Tag Archives: intimacy in marriage

How Birth Control May Put a Wet Blanket on Your Sex Life

A frequent concern of married couples is change in sex drive, especially a common decrease in sex drive for the woman. I’ve shared many possible problems and solutions, including foods that may increase libido and 4 tips to boost libido.

I probably haven’t spent enough time talking about medications being a very common cause of low libido. The medications that reduce sex drive could be taken by either spouse. However, birth control (i.e. the birth control pill or variations) is probably the most frequently used medication that is known to cause a significant decline in libido for users. This decline is potentially long-lasting because of  hormonal changes.

Paul and Lori Byerly recently covered the latest research on the effects of the birth control pill on your sex life. They did a terrific job outlining the research findings at The Marriage Bed. I would encourage you to read this post.

Some couples have medical reasons to choose this option despite the side effects, or otherwise feel it is the right choice for them. Even if that is the case, it is important to have the facts about all medication side effects, especially those that may affect the quality of your marriage and sex life. 

I would add that Dustin Riechmann at Engaged Marriage has written about natural family planning, which some people joke about, but which has shown to be quite effective (99%) when properly used. For Dustin and his wife and for a growing number of people who want to choose a family planning method that is environmentally friendly, without side effects and fits their moral worldview, it’s worth learning about.

Lori’s upcoming book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriagewill be available December 8th on Amazon.com. Read about 12 inspiring couples who used adversity to strengthen their marriages. To learn more, go to www.LoriDLowe.com.  Visit the book’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss.

TOP 10 Marriage Blog Nominations
Stu and Lisa Gray of Stupendous Marriage are gathering nominations for their 3rd Annual Top Marriage Blogs List. If you’re looking for other marriage blogs, check out their list from the last couple of years. Also, you can check out my blogroll page lots of good sites. In any case, feel free to nominate any of your favorite blogs and encourage the community that gives back to marriages. I’ll let you know when the voting starts as well.

Related Links:
These ladies add a lot of thoughtful discussion to today’s blog post topic:
Julie Sibert with Intimacy in Marriage talks about the effects of birth control
Sheila Gregoire with To Love, Honor & Vacuum talks about the range of birth control options and what is best.
Hot, Holy & Humorous writes Want to Rave about Your Birth Control?

Photo by nuttakit courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The New #1 Reason for Divorce, and How to Save Your Marriage

“Keep the Sparks Alive” Series

Since 2003, infidelity was reported as the most common reason for divorce in the United Kingdom. Now, a new reason has taken the lead in that country: falling out of love. I wouldn’t be surprised if data was similar in the United States.

According to The Christian Institute, more than 100 family lawyers were polled, revealing 25% of divorces were attributed to extramarital affairs, with 27% saying the couples had “fallen out of love” or “grew apart.”

The great news is that “falling out of love” is a preventable cause of divorce. Ask yourself if you’re doing the following 5 preventive maintenance actions.

  1. Are you spending quality time together each day (even 15-20 minutes) without TV, cell phones, computers or kids racing around?
  2. Are you sharing your needs, desires and goals?
  3. Are you actively helping your spouse meet his/her needs, desires and goals?
  4. Are you enjoying regular intimacy?
  5. Are you giving your love and attention and trying to be the best spouse you can be? Don’t wait for your spouse to start the cycle of loving actions; go first.

Couples tend to drift apart unless they take action to keep that drift from occurring. Make your marriage a priority—above job, children’s activities, housework, volunteer projects, etc.

Often, when couples feel as if they have fallen out of love, it just means they are not feeling that intense passion they did when they first got together. This is a natural hormonal process. But marriages are often revived, and loving feelings often follow loving actions. Avoid putting your relationship on life support. Keep the romance burning with time, attention and concern for one another.

Which of the 5 preventive maintenance steps does your marriage need more of?

LINKS:
Interesting debate on this CBS news clip on whether spouses should be legally required to provide sex to their partners as happened to one man in France who was sued by his wife.

Photo by photostock courtesy of freestockphotos.com.

Possible Solutions for Low Libido?

Recently, Kate and Brad Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage had an insightful post called, “Do I want the libido fairy to visit?” I would suggest reading it in full, but I will share a few highlights here. Those who have a lower libido usually fall into two groups: those who would like their libido to increase, and those who aren’t sure they do. This is most clearly addressed to wives who usually have a lower libido than their husbands, but there are also couples in which the woman has a higher libido than her husband.

For those who would like that libido fairy to visit, suggestions include:

  • Make time to switch gears after work or after parenting responsiblities.
  • Allow yourself time to think about your husband in a sensual way.
  • Give yourself plenty of warm-up time, in particular before declining your hubby’s advances. (You might be more in the mood than you think.)
  • Have sex more frequently (suggested 2-3 times a week) and see if that helps.

Of course there are plenty of individuals who are just fine without having sexual intimacy in their marriages. Generally their spouses are not OK with this, and deep division can occur as a result. If you are in the camp that low libido is not something you want to improve, Kate and Brad suggest:

  • Determine the root cause of your lack of sexual intimacy.
  • Seek medical advice, as there is often a medical reason, such as hormone levels that are off. Many medications, including birth control, affect libido levels. Couples may have to decide whether low libido is simply a symptom they have to live with or whether medication changes can be made.
  • If seeking medical information does not lead to answers, they suggest counseling (marriage counseling with either a trusted pastor or a Licensed Christian Counselor, trained in Christian sex therapy). “There could be a past history of sexual abuse, past hurts from previous sexual relationships, past or present addictions, wrong feelings about sexual intimacy in general and so on.”

Lastly, Kate and Brad suggested we need to make our marriages a higher priority. I completely agree that so much often seems more important than making time for intimacy. The connection that sexual intimacy brings feeds the marriage. Without it, the marriage is slowly starved of that connection. 

Few couples have very similar libido levels. Add to that various stresses and responsibilities, and open and sensitive communication becomes critical. Are you working to bridge the gap, or trying to ignore any differences?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

The Truth about Sex in Marriage

Contrary to popular belief, sex is not the overriding factor in either marital happiness or marital distress, says Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men. It can be a barometer of how things are going, but research shows sex contributes just 15 to 20 percent toward making the relationship satisfying. However, unhappy couples report their sex life is responsible for 50 to 75 percent of their unhappiness. 

While it’s difficult to give blanket advice (no pun intended) to couples when they are each different, Dr. Haltzman says the most common issues involve:

1)      Most men (77 percent in his survey) have a higher sex drive than their wives. Dr. Haltzman says hormone and brain chemical differences are among the most likely reasons for the difference. In particular, testosterone levels are higher in men, with women having about 10 percent of men’s level. Testosterone levels fall as women age, particularly after having children.

2)      Women have an intimacy imperative. Women have 10 times the level of oxytocin in their brains than do men. This puts the emotional connection at a premium for wives, desiring closeness above all else. Men’s level of oxytocin surges to our level only after orgasm.

3)      Women want to feel intimacy, closeness, romance, relationship to help them feel “in the mood.” For women, good sex is as much emotional as physical. Men should use conversation to learn about their wife’s needs, says Dr. Haltzman. Let her know you just want to understand her feelings about sex. Being romantic just to get sex doesn’t work for women.

4)      Life is overly busy. Prima magazine showed women in the 1950s had sex more frequently than today’s women—an average of twice a week for our grandmother’s generation. Back then there was one TV station that turned off at 10 p .m. Generally, only one person in the family worked while the other looked after the children. Today’s families are often so busy and stressed they report they don’t have (or make) time for intimacy.

5)      Men tend to compartmentalize their feelings and concerns, while women’s more developed corpus collosum (the communication strip between the two cerebral hemispheres) allows women to integrate all the data in their brains and experience more subtleties. Her thoughts on one subject spill over into other areas.

6)      Men are more turned on by concrete things they can see, which is why 76 percent want the lights on during sex. Women are more turned on by abstract, emotional things—romance, commitment, intimacy. (Only 36% of women want the lights on.)

Dr. Haltzman says it’s a mistake to think that simply turning on the “romance” will make your love life flourish. Bringing gifts, helping around the house more, and spending time listening can be very erotic for the wife. But if a woman withholds until everything is “just right” the couple’s intimacy issues won’t improve. The longer married couples avoid sex, the more difficult it is to generate positive sexual relationship when they do start again.

The doctor’s advice? Make love even if you don’t feel emotionally connected. (Sorry ladies, I didn’t say it.) You sit through your son’s soccer game in the rain and do many other things out of obligation, and making love should be a part of a healthy marriage. “I’m not suggesting sexual coercion here,” says Dr. Haltzman. “I’m recommending a regular rhythm of sexual attachment with the understanding that some sexual experiences will be better for him than her and some better for her than him, but that the best sexuality does integrate intimacy, pleasuring and eroticism for both people.”

Husbands would do well to include separate activities of G-rated touching and kissing, sensual pleasures from massage to candles to cuddling (without expectations), being playful, and exploring eroticism as well as sex. Dr. Haltzman’s entire book (Secrets of Happily Married Men) is helpful for men who want to better understand their wives, so if you want to learn more, check it out.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Survey Shows American Couples are Too Sleep Deprived for Sex

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Last week, the CBS Early Show reported on a new sex survey of married Americans with children. The study found 70 percent of respondents were too sleep deprived to make love after a full day of work, including jobs, parenting and home responsibilities. Watch the story here.

The survey showed couples under age 30 or in the honeymoon phase of their relationship had sex approximately two to three times week. Those over 30 had sex about once a week. Over age 60, they had sex about once a month. After sharing all these stats, they advised not comparing yourselves to other couples.

The show’s psychologist says she is hearing “I’m just too tired” from many more couples. She says three things affect the quality of your love life—first, health and hormones; second, how tired you are; and third, how happy the relationship is. A problem in any area will mean the sex life won’t be as great.

She advised couples need to prioritize time to get to know one another and connect. Here are the tips shared:

  • “Skip the trip to the mall” and other non-essential errands.
  • Remember that having sex re-energizes the body and the libido.
  • Take the time to be together.
  • Get up a half hour earlier and start the day making love instead of trying to find the energy at the end of the day.
  • Make your marriage, not your kids, the priority.
  • Get more sleep; it affects every area of your life.
  • Take an occasional day off to sleep instead of going away on vacation.

I thought the suggestions were useful, other than the last one, which is probably not realistic for most people. However, perhaps going in to work an hour or two late on occasion may be more doable than taking the whole day off to sleep. The other tip I would add is to trade childcare with friends who have children so you can have a night out (or in).

What suggestions do you have for fighting exhaustion and making your marriage a top priority?

Related Links:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat discusses why monogamy still feels good in today’s world. He also shares a few details from a new survey that shows virginity is increasing among those aged 14 to 22. I thought he had an interesting take on monogamy as a separate issue from morality. His article was reprinted in papers across the country last week.

Photo credit:©Yuriy Poznukhov/PhotoXpress.com

How to Improve and Increase Sex in Your Marriage

“Keeping the Spark Alive” Series

There are many ways to maintain romantic sparks, but many of us are clearly not making time or effort for romance.

I recently reviewed some ongoing survey results at the Crucible Institute, founded by David Schnarch, PhD, author of Passionate Marriage. (The web site offers relationship advice to awaken your passion and feelings of intimacy.) The incomplete survey—which already includes thousands of participants—reported that 12 percent of those surveyed in relationships had not had sex in the last year. More than 20 percent more only had sex a few times in the last year. It’s not that married couples should reach a certain magic number per week, but these statistics show many couples are having major problems in the area of sharing sexuality.

How do we keep from becoming merely roommates, or liven things up if you could use a little romantic boost?

Fill the Emotional Needs Bucket
Reuters reported early this month that three out of ten people surveyed who were in a relationship more than five years say they never receive any compliments from their partners. Recalling that it takes five positive interactions for every one interaction to maintain a positive relationship, couples are certainly missing out on a lot of positivity. (Read the details of the 5:1 ratio.)

Find something each day for which you can genuinely compliment your spouse—whether it’s something they’ve done well at work or at home, a physical quality you appreciate, or another trait you find endearing. Keep in mind, men as well as women like to hear that you are physically attracted to them. While women may receive compliments about their hair or dress, men aren’t likely to get this kind of feedback from friends or coworkers. (That would be a little awkward to hear, “Dude, love that tie, where did you get it?” from another guy.)

Having plenty of physical touch throughout the day, spending 15 minutes each day connecting with one another, and listening to one another will go a long way toward filling each other’s emotional buckets. Be open about your fears and desires, and talk about your dreams for the future.

Fill the Physical Needs Bucket
The obstacle that I hear about most often for romance is being too tired—or even chronically exhausted. Women’s Day reported this month that 41 percent of married women would choose an extra hour of sleep over sex with their husband. (Not so surprising, is it?) With so many dual-career families, child rearing responsibilities, sports and extracurricular activities for older children, daily chores and more, it’s not surprising so many people are drained. Sleep difficulties, especially as we age, can add to the challenge of feeling rested. Couples who go to bed at different times can create additional challenges, because the sleeping partner is not likely to want to wake up for romance once they are asleep.

Suki Hanfling, certified sex therapist, says in the Women’s Day article, if you’ve been dragging all day, “waiting until bedtime to have sex almost guarantees no nookie.” She suggests choosing a time when you’re more awake, such as in the mornings or on the weekend after a nap. Yes, you may even have to schedule sex to make sure it happens.

If your partner is the one who is over-tired, and you are hoping to increase the amount of hanky-panky, figure out a way for him or her to get a nap. If one of you is chronically exhausted, it’s time to consider revamping your responsibilities or visiting the doctor. Avoid telling yourselves that “these are the difficult years when we have young children, and it will get better when the kids get older.” While that may be true to some extent, you need to prioritize your sex lives now, before you lose touch with one another.

Hanfling suggests you don’t have to be turned on to do the deed. A Penn State survey showed even women who had lost their desire said that when they did have sex, they enjoyed it. “Be open to each other’s advances and communicate, in a loving way, what feels good.”

The Woman’s Day article, Put the Spark Back Into Your Marriage at Any Age, has a lot of helpful advice from several experts for couples as they age.

Prioritize–Reignite or Keep Fire Burning
I think it’s important to mention that it’s generally easier to keep your romantic flames burning (or at least flickering) than it is to reignite them once the fire has gone cold. That is not to say that it’s impossible, but you may need to give yourselves more time to get back in the groove. Some couples may need outside assistance to help them reconnect if sex has been long absent from their marriage.

If you’re looking to open up communication about intimacy, I recommend reading Hot Monogamy together and taking the surveys together. At a minimum, start the conversation (without blame) about how you miss being with your partner the way you used to be.

What will it take for you to keep the romantic sparks going in your marriage, or to reignite them if they’ve gone out? Are you and your partner open to reevaluating your priorities and lives to make sure there’s some time for intimacy?

Related Link:
Help for the Sex-Starved Wife, this Time Magazine interview with Michele Weiner-Davis shares invaluable information for women who have a higher sex drive than their husbands.

Read Refinding Intimacy from Anonymous8′s blog about the dry spells that most couples go through. Guest poster Julie Sibert says, “After all, it’s not ‘sex’ that mows the yard, signs the permission slips or feeds the dog.  Sex seems like such a ‘negotiable’ – and everything else that ‘has to be done’ screams a bit louder.  The irony to it all is that nurtured sexual intimacy actually better equips a couple to ‘do life together.’”

Photo credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Sex Stats for Married and Singles: How do You Measure Up?

The average person in America has sex approximately 60 times a year, according to a study from the American Sex Survey ABCnews.com, The Kinsey Institute. Within every age group from age 18 to over 70 married people had  more sex than singles. The study reported that 70 percent of American men think about sex every day, compared with 34 percent of women. Individuals in the 18-29 age group had sexual intercourse most frequently (96.3 times per year for married, 77.5 times per year for singles). Each decade older corresponded to a decline in frequency of sexual intimacy.

This begs the question, how much affection and intimacy is enough to keep a marriage going strong? Another study of 3,000 British residents by CBCNews in Canada answers this question. The Generous Husband recently reported on this study, explaining that “For a good marriage, you need 4-3-3-2-2.” That is, couples should enjoy four kisses and three cuddles per day. They should have sex three times a week, share two hobbies and have two romantic dinners per week.

I can hear you saying that marriage can’t be broken down into formulas and numbers. I agree, but suggest that the above numbers are reasonable benchmarks. If you want guidance on what behaviors to avoid and focus on, Simple Marriage recently shared 7 Deadly Sins of Relationships, which offers spot-on advice regarding how to keep your relationship strong, and behaviors that could be the death-knell of your love affair.

What do you think of these numeric recommendations? Is communication more important than how often you cuddle, or does physical intimacy bring you closer together?

Photo Credit: ©Mat Hayward/PhotoXpress.com

How Do You Define Intimacy?

What is conjured up in your mind when you hear the word “intimacy”? Chances are the word intimacy has different connotations to you depending on your gender. I’ve read some surveys that suggest women tend to think of the emotional side of intimacy, and men tend to think of physical intimacy. The book 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage by Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo discusses six types of intimacy and how you can achieve them all. I’ve enjoyed their blog, One Extraordinary Marriage for some time; check it out.

I would have been hard pressed to come up with all these types, but I agree they are all important to a strong marriage:

  • Emotional Intimacy (sharing feelings, thoughts, desires)
  • Intellectual Intimacy (common life goals, open communication, mutual understanding)
  • Spiritual Intimacy (shared religious beliefs and observed religious practices)
  • Recreational Intimacy (having fun together and sharing quality time)
  • Financial Intimacy (honesty about all money matters)
  • Physical Intimacy (all physical touch from holding hands to sex)

The advice Alisa and Tony give about how they achieved these six types of intimacy includes many of their mistakes along their journey, from addiction to pornography to finding themselves $50,000 in debt. In that regard, they don’t set themselves up as the perfect couple, but rather a couple who is hoping others can learn from some of their early relationship errors. 

Tony and Alisa offer useful tips from setting boundaries with your parents to negotiating how to spend free time in a way you will both enjoy. The book offers the male and female perspectives on numerous topics, so both genders of readers can relate. It also provides a section for answering questions about your own relationship, which can foster a discussion between you and your spouse. Whether you are young in your marriage or need to revisit some of the positive aspects you used to enjoy, these concepts are key to an enjoyable relationship.

If you’re interested in learning more about these six types of intimacy and how to unlock their potential, you can find the ebook here. (They offer a traditional book, audio book or eBook formats.) Tony also offers an online course called Blow Up My Marriage to help boost your marriage by focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

My feeling is you can send your marriage into a downward spiral if you spend all your time picking apart your weaknesses and focusing on your perpetual conflicts. Every relationship has these. Instead, focus on what you love about your spouse and how you can grow from there. That is not to say that we don’t all have room to improve. Just don’t tear each other down every day, or you may lose that “lovin’ feeling.”

Fess up, what kind of intimacy did you think of when you read the headline?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Achieving Intimacy in Marriage

In my reader survey, one of the most popular topics was to learn more about maintaining intimacy in marriage. Often, that’s another way of saying, “How do we keep the spark alive?” But intimacy goes much further than the physical. I’m a firm believer of understanding the importance and depth of intimacy between a husband and wife.

By achieving intimacy, I’m talking about the concept of two people learning how to be vulnerable and “known” to one another and learning how to love one another fully. A blog I read regularly is Journey to Surrender, and Scott has some very helpful things to say in his post “What is intimacy?”.

He explains the progression of intimacy from spiritual intimacy to emotional intimacy to physical intimacy (including sex and non-sexual touching). When we start at one end and work toward physical intimacy, it creates a deeper bond and often a heightened physical experience (because the mind and emotions are participating). Scott has a lot more to say on the topic and provides a definition similar to my own: “Genuine intimacy comes from being fully known and completely loved.” Basically, we are free to be ourselves, and are loved without fear of rejection or judgement. That’s the really cool part of intimacy.

In a different post, Scott reminds us of the old adage that many of us find to be true in our marriages–that women need emotional intimacy as a prerequisite for physical intimacy, and men usually prefer the opposite order. Different individuals also view their needs for intimacy differently. So, it’s certainly worth discussing with your spouse after reading Viva La Difference, which explains the fruits of selfless giving, a way for you both to get your needs met without falling into the give-to-get routine, which is at best, difficult to sustain, and at worst, a road to resentment if your needs are not perfecty met.

Next week, I’ll be discussing 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage by Tony & Alisa DiLorenzo, who describe other types of intimacy and means to achieve it. If you’re not yet a subscriber, just enter your email address in the right hand column of my home page, and you’ll get updated automatically. (Cancel anytime with one click.)

What do you think of when you hear “intimacy”? Is it long talks over candlelit dinners, sparks flying under the sheets or sharing spiritual insights together? Is it something different? How do you achieve true intimacy in your marriage?

Help Your Spouse Achieve Lifelong Dreams

I have a few close friends and family members who are all about their “bucket lists,” the lists of things they want to experience or accomplish during their lives. For instance, my brother’s list inspired him to climb Mount Rainier and to go deep-sea diving in remote locations.  This week, I was reading the uplifting blog The Generous Wife. She suggested as couples we talk regularly about our bucket lists and look for ways to help our spouses achieve their wishes. It’s a fantastic suggestion.

I like this idea for multiple reasons. First, discussing your dreams with your spouse increases intimacy and keeps you focused on positive aspects of your life. Second, participating in activities outside of your norm builds excitement and passion for yourself and for your marriage. And third, helping your spouse achieve his or her dreams often causes your spouse to have increased gratitude toward you. And gratitude has been shown to increase connection and bonds.

I must admit I’m not much of a true adventurer. I’d much rather sit on a beach than climb a treacherous mountain. However, I have spectacular memories of traveling to Hawaii, Bermuda, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Monaco, Mexico—and yes, even a memorable trip to Canada during one of their worst snowstorms—with my husband. All that travel came to a screeching halt when our two children were welcomed into our lives. I have more destinations in mind when our kids are a bit older. But travel isn’t required; many adventures can be found without leaving your hometown.

I have a great friend who encouraged her husband to fulfill his dream of running a hot-air balloon business, while maintaining his full-time job as a pilot. I’ve never heard her complain of the time it takes away from their large family. I have other friends who have supported their spouse’s dreams to become an entrepreneur or a full-time parent. Two married friends have decided to visit every national park in the country. Perhaps you have always wanted to take music or dance lessons, fly an airplane, learn a new language or write a book. Share your goals with your spouse, and discuss how your dreams could become a reality.

Believing in one another and in a positive vision for your union is part of the magic of marriage. How many divorces could be prevented if spouses felt their partner cared as much about their dreams and goals as they do?

What fun things are on your bucket list? What obstacles stand in your way—time, money, self-doubt, an aging body? Do you know what’s on your partner’s list?

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please spend one minute to take this survey  answering five quick questions. Your confidential responses will help me immensely. Thanks!