“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?
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.'”
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