When it comes to marriage, emotional and sexual intimacy are two sides of the same coin. In successful marriages, we see a pretty decent balance. We see a couple who is going through life as best friends, and who just happen to think the other is pretty damn hot.
Sex is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing.
Yet because it tends to happen at the end of the day, after we’ve exhausted ourselves doing everything else we need to do, it can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of life. So if you feel that sex is slipping off the radar in your marriage – and you feel that in turn is causing other areas of your marriage to slip – here are few ideas to bring it back.
First, do some basic trouble-shooting. Why is it slipping? Is your spouse overworked, stressed or preoccupied with the kids? What has your spouse been complaining about or asking for help with lately? Think. Step up. Do what you can to get through life as a team and make sure you’re going to bed at the same time.
You know your spouse and lifestyle best. What can you do to remove the barriers that might be standing in the way? What can you do to ignite that spark of love and desire in your spouse? Sex might change as we age, but as long as we’re reasonably healthy, it doesn’t need to stop – many couples have sex well into their 80’s.
Second, inject some playful affection into your daily interactions. Flirt. Check out your partner with your eyes and give them a warm embrace when they aren’t expecting it. Forget that peck on the cheek when they leave for work – give them a kiss to think about during the day.
Third, talk about it. Keep the conversation mature, respectful and heartfelt. Tell your wife or husband that you miss that kind of intimacy. Tell them you miss giving them pleasure and feeling connected in that way, and ask how you can work together to re-connect. Don’t insinuate that your partner’s body is something you’re entitled to because you’re married. Instead, treat it as something you desire, respect and love, and make sure your spouse hears that message loud and clear.
If those things don’t work, get some outside help – fast.
That’s what we all do when we can’t make headway on our own. Some people have more serious sexual problems in their marriage. Some have wildly different sex drives. Some have health matters to contend with.
Other people have deeper personal or relationship issues going on, or have for some reason lost the motivation to pleasure each other in that way. The list goes on and there are resources, including my services and crash courses, that can help you move past those bigger problems.
But there isn’t always a bigger problem. Sometimes, spouses simply let sex slip off the radar as other things – kids, work, chores, whatever – fill the skies. They may learn to live without it. They may suffer in silence or they may start to complain about it. They may (mistakenly) assume that their spouse hasn’t noticed or doesn’t really care. They may make excuses or blame their spouse. They may pout. They may strike up a “friendship” with someone else and take those first steps toward betrayal.
And as they do any or all of these unhelpful things, the divide between them will continue to expand.
Their lack of sexual intimacy will chip away at their romantic friendship and their family life. It is likely that they will start to interact more like roommates and less like loving spouses. They may become more abrupt or apathetic. They may feel less motivated to do the “little things” that help each other through life and make each other happy.
That’s because sex is a motivator in marriage.
It’s a good motivator, too. When we’re enjoying a healthy, happy sex life with our spouse, we do feel more loving toward them. That’s the nature of a romantic partnership. It’s part emotional, part sexual. That’s what distinguishes it from the other friendships we have in our life. In fact, the ability to have regular, meaningful and exclusive sex with someone we love is one reason people get married in the first place.
So consider this a friendly reminder. If it’s been a while since you and your spouse have enjoyed each other in a sexual way, take the initiative. Countless married couples have kept the fires burning over the years and you can, too. Don’t worry about the naysayers – they have their own reasons for saying the spark can’t last, and I guarantee those reasons have more to do with their reality than yours.
Yes, it may take work at times. But in the end, fanning those flames with your one-and-only beloved is the best shot you have at long-term happiness and stability in your personal life. And if you have kids, your happiness and stability as a couple is definitely a key to their happiness and stability in life.
So let your kids see you flirt as you wash up the dishes after supper. Let them hear the click of the lock on your bedroom door. They might roll their eyes and cringe, but inside, their sense of well-being is off the charts.
Most of all, treat your partner as your best friend – the one that, luckily enough, you can’t wait to jump into the sack with. Keep the love, solidarity and playfulness alive in your marriage by keeping sex on the radar.
• Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B. can help you now, not weeks from now. See her Marriage SOS instant-access marriage recovery programs.