Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: sex

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    5 Ways to Stoke the Fire of Passion in Marriage

    In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

    Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

    In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

    When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

    Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

    You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years...

    Well, here are some things relationship experts encourage you to think about:

    • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
    • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
    • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
    • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
    • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

    According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble - if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

    If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your marriage, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

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    Keys to a Smokin' Hot Marriage

    You found your “soul mate,” dated and fell madly in love. Before long you were fantasizing about what your wedding and wedding night would be like. The honeymoon was wonderful, and so were the weeks and months that followed.

    As you slowly get down to the business of marriage, tasks, opportunities, decisions and real life can hit you square in the face.

    After a couple of years, your home and roles in married life are down to a routine. Looking to the future, you suddenly realize that your romantic life has become as routine as the household chores.

    Since the routine doesn’t have the magic it once had, you wonder, "Did I really marry my soul mate?"

    “This is an all-too-familiar story for many people,” says Dr. Pat Love, author, speaker and educator. "People find this very disconcerting. They know couples who are talking divorce which makes the lack of passion in their own marriage a bit more concerning. Couples have the baby, the recession, responsibilities, job insecurity, and so many irons in the fire that the fire has gone out of the bedroom. Their commitment is strong, yet there is this gnawing worry that maybe they should be doing something to flame the embers and get the fire going again.”

    During the first two years of marriage, couples get a free dopamine ride. Everything is new and exciting and they have an elevated sex drive. But dopamine levels drop around the two-year mark, and spouses begin to wonder what is wrong. To make matters worse, they rarely talk about what is happening in their relationship.

    “These disconcerting thoughts can lead to arguments about things that don’t have anything to do with the real issue at hand – what has happened to us. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage," Love says. "If you can’t talk about it in a healthy productive way, both spouses are likely to be dissatisfied. This quickly moves to discontentment which can lead to the dissolution of a perfectly good marriage.”

    Perhaps the passion in your marriage has fizzled. If you want to make sure it stays alive, you can still fan the flames.

    Believe it or not, there are classes and events for couples on topics just like this. In a safe and fun environment, you can consider what makes you feel close to each other. You can also learn how to talk about sexuality and sensuality without being overly-sensitive or blaming.

    To learn more about fully understanding your spouse’s needs or how to deal with differences in creating passion and intimacy in your relationship, please contact us or check out our classes for married couples.

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    Is Date Night Dead?

    Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

    This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

    An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it's not because of something huge. It's because they say they have become disconnected.

    According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

    How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

    Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

    Date nights may also:

    • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.

    • Strengthen a couple's sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of "we-ness" or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.

    • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.

    • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

    The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

    • Are about three times more likely to say they are "very happy" in their marriages;

    • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;

    • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

    If you haven't been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don't have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

    Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don't have to spend a ton of money - just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

    "Couple time" can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

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    There is Hope for Your Marriage

    Margery D. Rosen, author of Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, Can this Marriage be Saved? interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

    “The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

    Rosen found something very interesting when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

    “The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

    When Rosen completed her research, she found that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics: trust, communication, fighting fair, power struggles, money, sex and balancing parenthood. Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to a lasting marriage.

    Below is a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

    • Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate's expense.

    • Communicate. Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

    • Fight fair. People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

    • Defuse power struggles. Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

    • Be money-smart. Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want, how they can best attain these goals, and how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

    • Make love. A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

    • Team up. Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

    “It takes courage to face marital problems head on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

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    Sex: From Sparklers to Fireworks in the Bedroom

    According to marriage experts, there are probably more fireworks going on outside the bedroom than inside.

    Data collected from the 2014 General Social Survey indicates that married couples have sex approximately 58 times a year. If you are under 30, however, it’s around 111 times. Approximately 15 percent of married couples haven’t made love with their spouse in the last six months to a year.

    In a TEDx talk, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis describes this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. It's a marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal, it’s just sex?”

    “When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work is to help resurrect flat-lined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”

    Many people automatically assume that all men think about is sex. But according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women; it’s just a well-kept secret.

    Weiner-Davis says it is not uncommon for even long-married couples to never discuss sex.

    In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband of 15 years shared that there is only a two-hour window on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is, do you find me attractive anymore, do you still love me, do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”

    Surprised, his wife responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage. But, Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.

    “It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things. But when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it, and be monogamous,” Weiner-Davis says.

    Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is easy to fix. A few basic changes can help you move from little sparklers to fireworks in the bedroom:

    • Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. You need to become an expert in making your mate feel connected to you.

    • If your spouse wants sex more often than you do, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way to connect.

    • When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it. You just need to do it.

    • Healthy marriages require mutual caretaking. Take care of each other. It is an act of love.

    “When we learn to be better caretakers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” Weiner-Davis says.

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    How You Can Have an Awesome, Amazing, Mind-Blowing Marriage

    Do you want an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage?

    The answer to that question is usually a resounding YES! But, it is quickly followed with something like, “I could only hope for that,” or “Only in my dreams.”

    “Based on my experience as a counselor, I think a lot of people feel like they are sentenced to a life of boredom when they marry,” says Darlene Karst, counselor, marriage educator and wife. “The reality is that could not be further from the truth … if you are willing to put effort into making your marriage fun, romantic, passionate and intimate.”

    Most people would probably agree that it would be unusual for someone to be an exceptional mechanic, golfer, artist, or chef without training and a lot of practice. Yet people often expect to be excellent lovers and great at marriage overnight.

    “The truth is, if you want to have an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, you have to set your mind to it and work to make it happen,” Karst says. “We might be in the middle of hard economic times, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tough on your marriage. You don’t need a lot of money to make your relationship more romantic and intimate.”

    Karst suggests that there are certain things couples need to guard against because they are passion-killers in a marriage. When people think about passion and romance they often don’t consider how certain things can rob you of those feelings while others can set the tone. Consider the color of your room and the textures you have in your bedroom. Do they inspire romance?

    “I always ask couples if they have a television in their bedroom,” Karst says. “If they do, I tell them to get rid of it. The bedroom should be a sanctuary where you can be together without distractions. Other things that can rob you of romantic moments include old worn-out nightgowns and underclothing, sports memorabilia and other things that clutter up the bedroom as well as fighting in your bedroom.”

    With busy careers, children and outside commitments there is no question that life is hectic. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans can end up out the window when a child gets sick, the boss hands out an urgent deadline or a disagreement comes along.

    “More often than not, those things are exceptions to the rule and not the rule,” Karst says. "Therefore, I encourage couples to make a plan. Make sure you set aside time during the week to talk about children, bills, meetings, etc. Just as you set aside time for these things, set aside time to be together.”

    If you are lacking in the creativity department, never fear. Karst gives these suggestions:

    • Take turns planning a special evening of pampering for your spouse. Think about what is important to your partner and plan an evening to indulge him or her. Be intentional about being with your partner physically and emotionally. Because men are so visual, one wife wore one of her husband’s favorite outfits and did things he really liked. On another night, he drew a bath for her and gave her a massage.

    • Do things differently. If you always make love the same way, change that so it doesn’t become routine. Consider these questions to help spice up your love life: What brings you the most sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love? What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh and growing?

    • Teach the kids that your bedroom is your bedroom. When the door is closed, it means that mom and dad want a time-out. While this may sound totally unrealistic, it might surprise you how well it works once they get the idea.

    Perhaps now is a great time to kick-off an ongoing celebration of your marriage. To learn more about having an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, click here.

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    How to Increase Intimacy in Your Marriage

    If you could have paradise however you imagine it, what would it look like?

    If you could have that kind of paradise, do whatever you wanted to do there and be in charge of it, would you go there?

    If you could have that kind of paradise, but with no one else, would you still go?

    “These are questions I ask couples across this country and internationally,” says counselor Dr. Rick Marks. “As fed up as they might be with their marriage or relationship and as tempting as it may be, these questions actually create tension in a person because human beings were not designed to be alone. I rarely come across a person who says they would take that kind of paradise. Yet, I talk with hundreds of couples who are married and living a lonely existence.”

    Marks contends that the remedy for human aloneness is intimacy. Everybody craves intimacy, and people will find ways to get it.

    “Pain pursues pleasure,” Marks says. “Your brain is wired to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. We are all driven by our needs until the day we die. When you don’t feel loved, you search for ways to get that need met. This is why some people will say to you, ‘Bad love is better than no love at all.’”

    Consider this: If you had not eaten in five days and someone gave you a bunch of hamburgers, would it satisfy your hunger? Yes, because the message to your brain is that you are eating something. Eating rat poison instead of hamburgers would also satisfy your need initially. Why? Because your brain would still release the same squirt of dopamine to signal that the need had been met.

    “This is what people often do in marriage when things aren’t going well,” Marks says. “If I need attention and I get any kind of attention, I feel loved – even if the attention comes from the wrong person. People will go to rat poison to get their needs met, because it satisfies the need in the moment. Needs - met or unmet - affect how we think, feel and behave.”

    How would you respond to the question, "Do you feel loved and valued in your marriage?"

    Believe it or not, creating intimacy in your marriage isn’t only about your spouse. Sometimes husbands and wives actually hinder getting their intimacy needs met due to prideful self-reliance, exalting their own needs as more important than those of their spouse and being hypersensitive.

    “Your spouse could actually be trying to love you, but due to your pridefulness, you refuse to receive it,” Marks says. “We are often so focused on our own needs that we don’t pay attention to the needs of our spouse. This is a recipe for disaster. I, along with many others, have experienced this miserable existence.”

    So, what can you do to increase intimacy in your marriage?

    • Discuss with your spouse: When do each of you feel loved and valued?

    • Then ask yourself: Do I make it difficult to create intimacy in my marriage?

    Honest answers to these questions will help you pinpoint the areas where each of you can meet the other’s needs. This healthy balance of give and take can help you produce a more intimate and fulfilling marriage relationship.