idea.
'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
1 Cor 10:23-24 NIV
Exploring new things together (whether in or out of the bedroom) can certainly yield increased excitement and intimacy, as long as it is done in a healthy and selfless manner.

The Merry-Go-Round and the Roller Coaster

Sex drive and personality both play a significant role in the level of sexual adventure you are comfortable with. A high drive spouse who is the adventurous type is going to want to do a lot more exploring than a lower drive spouse who tends to be more conservative in nature. In addition, you or your spouse may have some history or past baggage that causes you to consider certain erotic behavior as being "over the line."

In general, I think every relationship needs a balance between tried-and-true and new-and-different. If your sex life is mostly like a merry-go-round, get off it once in a while, step outside of your comfort zone, and take a spin on a roller-coaster. You might just find a roller-coaster or two that you actually enjoy.

Expressing sexual desires requires a degree of vulnerability. However, your spouse might be more interested in accommodating your interests than you realize. In my recent survey, 98% of husbands and 86% of wives agreed or agreed strongly that they should at least try to accommodate sexual requests made by their spouse. Even among wives who did not see their husband's sexual satisfaction as their responsibility (just 11% of all wives), greater than half agreed that accommodating requests was still a good idea.

My friend, Paul Byerly, of The Generous Husband, wrote an excellent post on his X-Y Code blog that explains sexual exploration using a playground analogy:
Bottom Line: Your husband probably wants to play in more of the playground than you do. Please do not blame this on his porn use or past sin. While those things do have an effect, men free of those influences also want to explore most of the playground. His desire to play on all the toys is part of being a man; it is part of how God made him. 
I strongly suggest you read Paul's entire post, He Wants to use the Entire Playground, which includes six specific steps you can take if you and your spouse aren't quite on the same page concerning sexual exploration.

Don't Settle

Society will try to feed you the lie of inevitable sexual decline. Don't buy it. Sure there are challenges to keeping your sex life exciting for the long haul, but there are plenty of things you can do to stoke the flames of desire and excitement if you are willing to take a little bit of risk once in a while.

Here's a specific challenge to prompt you to action: take turns with your spouse bringing something new to your sexual repertoire once each month for the next six months. (Work out between you whether or not you want to talk about it ahead of time or if you want it to be a surprise "in the moment.")

I'm curious to know. If you could choose between increasing sexual frequency and increasing the variety of your sexual repertoire, but not both, which would you choose? Leave a comment

image credit: analina /


Unknown said...

Good article! I love this series.

I personally choose increased sexual frequency in my marriage since it's at the most twice a week and for me, a higher drive wife, that is too little.
But IF our frequency were to increase THEN I my choice would change to an increase in variety because the frequency would be satisfying.

So although yes, sexual variety is important in keeping the fires burning bright, I believe until frequency levels are met especially for the higher drive spouse variety is possibly not as important. You're just happy when an encounter happens. ;)
At least that's my .02 cents.

Lisa said...

Frequency. Its hard with kids and life but in a perfect world a double (twice in one day) would be great once a week. Variety is not super important to me. If you got a good thing...

Thank you for your work on this blog!

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