By Dr. Tina Tessina for YourTango.com.
One of the most frequent client complaints I get is about a sexless marriage. While sometimes, in case of illness or injury, a complete sexual experience is not possible in a partnership, it is always best to engage in whatever level sexual activity is available to the couple. Marriage without sex is vulnerable to temptation.
Don’t kid yourselves that you can be just best friends and have a lasting marriage. Sooner or later, temptation will arise, either from a partner’s co-worker, another member of the church choir, (this happens a surprising amount) or a neighbor. The drive to have sex is powerful, and it will be satisfied, one way or another. Don’t you want to satisfy your needs with your partner?
Keeping love and sex alive in your relationship is what keeps it active and healthy. A good sex life is like the roots that anchor a tree. To keep that vital energy going (and the sap rising!), you need to continually provide something new and interesting. Seduction can be as simple as causing your partner to ask what you’ve been doing that has you so energized and interested. When you’re enthusiastic, you’re seductive and at your most attractive.
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Relationships continue to develop in stages, even after the honeymoon is over. Most of us are only familiar with the early phases: meeting, dating, courtship and commitment. Some have experienced moving in, marriage and the exciting honeymoon phase, where everything is brand new and wonderful. This is what romantic songs and movies are all about; it has become what people associate with being in love. Extending the honeymoon phase indefinitely is what people fantasize when they think of “happily ever after.” However, when the all-absorbing process of planning a wedding and honeymoon is over and the couple come home to chores, work, money issues, etc., a post-honeymoon shock can set in. Real life is not as romantic as courtship and nuptials, and the work of developing a great marriage begins now. Because many people in this situation have not yet experienced relationships that have staying power, they have no knowledge or models of the later stages: development of intimacy, and settled partnership phase.
In the development of intimacy, love matures and becomes reality-based. It’s the time where the magic fades; both of you begin to relax and show your innermost, less perfect selves. You’re beginning to get to know each other, warts and all. You may feel vulnerable and awkward. In this stage, you may argue, struggle for power, become irritable and unreasonable. The fear that your lover will not like this more realistic view of you arises. As a result, both partners need and have trouble providing reassurance and personal space. Many relationships don’t make it through this stage, because if the partners don’t understand or expect this change, it can feel like something is terribly wrong.
Eventually, if the relationship survives, the couple develops a style of intimacy that works for them. A couple who has made it this far feels more secure. Now the settled partnership issues come up: how to keep love alive over a long period of time, how not to take each other for granted;, how to set goals beyond just being together and how to handle changes. Settled partnership is the stage in which the pleasures of lasting love are realized. At this point, successful couples know they’re loved as they really are. They have become experts in living life together. When all goes well, the couple have a feeling of security, intimacy and partnership that’s truly satisfying and rewarding. When problems arise, they have the wisdom and experience to keep their commitment alive through cooperation and mutual understanding.
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However, it takes several years to achieve the full benefits of these later stages. Unless you’ve been through a very long-term relationship before, it’s hard to understand the difficulties encountered in the development of intimacy and the settled partnership phases. It’s easy to be discouraged and give up. People often do much better in their second or third long-term relationships, because their early experience taught them what to expect and gave them a chance to acquire the necessary long-term skills. Because we lack education and experience, our early unsuccessful relationships often serve as practice for later successful ones. But if this is your first long-term relationship, hope is not lost!
Here are four simple steps to create a successful marriage – complete with lots of intimacy:
1. Talk frequently and honestly to each other about your frustrations, sex, anger, disappointment, your appreciation of each other, the meaning of life… talk about everything.
2. Strive to work together to solve anything that comes up. Be a team and a partnership. Don’t get stuck on who’s right or wrong. Focus on what will solve the problem.
3. Keep your connection going through communication, sex, affection, understanding and concern for each other.
4. Have a sense of humor, give the benefit of the doubt and care about each other.
When your relationship lasts for a while, your lovemaking will change. As you get closer, passion no longer grows automatically out of the excitement of the new and unknown. Rather than allowing your energy to subside, you can allow your sex lives to change and grow, deepening as your partnership does. Couples who develop a sexual repertoire which includes a variety of habits, attitudes and options report feeling more satisfaction and freedom to express their love with enough variety that they never get bored. These suggestions will help you create a variety of experiences together.
These are ways to enjoy sex when you don’t really have time for a full, leisurely romantic evening: Try oral sex before you leave for work, petting to climax in the car at a drive-in movie, using toys to have orgasms without a lot of foreplay late at night, or taking a nap and having a “quickie” before rushing off to a party.
This has the added excitement of forbidden fruit: having silent sex behind locked doors while the children are watching TV or sneaking lovemaking in your childhood bedroom while visiting your parents.
This is the full-blown variety: candlelight, dinner, quiet talking, dressing up, perhaps a lovely hotel room or a romantic dinner for two when you have time alone at home. This is especially good for anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or anytime your relationship needs a boost.
New Couple Sex:
Recreate a scene from your dating days, as closely as possible: the time you met at church and couldn’t wait to get home and make love, the flowers you used to bring home as a surprise, or saying all the silly, wildly-in-love things you would whisper “way back then.”
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After you’ve had an argument or a struggle and forgiven each other, lovemaking can be extra tender and memorable.
When one of you is sad or stressed, and the other acts in a way that is caring and soothing, sex can feel comforting and safe. This is a celebration of your long-time bond and how hard you’ve worked to maintain it.
This is a great activity for a weekend morning when you have no obligations and can laze around, have breakfast in bed, and make love for as long as you want. There’s no pressure, no hurry and no demands on each other.
This is manifested in affection and intimacy intended to reassure a partner who is temporarily insecure, or designed to reaffirm your mutual love and commitment to each other. It is often accompanied by many verbal declarations of love and explaining again why you are so important to each other.
Act out all the silly, forbidden or exciting fantasies you’ve been harboring: nurse and patient, “playing house,” master or dominatrix and slave, stripper and customer, extraterrestrial alien and abductee, famous movie star and adoring fan, your two favorite characters from a soap opera, novel or movie… or anything else you can imagine. This is a great time for costumes, masks, toys, outfits, or whatever enhancements you enjoy.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Looking For Marriage Advice? Try Having More Sex!.