Tag Archives: intimacy

Schedule an At-Home Massage with Your Honey

Most ladies I know (including myself) absolutely love getting a massage. Many men do as well. New research adds to our understanding that massage not only feels good, but it’s good for us. Thanks to The Generous Husband for sharing the results of the study, completed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

I’ve previously shared the beneficial effects of touch, and that kissing reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that blood tests for those who received either a light massage or Swedish deep-tissue massage received the benefits of reduced cortisol. An added bonus was that volunteers received an increase in white blood cells, which help fight infection. Finally,  they increased oxytocin levels, which help you bond.

What would your partner think if you told them tonight you were going to give him/her a soothing massage? If that’s not your spouse’s favorite thing, ask him or her to schedule some time in this week for your massage. It’s a bonding activity that will help you relax and put the rest of the world out of your mind.

Here are some tips the pros use to enhance the massage and to set the right environment at home:

  • If you don’t have some at home, purchase some massage oil; it works much better than lotion.
  • Turn off your phones, TVs and other electronic devices.
  • Find some soothing music to play, and dim the lights.
  • Light a scented candle if you both like the smell.
  • Warm up the room if it is chilly.
  • You might have some warm towels available to help relax the muscles.
  • Give the person giving the massage direction on how hard you would like the touch and areas that are sore or need more attention.

If you have no idea how to give a massage, schedule one for yourself with a professional, or consider scheduling a couples massage so you can enjoy it together. Then, share the techniques you enjoyed most with one another. Giving one another therapeutic touch can be healing for the body and for the marriage. When is the last time you scheduled an at-home massage?

Photo credit: ©Hannes Eichinger/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

Can Interfaith Marriages Be Successful?

The high-profile but hush-hush wedding between Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky is one of the most prominent recent marriages involving spouses with different religions. The ceremony involved a mixture of her Methodist upbringing and his Jewish heritage. Wishing the happy couple well, it does beg the question: do differences in matters of faith cause considerable marital conflict?

The research and interviews I have done suggest that often faith and religious differences become more important as time goes on in a marriage. In particular, after children are born, even if the couple has previously agreed upon how to raise the children, the differences become more problematic. They disagreements can become significant enough to cause a major wedge in the relationship, with a risk of marital failure.

Consider the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Some would say they are both theistic religions, and each partner could remain separately faithful to his or her traditions. The Washington Post discusses interfaith marriage with this couple in mind. The writers talk of how to create an interfaith wedding ceremony, which will be the “lead” religion in the home,  and the importance of deciding in which religion the children will be raised.

However, this article in Everyday Christian explains that since the deepest part of both of their religions is in direction conflict, the only way that they can be happy is if they really aren’t that religious at all. The author suggests, “I would argue that most people in America today do not hold much faith at all, except for a simple belief in a faraway, impersonal Creator God. This makes “marrying” religions, or traditions, seem easy enough: ‘We both believe in God. That’s all that matters.'” On the other hand, if couples in interfaith marriages place a great importance (now or in the future) on their beliefs and practices, the conflicts may become more apparent, and may impede their ability to live in complete unity. In other words, their spiritual and physical intimacy may be impaired.

An even larger leap is for couples in which one practices a religions faith in God that is important to him or her, and the other is atheist or agnostic. I interviewed one such couple for my book. When they married, neither practiced any religion, although the wife had grown up in the Christian church and retained a faith in God. The husband was an unbeliever. After they had a child, she returned to her childhood faith and became a devout Christian. They spent years in conflict, trying to convince the other person of the error in their thinking. This attempt to convert one another to their beliefs caused many arguments, and their worldviews often came into conflict. The wife describes thems as being “unequally yoked,” a term from the Bible advising Christians and non-Christians not to marry.

At long last (with strategies that will be detailed in my book), they were able to respectfully differ and agree on how to raise their daughter. They focused on why they chose one another, and treat one another with love and, above all, respect. Both of them, although they finally achieved a happy marriage, advise against marrying someone with whom you have fundamental differences in your belief system, because they say they came very close to divorcing despite their great love for one another. However, they offer hope to couples who are already married to someone with a different faith. They say it is certainly possible to be happily married despite these differences. It is just one more area of struggle that will take significant work, tremendous respect and careful communication so that each person feels loved, respected and understood.

Every couple must make these decisions for themselves, but in my family I can’t imagine not sharing my faith with my husband and children. I appreciate that my husband can show spiritual leadership and that we are in agreement on spiritual matters. This helps particularly in times of crisis.

What do you think? Are you married to someone who has compatible religious beliefs? If not, is this a significant issue in your life? If you do share a religious faith, is your common faith an important part of your marriage?

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?

How to Talk About Sex

In Improving Sexual Communication, we broached the need to talk about sex in order to achieve a passionate sex life. Following are more details on ways couples effectively do this, and ways they can cause more harm in this area. The advice is gleaned from the highly recommended book Hot Monagamy by Dr. Patricia Love and Jo Robinson.

The authors report that most couples talk around sex, rather than talking about it, perhaps using gestures, jokes, unclear comments or put-downs. For example, vague euphemisms about your sexual desires, such as, “You know what I like,” may be misunderstood by your spouse. Talk in clear, honest language about your likes and dislikes. Here are a few tips from the book:

  • Preconditions are one area that can require communication. One spouse may communicate that she wants a clean house, kids in bed and eight hours of sleep the previous night to feel romantic. However, such a list can cause your partner to wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Determine what your legitimate preconditions may be and which are just excuses or a demonstration of lack of interest.
  • Many people talk about sex in an impersonal way, say Robinson and Dr. Love, for instance inviting their partner to bed or asking them to turn the TV off. These are not necessarily negative comments, but a partner wants to be cherished and desired for his or her person, not just for the act. Instead of depersonalizing it, share with your partners what it is you enjoy or desire about him or her. There’s a big difference between “I want it” and “I want you.”
  • Taboo topics can even be held for couples who have been married for 20 years. Silence and a lack of sharing only create a barrier between the couple, impeding true intimacy. So, whether you are disturbed by infrequent initiation by your partner or need to discuss bodily changes, birth control or a need for variety in the bedroom, have the conversation. Most couples would prefer to talk about these topics during a non-intimate time.
  • Can you talk too much? Absolutely, “There are moments in life that defy words and command our undivided attention. That’s why we are silent during a ballet or a concert,” say the authors. Enough said.
  • Silence is not always golden. A partner who is silent about his or her sexual needs because they don’t want to upset their spouse can be creating a rift in the marriage—one that can put you at risk for an affair.
  • Gender differences can make talking about sex more difficult than you expect, since men tend to place a higher importance on independence and mastery, while women value intimacy more. So, when a woman requests more kissing and touching, a man may feel this is a criticism of past performance. Be aware of this tendency, and use praise when appropriate.
  • Criticism, harsh statements or sarcasm are not effective inside or outside of the bedroom. (This includes comments about body image.) Neither is generalizing about what your partner “always” does or doesn’t do. Instead, keep a positive and respectful tone. After all, you’re trying to spice up your love life, not weed the garden.

Is there just one area of your sexual communication that you can seek to improve upon? Will you consider being more receptive to your partner’s wishes, and more open in communicating your own? Do you find talking about sex natural or difficult?

Man Up/Woman Up: How To Have Curl-Your-Toes Sex

 Today, I’d like to refer you to a great web site for an article about improving your sex life. Author Corey Allan, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a straight-shooter, and an entertaining writer.

Check out his web site at Simple Marriage, and read the article How To Have Curl Your Toes Sex.