THE INTRINSIC VALUE OF A HEALTHY SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP
Sex is one of the most talked about and least talked about subjects in the world. Studies confirm what happy couples already know; there is intrinsic value in a healthy sexual relationship. When couples are attuned to each others’ sexual needs, they behave romantically toward one another and develop a very loving and respectful relationship. But this is not a new idea. The time-honored wedding vows have always explicitly acknowledged that sex is a benefit, a responsibility, and an obligation associated with marriage. What are the secrets of a good sexual relationship in marriage? Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
• Keep your sex life healthy. Research demonstrates a strong connection between sexual intimacy and satisfaction in marriage. Yet many couples describe an unfortunate decline in sexual interest following marriage. Reasons for declining interest run the gamut from exhaustion to marital conflict, childbearing, interruptions by children, erectile dysfunction, lack of interest, illness, etc. However there is no good excuse for not communicating about sexual intimacy and affection in your marriage. If you and your spouse are not communicating about sex, watch out! Without it, changing expectations and needs will go unmet, rendering the relationship vulnerable to intruders. The “instruction booklet” on marriage emphatically states that satisfaction with intimacy and sexual pleasure are essential, but not sufficient ingredients for a happy marriage. This means that while sexual love is essential, it is not automatic. A fulfilling sex life must be actively pursued and yes, it must be scheduled like a date.
• The problem of bait and switch. Most couples describe their sexual attraction prior to marriage. Not surprising, sexual passion is usually one of the great selling points of a relationship. While dating, most partners are passionate, romantic and attentive to each other. They tend to be good listeners, they solve problems together, and they are excellent companions. In other words, they do all the right things on the road to falling in love. After marriage, however, many spouses begin to take that same relationship for granted. They may intentionally ignore or avoid each others’ sexual advances. But rest assured that even when couples talk less, their behavior speaks volumes if their playfulness and common interests are replaced by demands, criticism, and interpersonal rejection.
• Marriage is an everyday affair. Before marriage, couples work hard to understand each other. We inform each other when our feelings are hurt. We express our likes and dislikes but try to remain open to new ideas. We monitor our combativeness, our tone of voice, and our attitudes as we work toward becoming a functional couple. Once married, however, it is easy to forget that we are working as teammates on joint goals and shared interests.
The marital relationship is designed to reduce stress by increasing interpersonal support. As a couple, we are building a home together using our own creativity and designs for comfort, safety and support. The trick is to be mindful that even as you are building your home together, your efforts may be thwarted if one or both of you begin to dismantle yesterday’s progress. Children of divorced parents have seen their parents dismantle a marriage. Spouses who develop second thoughts about their marriage, may consciously or unconsciously seek to sabotage success. Rather than pushing harder to complete the project, take time out to talk about your thoughts, feelings and concerns. Like a couple in a three-legged race, you are bound together and so must work together to take even one solid step forward.
• Forgive yourself for the past. When people say, “I Do”, they are agreeing to accept each other for better and for worse, in sickness and in health. In my mind, this implies that when we marry, we are getting a fresh start, a clean slate, and that we are forgiven for our past transgressions. But as with most things, even when the rest of the world forgives us, we can be especially hard on ourselves.
Unfortunately, when partners use each others’ past mistakes and experiences as ammunition the effects can be devastating. Guilt has a terrible way of destroying our confidence. While a husband may desire to free his wife of her sexual inhibitions, if he attempts to do so by referencing her previous behaviors, he may find himself shut out of the bedroom completely or she may completely disengage from her sexual feelings and marital trust.
Marriage is a relationship in which people can grow-up together and hopefully grow old together. Marriage does not change the fact that each of us continues to grow and learn on a daily basis. From time to time, we redefine ourselves and grow in different directions. Discussing our growth and sharing how changes affect us allows our partners to grow along with us and even buffer some of the bumps which lie ahead in the road.
In contrast, those who fight change by taking rigid stances in the effort to block each others’ growth are eventually recognized as being “part of the problem”. What does this have to do with mature sexual love? Everything! Mature sexual love is like a backstage pass into the heart of your beloved. Love and lifetime commitment are positions of great honor. Be sure to acknowledge your appreciation of each other, each and every day. We cannot afford to take each others’ love for granted.