Tag Archives: sex in marriage

Why does your spouse think about sex so much more/less than you do?

candles by Christ Sharp at freedigitalphotos.netMany couples blame vastly different libidos for a variety of marriage problems. Some who have higher levels of desire use it to excuse the use of pornography or straying from their marriage vows. Others have an underlying current of conflict due to this difference. It is more than possible to live happily in marriage with a difference in levels of desire.

In The Passion Principles, author Shannon Ethridge shared some helpful insights and suggestions on the issue. Often, it is the man with the higher desire, but sometimes it is the wife, so she is careful not to stereotype. The mismatched sex drive is the issue, not which spouse is higher or lower.

First, related to why this difference in libido frequently occurs, both spouses may find their libido goes up and down depending on stage of life, level of health, hormones, focus on work or kids, and many other factors.

They key to surviving the fluctuating seasons and pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, says Ethridge is NOT to take it personally. “If you are the one feeling the sting of rejection, it is most likely not about you at all. And if you are the one experiencing a temporary lull in your libido, it is not a sign that your relationship is sinking like the Titanic. Most likely, these difference in sexual thought patterns have more to do with hormone production than anything else, and hormone production is not always something we are able to control,” she says.

Ethridge cites brain research by Dr. Louann Brizendine to explain some biological reasons men generally have higher levels of desire. These include:
1. The sex-related centers of the male brain are twice as large as those of the female brain (explaining why men think about sex more frequently).
2. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for fueling sexual thoughts, and men produce between 10 times and 100 times more of it than do females.
3. Men’s response to stress leads them to think about sex more often. Women’s response to stress is to produce more cortisol, which shuts down their desire for sex and physical touch.

This third point should be very important to both men who want their wives to desire sex more, and to women who wish their libido was higher. The woman needs to have the house, the kids, and the work stress under control to be able to relax and have the cortisol levels come down. That is likely why women frequently say they could enjoy sex more if their husbands helped more in the home. It’s not just a quid pro quo sort of comment, it’s an explanation of how she functions. If the husband can’t or won’t help out in the areas causing too much stress, it may be worthwhile to hire some help if it is financially feasible. It may be a good investment in your love life.

In addition to these differences, our hormone levels change after we have been together for a while. During the passion phase (lasting maybe 6 months or as long as two years), we have high levels of bonding hormones dopamine and oxytocin. Eventually those fall to lower levels as our relationship matures. We simply can’t expect the passionate feelings to be as high as during the honeymoon phase, but that doesn’t mean sex isn’t an important part of the marriage.

Ethridge shares advice from her personal experience that couples don’t need to only have sex when they both have high levels of desire. Instead, she says it’s great to use sex as a way to de-stress from a difficult workday, to use it to recharge your batteries when feeling lethargic, to help celebrate all good news (from a promotion to answered prayer), to provide sexual intimacy when one spouse or both are feeling blue, to bring one another comfort, and of course as a release from sexual desire.

“Thinking of sex has become a way of bonding ourselves together in a very intimate, powerful way—through both the good times and bad,” says Ethridge.

Many people who comment here on the blog say have great difficulty understanding their spouse’s way of thinking about sex. Do you feel that understanding the biological difference helps you understand your partner’s viewpoint? Has differing sexual desire been a frequent conversation or conflict in your marriage? Marriage therapists can help couples understand one another’s needs and feelings about the issue if it is causing considerable trouble for you. Do you have similar levels of desire? Do you find that is unusual? Whatever your situation, don’t give up hope in finding common ground on this issue.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Reasons Women May Not Desire Sex

Happy couples can attest to the fact that a healthy sex life is part of a healthy marriage. In fact, research has shown a very high correlation between the amount of sex in a marriage and the level of satisfaction by the partners. Sometimes sex is a stumbling block in a marriage, but don’t give up hope that things can greatly improve.

I wanted to share a post from the blog Hot, Holy & Humorous, which deals with wives who have low libido or just don’t want to be physically intimate. It’s written sensitively to the women who may experience this and is one of the most comprehensive lists I have seen. Whether “stress is sucking the life out of your libido” or there are physiological, body image, or other reasons, most women can probably relate to some of these issues at one point or another. Identifying the “why” is part of the challenge and may help you both find a solution.

Read the full post here: For Wives: When You Don’t Desire Sex. Then, she followed up with More on Wife’s Low Sex Drive which links to a variety of other blog posts on the subject.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Want a Happier Marriage? Be Generous.

Happier couples report more generosity in their marriages. A recent study, part of the National Marriage Project, surveyed more than 1,400 couples between the ages of 18 and 46. All the couples had children. Researchers found couples who said they had a high amount of marital generosity were five times more likely to have “very happy” marriages. The acts of generosity conveyed importance to their partner.

What does it mean to be generous? It can mean any small act of kindness. Happy couples I interviewed for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, reported many small, generous acts, such as getting a cup of tea each morning or a back rub each night. It boils down to giving something to your spouse that he or she likes—showing that you know their likes/desires and that you value them.

And the most important way to be generous? Sexually. Researchers found that spouses who reported above-average sexual satisfaction were 10 to 13 times more likely to be “very happy” in their marriage, compared with those who were less satisfied sexually. This is consistent with other research: Read Want a better marriage? Have more Sex.  Since sexual satisfaction was by far the most important indicator of a “happy marriage” for this study, it really should have been the headline, but if you consider it as part of an overall generous marriage, you can even take your marriage to a higher level.

Remember that marriage researcher John Gottman, PhD, has long advocated at least five positive interactions for every one negative interaction in a marriage as a predictor of long-term success. (Read Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio.) Acts of generosity certainly help increase the number of positive interactions and encourage you and your spouse to think positively toward one another.

I think one of the biggest obstacles toward completing more generous acts is time. So, think ahead when you are shopping and grab a few small things your partner would enjoy. Stock up on their favorite drinks or treats. And try to be sensitive to their day. For example, is there an errand you could help with or something needed at home you could pick up on your way from work? And schedule time for intimacy when you won’t be exhausted.

Other factors that were important to having a very happy marriage according to the study included:

  • Level of commitment
  • Generosity and a positive attitude toward raising children
  • Social support from friends and family
  • Spirituality within a marriage

Read the story from MSNBC: Generous couples have happier marriages.

What is one generous act that you or your spouse try to do on a regular basis? (That is, outside the bedroom!)

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available–just in time for Christmas. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

At What Age Does the Romance Peter Out in a Marriage?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

For all the talk about menopause and the fear many men and women have that it will impede their sex lives, it’s the husband who usually determines how long a couple’s sex life lasts. I wanted to share an excerpt from Joe Beam’s Blog on sex in later life because this fact was a surprise to me, and it might be for you as well. (Joe is a national best-selling author who has been interviewed on many TV news programs.

“My friend Dr. Barry McCarthy is not only a brilliant expert in matters of sexuality, he also is really nice guy… Barry first opened my eyes to the fact that men are as complicated as women when it comes to sex. Early in my sexual studies I was this naive, “Well, guys are guys. We don’t have to worry about them, so let’s focus on helping the women with their sexuality.” Barry gently corrected my thinking on that.

Then he told me that for most couples it is the husband who determines when their active sex life ends. He says that 1/3 of men quit having sex at age 65. Another 1/3 at 75. He didn’t talk about that last 1/3 but I imagine we can just call them “men who die happy.”

Experience with couples affirms Barry’s knowledge. (Of course, Barry’s knowledge is based on scientific research and long experience, so they didn’t really need affirming.) By far, no matter what the age, I am asked by more women than men about how to get their spouses to be sexual again. These are women in their 20s through their 80s. (One 80-year-old caller to my radio program told me that she had outlived five husbands and the guy she is dating now is in his 50s. When she asked if I’d like to see her picture, I replied that I DEFINITELY would.

So, guys and gals, at what age in life should we cease being sexually active?

Death.

Before that, no matter what the age, it contributes to the health of husband and wife, to their bonding, to their fulfillment, and to their relationship. Thinking that stopping sex is the thing to do because you are now XX years old is wrong. You can have sex into your hundreds.

Just be careful that you don’t break a hip.”

So whether you’re in your 20s or your 80s, Joe’s admonition gives us motivation to keep the romance blooming throughout our life-long relationship. Does it surprise you that men seem to determine how long their sex lives lasts in most marriages?

Related Link:

This article by the Daily Mail in the U.K. discusses how several couples maintained passion-filled lives after 60, and why they and several experts believe that is the glue that keeps a marriage together. “The Kinsey Sex Institute states that the average 18 to 29-year-old has sex 142 times a year; 30 to 39-year-olds 86 times a year; 40 to 49-year-olds 69 times a year; and the over-50s have sex 52 times a year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Growing older in a committed relationship doesn’t have to mean a slow slide into celibacy and slippers.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault by Christian Steiniger

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

Blogger Educates Men on Getting Lucky with Wives

Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

When eight women get together to talk openly about love, sex, and marriage, it can be a very eye-opening experience. Sarah Barton (not her real name) found such value in these discussions with her friends that she opted to make those talks public with the blog, Anonymous8, on the condition that they all keep their identities a secret. Why? For one, they want to be as honest as possible, and for two, many of the women have children old enough to be completely embarrassed by their moms’ candor. The resulting discussions are “smart discussions on taboo topics” on everything involved with love and marriage. Check out the discussions here at Anonymous8 from date night ideas to tips from a woman who needs no sex advice.

Initially designed to be a womens-only forum, Sarah found that quite a few men enjoyed lurking around to hear what women really had to say. The more she heard from men, the more she realized how frustrated some of them are about their love lives, particularly after kids come and their wife’s sex drive and available time falls. As a result, Sarah penned Getting Lucky with the Wife to help men keep their relationships fresh and to learn to communicate effectively with their wives in a way that is respectful and not nagging. This book is aimed at couples in which the husband has a higher sex drive than the wife, and it’s written for husbands who would like to increase the amount of quality sex in their marriage.

Sarah has a background in her “real life” in strategic planning, so the 60-page e-book is more than a quick read; it’s a business book about your most personal business. By following the steps, husbands end up with an action plan they can immediately begin to put into practice.

Starting by providing a knowledge base of a woman’s body, it begins with some education about why a woman’s sex drive can be different and why it doesn’t mean she isn’t attracted to her mate. He can start to understand what’s going on with his wife and then help her understand the importance of sex in his life.

Sarah then helps husbands understand what has worked in the past, whether that’s date nights, helping out at home, increasing romance, etc. There are plenty of ideas on how to change the patterns that occur in many marriages. I think the most important aspect of the book includes tips on how best to communicate with the wife about these matters in a way that isn’t blaming, demeaning or disrespectful. In fact, the husband is invited to tell the wife about the book and the steps he is taking rather than using it as a secret strategy to get into bed more often. It’s about both partners getting more of what they want and nurturing the relationship.

Sarah says if sex is important to you, fight for it. She adds that there are many ideas in the book worth trying, and even if only one idea is effective for you to improve your long-term love life, it would certainly be worth the $18 cost of the book. I think the book is an excellent tool for men and women who want to help bridge the gap between the differences in their sex drives and who wish to understand each other better. If this sounds like you, check out Getting Lucky with the Wife (affiliate link). Sarah even offers a 30-day moneyback guarantee if you think it wasn’t effective.

LINKS:
So Cute, So Hard on a Marriagea good post from the Wall Street Journal about the effects of children in a marriage and pre-emptive steps that can help.

Keys to thriving in marriage and how happily married couples can help build and support marriages from StrengtheningMarriage.com.

Considering bariatric surgery? Read about how marriage rules may change after bariatric surgery.

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