Have you gotten the message yet that we think sex has a very important place in your life as a couple? In the last three blogs we have been challenging each of you to challenge yourself to get your groove back.
As new parents your biggest challenge is the lack of desire due to physical exhaustion and the hormonal changes that are very real as a result of on-demand breast-feeding. Also if you use a contraceptive containing progesterone ( Birth control pills, Depo-Provera, Norplant) you may experience a sexually depressing effect. Yet with all these “new normals”, desire is not a mysterious force outside of your control.
You are not going to feel desire unless
you allow yourself to feel it.
Our culture is extremely conflicted about sex. At times sex is treated as an important status symbol (“she/he is so sexy”) and then it is treated as a pain and a waste of time. Rarely is it pictured as a beautiful means of self-expression. For these reasons we, as marriage and family therapists, are providing you with 10 different ways to challenge yourself so that your desire is a valued and treasured part of who you are. First we will review the seven challenges in the last two week’s blogs.
In Blog 63 we asked you to consider challenging yourself in five specific ways.
- Challenge your perfectionistic expectations. They get in the way of your allowing yourself to relax.
- Challenge your idea of beauty. If you only see yourself as beautiful as you were prior to having the baby, not as you are now, you will derail yourself from feeling desirable.
- Challenge the lie that sex is a man’s need and not yours. Feeling that you’re not entitled to be sexual is like feeling that you’re not entitled to be human.
- Challenge your belief that if you’re not feeling it, it won’t happen. Desire comes out of arousal. So the question is, what are you doing to make each other want to come to the party?
- Challenge the belief that scheduling sex is a negative thing. Thriving couples schedule a sex date every week. Intentionality conveys value.In Blog 64 we suggested that you challenge yourself in two additional ways…
- Challenge you definition of foreplay. You deserve to be held, loved, appreciated, kissed, hugged and helped. It called fore-“play,” after all.
- Challenge the pattern that validating your husband’s needs sexually means that you are denying your own. Mothers face the pressure to sublimate all personal urges and to develop into a Mother Teresa. One way of looking at sex is that it is a form of self care.
In today’s blog we continue the challenges.
Since desire cannot be forced, only encouraged, we are providing three more challenges that are important to a couple’s sex life.
Challenge #8: Challenge the Idea that you are not an initiator, only your mate is.
Perhaps before having children, your sexuality was more receptive than initiating. If that is the case, you probably are unaware of your own spontaneous desire. Perhaps you couldn’t conceive of your mother as a sexual being and now you are having difficulty owning your own sexuality.
In a power-hungry marriage, the husband uses sex to control his wife, and she, in turn, refuses, showing him who really is in charge. This is not what we are advocating. This demonstrates the love of power, not the power of love.
Initiating sex is a conscious decision, not a sudden inspiration. When we initiate, we are not necessarily feeling sexy, we are just planning on it. We are saying that we are entertaining the idea of feeling our sexual side.
If your husband has always initiated, he has never experienced sex because you were feeling sexy and you have never had sex because you wanted it. Why would you be willing to withhold sexuality from yourself and from your partner?
We regain a part of ourselves
when we choose to regain our sexuality.
Challenge #9: Challenge the thought that you’re failing if you accept input from your partner.
Most of us have grown up in sexual silence. Feedback about our lovemaking can feel like personal rejection. Yet, if something we are doing isn’t getting the desired effect, don’t we want to know? This is another area of our life where we need to be curious, rather than furious.
A young couple had this talk in the counseling office. The wife said this, “When you’ve been silent all day and then come to me at night and want to make love, I feel that you are expressing a physical need and not love. I feel that you’re having sex and I am having sex, but we are not having sex together. We’re missing a basic connection. I want all of us to be involved in the love making, not just our genitals.”
As marriage and family therapists, we would like to set up some ground rules for talking about what feels good and how to make it better. Intimacy is communicating on a personal level.
- Be compassionate. We are most vulnerable when we have this conversation.
- Stress what you like and what is working well. “I like when you…”rather than emphasizing what you don’t like.
- Appreciate what has worked in the past together. Talk about it with gratitude and joy. Have fun reminiscing.
- If there are things you would like to add to your intimate relationship, don’t present them as a demand. Rather say, “I’d be open to bringing this into our sex life for these reasons…” Whoever is the listener needs to be curious. Ask questions so that you learn about your mate’s desire. Then switch roles. The listener becomes the talker and vice versa.
Having a conversation does not mean that
you have committed to action.
It means that your relationship is big enough and verbal enough to embrace both you and your partner’s desires. Neither of you are afraid to make each other’s desires a topic of compassionate conversations.
Positive feedback about lovemaking
opens the door to more intimacy
with our mate.
Challenge #10: Acknowledge the emotional impact of not
Good emotional intimacy doesn’t guarantee good sex, but good sex, does lead to emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual intimacy.
In the counseling office we often meet couples that have “gone a long time without any physical intimacy. Most of these couples have not held hands, hugged, kissed or snuggled during that period also. One or both of them are feeling abandoned, forgotten,, lonely, invisible and rejected. The cumulative effect of continual rejection crushes people’s souls.
Men love to measure things. They love sports. They are often competitive. They know who is the winner and who is the loser. They keep score. Men are acutely aware of how many times they have been turned down. It is not a wise move for a husband to remind his wife of these facts.
Sex tells a man how much his wife needs him and how much she appreciates him. He longs to feel desired. A man loves to please his wife. If there is an absence of sexuality in their marriage, a husband starts to ask these questions, “Does she need me?” “Does she want me?” and eventually “Does she love me?”
Women are different. Don’t make differences bad. Women long to feel attractive. What makes a woman feel attractive? If your husband took you out to dinner and was on his cell phone all evening, how connected, appreciated and enjoyed would you feel? You’d be upset, wouldn’t you? Women feel attractive when their spouse is present, attuned and engaged. Laughing together is sexy.
Research is confirming that women, even if their body is becoming aroused, will not feel desire until they talk about what turns them on. “I want more of this…” Just because a woman is lubricated does not mean that she desires sex. For a woman, desire is dictated by emotional connection and intimacy. Men have to help their wives to want to come to the party. Desire can be encouraged. As men are well aware, women are not necessarily the same from one day to the next.
Their manual is constantly being rewritten. What would make the party appealing this week may not be the same as what would make it enticing another week. Wives must let their husbands know what is working for them today.
Everyone longs for a mate who shows up with enthusiasm for an evening of emotional and sexual intimacy. Men and women both desire emotional connection.
We hope that these blogs will stimulate some personal work, some active compassionate communication and some intimate sexuality. Any couple that is determined to maintain a private and passionate sex life will value both intimacy and passion. After all…
The greatest gift we can give our baby
is our love for each other!
Don’t abandon your sensuality and your sexuality just because you are a parent. Be a good role model. Actions speak louder than words. What you do is secondary to what you say. If you want your children to be grateful for their sexuality, if you want them to have a healthy body image, and if you want them to be comfortable talking about sex, you must show them the way.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…