Pop culture has plenty of ideas on how to achieve a satisfying sexual experience; unfortunately most of it is utter crap or requires physical feats few of uscould accomplish. My desire for you is to enjoy the fullness that sex has to offer you and your marriage while avoiding the harmful side effects of some bad advice. Here is a simple recipe to help make that happen. It’s authentic and fresh, with no artificial ingredients or imitations included.
1) Be Expressive
Great sex starts with open communication. Men and women often report that one of their biggest turn ons is when their partner makes vocal affirmations during sex. This doesn’t have to be spoken words either. Allow your audible moans to guide and affirm your sexual pleasure. If your partner is doing something right, let them know! Good sex is like a dance, you have to follow the rhythm of your partner and match it with your own; sometimes you’re leading and other times following. There are even times that you need to be free to ask for what you want, or to even teach your partner how to bring you pleasure in the best possible way. Freedom to be expressive will heighten both of your sexual pleasure and emotional intimacy.
2) Be Playful
Sex is meant to be fun! The level of playfulness in a marriage is a great indicator of its health, and this goes for your sex life as well. How often do you smile during sex? Or laugh during foreplay? When is the last time you’ve been giddy with anticipation? Here is one way to spark your playfulness in the bedroom: fantasize about your spouse throughout the day. Our imagination is a fantastic resource to creating sexual playfulness and anticipation. Guide your thoughts towards imagining a sexy moment with your partner. Let that anticipation build. Maybe even imagine something new, or something you haven’t done in years. Here’s something wild, actually share some of those fantasies with your spouse!
3) Be Selfless & Be Selfish
Wait, isn’t that a contradiction? Nope. It’s part of the dance and rhythm of great sex. In one moment we may be focused on bringing pleasure to our spouse, delighting in their response to our touch. Soon after we may be giving ourselves over to the pleasure our partner is offering as they relish in our enjoyment. Following shortly both spouses may be simultaneously lost in the moment and bonded in shared ecstasy. It’s healthy to be able to oscillate between giving and receiving. While sometimes a whole sexual experience may be focused on one partner, a gift given in the moment, most often it is best that both partners have the opportunity to be selfish and to lose themselves in the moment of orgasm. (Bonus advice, it’s rare that both partners experience orgasm at the same time, like really rare. Great if it happens, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t. After the first partner can relish the moment, turn your attention to helping your spouse cross the finish line.)
One final piece of advice
Our entire sex life follows a rhythm, and it doesn’t start with foreplay and end with orgasm. Your next sexual encounter begins right after the climax of this one. It’s called the Afterglow period, and its the period of time immediately following climax. It’s during this period of time that we need to be holding, touch, speaking softly and gently to affirm one another. It bonds us together and it leads into your next love making cycle.
There is much more that could be said about experiencing great sex. Keep an eye out in the near future for further conversation on creating great sexual experiences in your marriage. And remember, you don’t need anything external from your marriage to have great sex this Valentine’s day. You can create the most fulfilling fantasies and experiences between the two of you. You don’t need an imitation taken from a screen or printed on a page.
Have a happy Valentine’s Day and Have Fun!
I want you to do a quick mental exercise with me. I want you to picture your partner in your mind’s eye. Make it flattering. And make sure they are smiling. You can smile too.
Holding onto this image, I want you to bring to mind a quality in your partner that makes you smile.
Now a quality that makes you proud.
And now something you find attractive.
Good job. Now here is the difficult part. When is the last time your partner heard you speak any of these qualities out loud? Have they ever heard you brag about them to someone else? How frequently do you remind yourself of this admiration you hold towards your spouse?
If you are like most couples, the answer is in the ball park of “I have no idea when the last time was.” or “I’m sure it’s not that long ago, right?” or even worse “Well I’m sure she knows how I feel, we don’t have to speak it.”
Healthy marriages and strong relationships run on admiration and encouragement shared between partners. Assuming your partner simply knows this truth is like assuming you’ve got enough gas in the car to make the next trip. You might be correct; but you also might find yourself unexpectedly broken down short of the destination, cursing yourself for not paying a little more attention, and regretting the multitude of missed opportunities to fill up the tank.
Love & Encouragement Jar
Here is an exercise to help you share love and encouragement with one another more frequently. I call it the Love & Encouragement Jar. All you need is a jar or container (preferably clear), two different colors of strips of paper, and a pen. You can also purchase them from Your Marriage Matters and help to support our work!
Place the jar, paper and pens in a location that is visible and frequently passed. Then each day be mindful of what you find admirable, attractive or pleasingabout your spouse as you go about your day. At some point during the day, write it down on your color of paper and place it into the jar. (Remember, you aren’t allowed to take them out and read them yet!) Then once a week, sit down together and pull out all of your colored slips. Take turns reading out loud to your partner what you’ve written about them that prior week. Laugh, hug, cry, have fun!
Do this for 4 weeks. At the end of those 4 weeks sit down and share with one another what it’s been like to hear spoken the admiration and encouragement from your spouse. How has it changed the way you look at or think about each other? After those 4 weeks you don’t need to continue the weekly ritual, but you might want to adapt it in some other way. You might continue to write down encouragements on occasion and bring them with you on a date to read. Or you might change the rules so that when you see a slip in the jar you’re allowed to grab it and read it.
Tell us about your experience with the Love & Encouragement Jar in the comments below!
We have been hard at work at Your Marriage Matters and are very excited to announce our plans to launch as a Not-for-Profit! This will allow us to best serve our mission of helping couples in our region gain access to marriage counseling, to help promote healthy marriages and relationships everywhere, and to speak theologically and therapeutically into the faith community.
As a part of that mission, we are thrilled to announce that after a lengthy hiatus from frequent writing the Your Marriage Matters blog is once again active. Our goal is to provide a resource to couples that will address important and significant topics related to marriage. Some posts will focus on building healthy dynamics and patterns in your marriage, while others will focus on how to respond to crisis or conflict. In order to best fulfill our mission, we desire open dialogue with our community. And so we invite you to participate in conversations regarding our posts as well as hearing your input on topics for future posts. You can help us in this mission by sharing our posts on social media and with your friends, family and coworkers.
I would also like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our intern, Alicia Joseph. She is working with Your Marriage Matters this winter & spring to help us launch as a not-for-profit. Her work and contribution will allow us to move forward in significant ways. You can learn more about Alicia on our ‘About Us’ page of our website.
A hidden threat to healthy marriage.
When we think about common threats to a healthy marriage we might think of issues like finances, children or sexual intimacy. While these are valid and significant issues, there is a threat more subtle and damaging to marriage: busyness.
It only takes a quick glance at the family calendar to realize just how busy we are, and how little time that leaves for the stuff that really matters. Laughter shared with a playful spouse; the depth of intimacy experienced in a lingering, tight embrace; the warming of the soul over a steaming mocha-chino-latte shared on a cold day. It is within these moments that marriage happens, yet we leave so little room for it to be experienced.
Now before you push back too hard, I know, much of what fills your time is good and important stuff; and that makes it the most harmful. I see it in my practice all the time, just trying to schedule clients to come into my office is evidence enough. We have filled our lives with so much stuff that we haven’t left much margin for actually living life together. And when that stuff is good and worthwhile it becomes harder to know where to draw the line; even harder yet if it’s altruistic or divinely inspired. (Pastors are some of the worst offenders, I know, I’ve been there.) I have some good news though, it doesn’t have to be this way, but it will take courage and fortitude to stand and speak that fabled word: no.
What if the best thing you could do for yourself, your marriage, and your community or church is to say no to some of those good things. I’m not telling you to drop out of all your commitments and activities. (But maybe some.) What is needed is a healthy boundary between involvement in community and commitment to spouse, family, and self. Sometimes that even means saying no to family. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time, but create some space that is defined, set aside, dare I say that is holy, to connect and invest in your marriage. You’ll be making the statement to yourself and your spouse that you care, that you honor and value your time with them more than any of the other stuff you do. One of the most common needs I hear expressed by a dissatisfied spouse is to feel they are a priority in the life of the one they love. Do you have the courage to let down others in order to build up your spouse?
There will be push back. This does not conform to the expectations of society, and so society will attempt to shape you back into that conformity. You might miss out on a big decision, may feel excluded from a celebration, and may even be passed over for a promotion. Marriage is not for the faint of heart; it is for the strong and courageous. So do you have the courage to say no to some of that busyness and create space to experience marriage and intimacy? I believe you do; and I dare you to embrace it, I triple-dog dare you.
Being Sorry for Disappointing
So you’re sorry for disappointing your partner. As a follow up of sorts to my last post, Dealing with Disappointment, I’d like to share a few quick thoughts on how to respond when we find ourselves in this unenviable position. Two prevailing principles are at play here: say what you mean & mean what you say; and actions speak louder than words.
Step one: Be sorry.
In order to make a successful repair attempt it is imperative that you genuinely feel sorry for whatever led to the disappointment. Do some soul searching here. Your partner doesn’t want to hear that you’re sorry for being caught, or for having an argument, or for having to deal with this mess. They want to hear remorse over the source of the disappointment.
Step two: Say you’re sorry, once.
Once the introspection is complete you then need to put words to your feelings of regret. Your partner needs to hear, in your own words, that you can connect in part to the source of their pain. Important emphasis here: your apology is about them, not about you. What they don’t want to hear is you wallowing in self-pity. Make your apology once, maybe once again later for emphasis, and then let your actions speak for you.
Step three: Change.
You want your partner to put stock in your words of reassurance that it won’t happen again? Then don’t let it happen again, at least not in this way. If your remorse is genuine and your intention authentic, then make any necessary adjustments, within your power, to guard against a similar sort of disappointment in the future. Chances are good that you will both let each other down in some way, at some time; you are both human after all. Regardless of that reality, effort and attention to make changes will hopefully be noticed and appreciated.
Dealing with Disappointment
We’ve all been there.
A forgotten date; an underwhelming anniversary; a last minute gift.
The moments in life that leave us saddened, frustrated, and longing for something … more. It is, unfortunately, a rather universal human experience; especially around this time of the year. So how do we respond to disappointment? As a relationship therapist, I know what we often do; we ignore it, suppress it, and let it turn into deep rooted resentment. I’d like to offer a better starting point. Look within, look to the other, and look between.
I believe the first step to dealing with disappointment is to look within the self. Consider your expectations; where they realistic? Did you accurately communicate them? Did your partner accurately hear them? You may have done all of these things; but by first considering your own contribution, you may save yourself from an embarrassing moment of “foot-in-mouth”.
2) Looking to the Other
You next need to consider the other person that contributed to your disappointment. What characteristics do you attribute to this person? Do you believe them to be a caring and genuine person? Do they have your best interest at heart, even when they make mistakes? Before saying anything, consider their motive and how the coming conversation may speak to their character. It is important to affirm that your disappointment doesn’t change the way in which you view the character of your partner. They are not a disappointment; it is just that you were disappointed in this instance.
3) Looking Between
Now consider the relationship itself. How open is your dialogue and communication? What would the relationship you desire look like, and how could you create it together? What would it mean to you for your partner to hear you, know you, and respond to you? By addressing your disappointment, you want to offer your partner an opportunity to create something better in your relationship. In order to offer that opportunity, you first need to know what it would look like, at least on your end.
As you prepare to address this disappointment with your partner, consider how you can invite them to consider and experience these three components with you. Admit any contributions you had to your disappointment, acknowledge the character and quality of your partner, and invite them into how things could be different and the meaning that would have for you. These moments of disappointment hold the potential to take your relationship to a whole new level or to cement you further in the depths of resentment and despair. Don’t let your disappointment define your relationship; instead define your relationship beyond your disappointment.
It is that time of year again, when all the lovey-dovey Facebook posts reach their peak. When the rose market experiences an “inexplicable” 300% mark up. When restaurants become filled to capacity and supermarket greeting card isles are packed with men frantically swooping in to scavenge the remaining few greeting cards available. (Been there, done that) With all the noise and reason for pessimism it can be hard to find joy and love on this special day. You may be caught between inflated expectations or deflated realism regarding the approaching evening. But I have a word of hope…
Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be an annoyance or cause for nausea; nor does it need to be a soul crushing shattering of your expectations. (Were they even attainable to begin with?) Regardless of how you and your partner choose to celebrate this day of love, let it simply be an opportunity to remind yourself, and your partner, of the love you share. If that is best communicated through gifts, then be thoughtful; if it is best said through words, than be sincere; if it is best displayed by touch, then snuggle up; if it is best shared through service, go above and beyond; and if it is best reflected through time together, then be fully present with heart, mind, body and soul.
Valentine’s Day isn’t about the commercialism or the “perfect” date, it isn’t about the over the top grandiosity, or the romanticism. It is simply about you and your partner, carving a moment of time out of a chaotic life to say “I Love You” however that is best said.
Valentine’s Day isn’t about the “stuff”; it is about showing your affection to the one you love, in the way they need to hear it.
I interact with quite a variety of couples in a given week, from optimistic pre-marital couples to venomous affairs and everything in between. Through out these interactions I’ve realized one of the common threads linking them all together, or at least 80% of them, is the belief in soul-mates. This seems innocent enough, right? False. I believe this “innocent” belief is one of the largest culprits of marital disillusionment in America. Let me explain.
Follow with me for a moment down this brief, albeit pessimistic, train of thought. The premise of a soul-mate is that our “soul”, the collective sum of our being, has a near-perfect match in another “soul” someplace on this planet. Be it providence, the universe, or sheer chance, we some how came into contact with this counter-soul of ours between the ages of 18 and 30, we recognize the resonance of our beings, we begin dating, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Except we don’t. Life happens, the honeymoon cascade wears off, and we face significant interpersonal, internal and relational difficulties. We make some mistakes, we become disillusioned, and despair sets in. At this point, we begin to ask ourselves, “What went wrong?” Ah-ha. My soul-mate! If soul-mates are supposed to live happily ever after, with only minimal difficulties or effort at making their marriage work, and if we all have a soul-mate somewhere in the world, then I must have married the wrong one! Which means that my true soul-mate is left incomplete and searching, so I need to continue my search until I can find them. Then we will meet, marry and live happily ever after.
Ok, now that I’ve sufficiently bummed you out, I do actually believe in soul-mates, or rather, sole-mates. I believe that due to our experience, personality, family upbringing, and general disposition that there are certain individuals that we mesh with better than others. I also believe in the role of divine providence (you can call it chance, the universe, match.com, or what ever term you wish to place upon it) that helps guide us and direct us towards those more compatible individuals. What I don’t believe, is that we are passive spectators within this dance. We have an active role in discerning if our mate is right for us and in building a relationship and marriage that creates sole-mates. I believe that sole-mates are made, not found. We must work hard towards creating and enjoying a sole-mate relationship. It is less about the predestined convergence of your joined souls, and much more about a commitment to be the sole soul in your mates life. Meaning that you will have friends and family close to you and in support of you, but that above all else, and all other “souls”, that your partner is the only one to which you are joined. It is a process, one that is at times dirty and difficult, but out of that you may achieve your sole-mate fairy-tale ending.
This series will explore some of the steps to building sole-mates, from discernment to commitment to enrichment. Check back in coming weeks for more!
Director: Billy Wilder
What to Expect: Mild sexually suggestive language
Summary: To try and get noticed amongst the corporate homogeny that surrounds him, insurance underling C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) lends out his apartment to his higher ups so they can carry out their extramarital affairs, but what he doesn’t know is that one of those trysts involves the apple of his eye, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), and his boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray).
Review: The Apartment is one of those rare films that’ll appeal to just about anybody. From the young to the old, the couples to the singles, the romantics to the cynics, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Billy Wilder’s last Oscar-winning film.
Superficially, the older folks who complain that they don’t make ‘em like they used to will appreciate the almost complete lack of swearing, violence and sex, but younger audiences who look for something deeper can appreciate the fact that The Apartment is filled with rapid fire word play, double entendres and subtle social commentary about the loneliness of the corporate world.
What also helps is the fact that Billy Wilder and his writer partner I.A.L. Diamond were brilliant writers, crafting an intelligent screenplay that’s just as funny as it is emotionally engaging anchored by one of cinema’s greatest Everymans, Jack Lemmon. C.C. Baxter’s is a classic tale of the consummate doormat growing a spine and drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the things he just won’t tolerate anymore both personally and professionally.
So I’ve got this theory about love. Actually it was more of a momentary thought, but I kinda like it. I believe that to the “self”, love is a progressive disease. I know, sounds harsh coming from an MFT right? Let me explain.
As defined by dictionary.com, a disease is:
“An impairment of the normal state of the living [individual] or one of its parts that interrupts or modifies the performance of the vital functions, is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms, and is a response to environmental factors…”
An interesting perspective on falling in love, is it not? Let’s look a little more closely at the beginning of a relationship. Follow with me here, at one point in our lives we are carrying on without much concern or distraction. We are enjoying life, enjoying friendships and having a good time as a normal member of society. And then it hits. Maybe it was a second glance, a wink, a shared meal, or some crazy unexpected series of events that will forever give you the title of best meeting story, ever. After this event, you’re never the same again. In fact, you loose your freakin mind. We’ve all known the person (not ourselves, of course) who, after meeting and falling in love, begin to act in strange and abnormal ways. Ya know, the girl who previously didn’t know the difference between a baseball and a football and is suddenly a huge Red Sox fan. Or the guy who hasn’t read a book since Spiderman comics and is suddenly quoting Shakespeare. When we experience love we also experience an impairment in our normal state of living. Our system is shocked and it changes in response to this external factor. We are afflicted by love.
And it doesn’t just stop there, no it’s also progressive. As the relationship matures and the couple continues to experience this love, the “disease” continues to change. There will come a pivotal moment (or many pivotal moments) in which the disease will either enter remission or enter a more aggressive stage, marriage. Any true experience of romantic love will ultimately lead to marriage or separation, it is very rare even in todays society for a couple to remain together for 10, 20, 30 years without the commitment of marriage, in fact the separation rate for long term cohabiting couples can be as high as 80%. So if the ultimate result of this disease is death… I mean marriage… it must result in the joining of two individuals into a companionship, in effect a dying or significant altering of the self. This can not take place without significant change (or impairment) to the state of the individuals involved. While retaining the core of who these individuals are they must join themselves into a new relational system. Or stated differently, in marriage, the sum is greater than it’s parts; the self is not lost, rather it is multiplied and added upon.
So in a way, falling in love is a disease that may ultimately lead to significant impairment of the individual, but may also give birth to a new union and “relational being” within the marriage. For love to lead to a successful and life long marriage it must also lead to a dying or shedding of selfishness by the individual for a joining in companionship within the marriage. There may be no cure, but with proper attention and regular interventions, the final stages may bring sweet, sweet bliss. It is not an affliction to be avoided, but one to be embraced and enjoyed.
We would love to hear of your story of first affliction and how this “disease” got the best of you! Feel free to share below in the comments.