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How Often Should We Have Sex?

The "magic number" may rise or fall in different seasons.

What if I told you that there was a number—a magical number—that defined the exact rate you and your spouse should have sex each and every week so both of you experience wonderful, marital, sensuous bliss that will last over the entire span of your marriage, “until death do you part?” 

Well, do I have news for you… You won’t find that magic number recorded anywhere! 

While research does suggest that couples that have sex at least once per week are happier than those who have sex less than that, it still doesn’t provide a solid answer to the question of how often a couple should have sex. All we know is that once a week is the average rate for couples who are happy. 

But before you click the X and stomp off in frustration, hear me out. Because while determining the magic number is about as elusive as Bigfoot riding a unicorn, there may still be a number that produces a little magic. 

If you do some research, what you will find are experts who say that there is no prescribed, scientific, formulaic number of times a couple should be having sex, but the magic number is what you make it. Raffi Bilek, a couples’ counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Health, “The truth is that whatever is comfortable for you and your partner is your normal. You don’t need to be having sex any more or less than you’d like.” 

This is all well and good, unless, of course, you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on what is “comfortable” and “normal.” (Which probably describes a majority of couples out there.) 

So then, how do you move forward with this touchy subject? 

The truth of the matter is that the magic number is one that you and your spouse have to determine for yourselves. It’s your magic number. And here are some steps to move toward that: 

You’ve got to talk about it.

Start the conversation, and approach it with a great deal of respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions. Discuss with each other: 

  • Are you someone who can get turned on before you have sex or do you have to be well into the foreplay before you are actually in the mood?
  • Do you need to have sex to feel emotionally connected to your spouse, or do you need to feel emotionally connected to your spouse to have sex?
  • How does stress affect your desire for sex? 

What turns you on about the other person? Is seeing particular behaviors or attitudes more likely to get your motor running? (E.g. I love it when she is in a good mood, I’m really attracted to him when I see him being an active father, She really steams up the room when we watch a great football game together…)

More than likely, you’re not going to hammer this out in one sitting. It’s an ongoing process and conversation to find a mutually satisfying rhythm to your sex life.

Determine an actual, magical number for your relationship.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Why is this important? It gives you a goal and informs each person in the marriage  what they can expect. 

You may need to compromise and meet in the middle.

Now, the person who wants sex more may get it less. And the person who wants sex less may get it more than they want. But let’s be honest: no one has ever died from not getting as much sex as they wanted. And if you are the one who wants sex less, you may need to be willing to give in a little more than you’d like (with healthy, reasonable expectations, of course). However, you both may find your comfort level increasing with the magic number, especially if you…

Pay close attention to each other’s intimacy needs.

Some people need to feel emotionally secure and close before they’re willing to even think about sex. If that’s your spouse, you have a job to do—find ways to meet their emotional needs (and not just because you want to have sex). 

Other people feel emotionally secure by being physically intimate. If that’s your spouse, you may need to spice things up a little more than you’re used to. If you keep each other’s pathways to connection in your sights, finding that magic number can come more easily than you expect. 

One more thing to keep in mind: Magic numbers can change. Life goes through seasons. Children come into the picture. Or they leave the house. Health issues arise. People take medication. Temporary periods of stress or exhaustion come into the picture. All these things can affect how often the magic happens. The key here is to continue to be sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings and to continue to communicate. 

Magic numbers don’t have to be as mythical as unicorns, and it’s possible for things to be magical in the bedroom for both of you in your marriage. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

If your spouse wants sex more than you do, here are a few words of wisdom. I probably drive a little faster than my wife is sometimes comfortable with (and she’s not afraid to let me know). On the other hand, she is more cautious on the road (and I don’t dare say anything from the passenger seat). My wife is definitely a beach person. I’m much more of a woods-and-lake kind of person. I binge on books. My wife binges on NetflixDifferences are often what makes marriage interesting. But there’s one difference that often shows up in marriages that causes all kinds of awkwardness, quarrels, and misunderstandings. 

That’s right: pizza toppings. 

Just kidding. The answer is sex. And more specifically, sex drives. More often than not, one person wants it more than the other. And many couples struggle to find an answer to this marital difference that seems to be as old as time. 

What do you do when your sex drives aren’t in sync? 

Marriage therapist and author Dr. Pat Love (yes, that’s her real name!) provides some insight into this question in her book Hot Monogamy. 

She introduces the concept of people who are either “sexy body” or “sexy brain” kind of people. Chances are, if there is a difference in sex drive in a relationship, then one person is more of a “sexy brain” while the other is more of a “sexy body.” 

“Sexy Body”/”Sexy Brain”

“Sexy body” people have a body that’s always ready for sex. They typically desire sex on a daily basis. Even when stressed out, they can easily be aroused, and sex even makes them feel better when in a state of stress or anxiety. “Sexy body” folks can even desire sex with their spouse in the middle of being upset with them. 

This is all a complete mystery to “sexy brain” people. And it’s easy to label those “sexy body” people as horn-dogs. But before we begin throwing labels around, it’s important to remember that, for “sexy body” people, sex is a way they feel the closest to their spouse. It’s how they connect on both a physical and emotional level. It’s a major pathway through which they experience love. 

“Sexy brain” people, obviously, are a bit different. It’s difficult for them to be sexually aroused if they are feeling stress, anxiety, or fatigue. And for many people, this equals the majority of the time. And if they are upset at their spouse, well, chances are nil that anyone is going to experience any kind of hanky-panky. 

“Sexy body” people often don’t understand this at all, and quickly jump to the conclusion that their spouse is prudish, frigid, or just plain abnormal. But not so fast. “Sexy brain” people simply have to feel a sense of connection, security, and calm in order to be more open to physical intimacy. Emotional engagement with their spouse is a prerequisite for desiring sex. 

This does not mean that “sexy brain” people don’t enjoy sex. In fact, they do. However, clearing the to-do list, getting enough rest, and feeling an emotional attachment to their spouse makes sex easier to desire and more enjoyable. “Sexy brain” people are still, well, sexy

What “sexy body” people need to remember

  • Understand that your “sexy brain” spouse is perfectly normal in how they think about sex; it’s just different from you, and differences aren’t bad. 
  • Be reasonable with your expectations. Let’s be real: you could be up for sex every time your spouse changes their socks. But this simply isn’t how your spouse operates, nor should they be pressured to operate that way. (As a matter of fact, the more “sexy brain” people are pressured to have sex, the less they want to have sex. The pressure equals stress, and stress equals no sex.
  • Learn about your spouse’s preconditions for being in the mood. How can you connect with your spouse emotionally? How can you help alleviate stress for them? And can you do these things in a way that’s sincere and not because you want to have more sex?

What “sexy brain” people need to remember

  • You have to make time for sex. Physical intimacy is an important part of the marriage relationship. Therefore, taking care of yourself means not allowing stress to become an overwhelming factor in your life. You maybe even ask for help in order to alleviate some stress and be sure you get sufficient rest. This helps in making sex more enjoyable for you. 
  • Understand that if you consistently say no to your “sexy body” spouse, it causes them to wonder if they are unattractive to you. A “sexy body” person needs to know that their spouse still thinks they’re hot stuff. And when you show them they are (at least to you), then it makes a huge difference in their esteem and confidence. Not to mention, it makes the connection between you as a couple stronger. 
  • Ask yourself, what is it your partner does that is a real turn-on? Sometimes the stress and fatigue you feel blur the attraction you actually have for your spouse. They are blockades to getting turned on. Asking this question can bring what it is about your spouse that gets your blood pumping back into clarity. 

Finally, think about this: the needs of “sexy brain” and “sexy body” people actually can work together to become more in sync with each other’s sex drives. 

Here’s what I mean. When a “sexy brain” person lets their “sexy body” spouse know they are desirable, attractive, and sexy (either by telling them or showing them by being more open to having sex), they might find the pressure to have sex is toned down.

And when the “sexy body” person is sincerely intentional about connecting on an emotional level frequently, they may find that their “sexy brain” mate is more easily aroused and able enjoy sex more. 

Wins all around. 

The key is to talk.

Communicate about your differences. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Seek to understand what makes them a “sexy brain” or a “sexy body” kind of person. Become a student of your spouse. You just may find that your differences bring you closer together, and you can begin to work on other marital questions like what toppings you’re going to order on your pizza. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.**

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For forever both of you have lamented about how busy you are and how you wished you had more time just to be together and enjoy each other’s company. Then Corona hit the scene and BOOM! Just like that, you are together 24/7. As a result, romantic dinners, at-home date nights and long conversations are now on the table again. So, why is it that just when opportunity presents itself, one or both of you feel like you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’? 

I mean, isn’t sex at the top of your list in the midst of worrying about your jobs, money, aging parents or trying to help your kids finish school? Or dealing with your graduate’s disappointment over no graduation ceremony or celebration, your college student who isn’t happy about being home and you aren’t particularly excited about them being home? 

Was that an emphatic, “No!” I heard? Well, you aren’t alone for sure. And, truth be told, there’s a really good explanation. Simply put, most of us are in survival mode.

The Why Behind How You May Feel

When we experience stress and anxiety for an extended period of time, it is exhausting. COVID-19 has tossed all of us into the land of the unknown at breakneck speed. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue often result in a decrease in your sex drive. The good news is, it is unlikely that you’ve permanently lost that loving feeling. Plus, there are some things you can do to help get you through quarantine.

There is some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Everybody needs time to themselves, so make sure you are finding ways to be separate AND together.

It’s hard to be together all the time. There are probably plenty of things your spouse does that under normal circumstances would go unnoticed or just wouldn’t be that big a deal. Throw in the level of intensity we have all been experiencing and all of a sudden, these things are annoying idiosyncrasies that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard—it’s true. See it for what it is and do your best to not get revved up about it. It’s a pretty sure thing that you do stuff that gets on their nerves as well. Cutting each other some slack will most likely serve you well.

Be intentional about finding ways to be playful with each other that don’t take much effort. Take a walk or leave a clue on the bathroom mirror for something fun they have to find (like their favorite candy or you)! Dance to your favorite songs, do something unexpected that they will appreciate, or play Spin the Bottle Strip Poker. Anything that has the potential to make you smile or laugh will release hormones in your brain that make you feel good. Doing this with your spouse makes you feel good about being around them, even when things are Coronavirus challenging.

Take good care of yourself and help your spouse to do the same.

Not getting enough exercise or rest and not eating right can make you not even want to be around yourself—much less anybody else. 

When we are stressed out, tense and anxious, it is easy to allow the one we love the most to experience our wrath. That doesn’t exactly help that lovin’ feelin’ show up. They may know you best and understand that it’s your stress speaking and not you. However, over time your spouse may feel like you are using them as a punching bag—and that gets old fast. Instead of taking your feelings out on them, try talking through how each of you is feeling about your present circumstance. It is highly likely that the two of you aren’t going through the COVID-19 experience feeling the same emotions. 

Believe it or not, working through a really hard thing together can make you feel more intimate toward one another. 

So, in the midst of and beyond the quarantine experience, try not to do anything that would damage your relationship and your love for each other. You may not feel overly excited about sex at the moment. However, as stress and anxiety decrease and the tension melts away, you will probably find that lovin’ feelin’ again.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Think hearing loss really doesn’t have an impact on your relationships? You might want to think again.

Lorina knew that she had some hearing loss, but didn’t really think it was that big a deal.

“I knew over the years my hearing loss had increased, but it wasn’t until my friend pointed out to me that I was constantly saying, ‘What?’ and ‘Huh?’ and strongly encouraged me to get my hearing tested that I thought it might really be a thing,” says Lorina, who had moderate hearing loss on one side and severe loss on the other side.

“When I was fitted with a hearing aid, I was amazed!” Lorina says. “I could not believe the difference in the clarity of people’s words and the sounds I was able to hear that I had no idea I was missing. It even impacted my relationship with my husband.”

“We hear stories like Lorina’s all the time at the Speech and Hearing Center,” says Erica Newman, president and CEO. “In fact, just the other day, I was reading a study about the impact of hearing loss on marriage.”

Couples in the study used words like “embarrassment” and “frustration” most frequently to describe how hearing loss impacted their relationships. One spouse would say, “I’m listening, but I can’t hear you.” The other spouse would say, “I can hear you, but I can’t understand you.”

“The number one thing the study found that changed in marriages where someone experienced hearing loss was spontaneity,” Newman says.

“The spouse with the hearing loss felt embarrassed when they had to ask people to repeat themselves because they associated it with being slow-witted and disturbing to the flow of normal conversation, so they just didn’t say anything. They found themselves wondering, ‘If I have to repeat myself three times, is it worth saying?’ Little side comments, a spontaneous exchange or funny off-the-cuff conversations stopped happening. This impacts closeness in the relationship and undermines confidence, intimacy, sharing and playfulness. It also impacts shared activities such as watching television together.”

A 2009 British study found that out of 1500 people surveyed with hearing loss:

  • 44% reported that their hearing loss caused relationships with important people in their lives to suffer. 
  • 34% reported the breakdown in communication brought about the loss of relationships, including marriage.

“Often when I am at a health fair, a spouse will walk up to me and point out their spouse, saying, ‘He/she needs to come see you, but I can’t get them to make an appointment,’” Newman says. “My response to them and to everybody is, we all need to have our hearing checked at age 50 so people have a baseline to work from.

When Lorina finally did get hearing aids, she said it rocked her world.

“I have spent most of my life having people only on my left side because that was my good ear,” Lorina says. “Now I can have people on either side of me. We have also turned the television way down. I had no idea we had the volume cranked up so high. One of the funniest things that happened after getting my hearing aids was when I had my son in the car with me and I noticed a rattle in the back of my car. When I said something about it, he said, ‘Mom, it’s been there for forever!’”

Newman says that while getting your hearing checked can be scary, most of her patients who get hearing aids wish they had done it sooner. She believes their quality of life improves and their relationship with their loved ones is better as well.

Communication is key in building and maintaining relationships. Anything that hinders it can create loss of connectedness and intimacy. Hearing loss is often easy to deal with and improve with a little effort. Sometimes it takes the help of others who can see or hear things you cannot. Don’t let fear or stubbornness put a damper on your relationships. It may cause you to miss out on what is going on around you.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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How do you know if love will last? Some say you don’t, that it’s just luck of the draw if your love lasts over time. Many believe that the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to be compatible over time. Others say, not so fast.

With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will last is more about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. And it all starts with these 8 conversations for couples.

In studying successful couple relationships and couples whose relationships fail to thrive over time, The Gottman Institute found that people connect and fall in love by talking. John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, discovered eight crucial conversations that couples need to have.

These must-have conversations can either help couples know that love will last or help rekindle a love that has become lukewarm. The authors made the topics into dates for the book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

These conversation-based dates have the potential to help couples increase understanding and commitment regardless of how long they have been together.

The topics for discussion include:

  • Trust and Commitment. Trust is cherishing each other and showing your partner you are reliable. Choosing commitment means accepting your partner exactly as he or she is, despite their flaws.
  • Conflict. Conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. There is purpose behind it and it is an opportunity to take your relationship to a deeper level.
  • Sex and Intimacy. Romantic, intimate rituals of connection keep a relationship happy and passionate. Couples who talk about sex have more sex.
  • Work and Money. Money issues usually aren’t about money at all. Instead, they are about what money means to each person. Learning what money means to each person can help take your relationship to a totally different place.
  • Family. It is not unusual for relationship satisfaction to decrease after the birth of a child. The decrease often continues with each subsequent child. Couples who maintain their sexual relationship and learn how to manage conflict in a way that builds up their relationship can avoid this drop in relationship happiness.
  • Fun and Adventure. People are often so busy “adulting” that they underestimate the importance of play and adventure in their relationship. They are vital components to a successful and joyful relationship. While couples may not agree on what constitutes play and adventure, learning more about the one you love can be part of the fun.
  • Growth and Spirituality. The only constant in a relationship is change. How each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other partner is key. Relationships can be more than just two individuals coming together. They can be stories of transformation and great contribution and meaning to the world.
  • Dreams. Honoring each other’s dreams is the secret ingredient to creating love for a lifetime. When dreams are honored, everything else in the relationship gets easier.

The Gottmans contend that every strong relationship is a result of a never-ending conversation between partners. This book about must-have conversations will guide you through how to talk and how to listen in a way that will benefit you as individuals and as a couple.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

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, if you’re looking for ways to stoke the fire of passion in your marriage, you might want to think about some things:

  • 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 relationship, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch when you stoke the fire of passion in your marriage. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

 

 

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

During the Yamadas’ adventurous marriage, there haven’t been many dull moments.

“I wouldn’t describe either of us as risk-takers, but we are definitely not afraid to try new things,” says Mrs. Yamada. “We enjoy ballroom dancing, mountain biking and scuba diving, but I couldn’t see either of us bungee jumping.”

Several years ago, the Yamadas tried taking up a new hobby together — flying.

“I have always had a love for aviation,” says Mr. Yamada. “I used to build model airplanes as a kid. Learning to fly has been a lifelong dream. My wife loves to travel so getting our pilot’s license greatly expanded our travel options, which makes her very happy.”

Getting their pilots’ licenses would not be without its marital challenges. While Mr. Yamada seemed to innately know about spark plugs, electrical systems and mechanics, his wife would definitely not describe them as second nature. She had to work hard to keep up.

“We are both very competitive people,” Mrs. Yamada says. “There were moments while we were taking lessons that the tension was elevated in our relationship. My husband might get ahead of me in an area and I would work extra hard to catch up.”

A real sticking point for Mrs. Yamada was when she was flying the plane and he would give her instructions. “Don’t forget to make your ten mile radio call,” or “Don’t forget your carb heat.” That unsolicited advice would get under her skin. Mr. Yamada agreed that he has that tendency, but has found that this experience has motivated him to improve in that area and enjoy the ride while his wife flies the plane.

It usually takes six to 12 months to get a pilot’s license. The Yamadas got theirs in 90 days. They would tell you it was a great experience and ultimately a good thing for their marriage.

“This forced us to learn how to manage our personalities,” Mr. Yamada says. “I can be bossy and a know-it-all at times. However, that doesn’t work well in the cockpit. We also came to the realization that when we are flying the plane is not the time for an argument. Taking flying lessons together has taught us how to work better together as a couple team.”

If you’re interested in taking up a new hobby together, here are some valuable lessons the Yamadas learned that may be helpful:

  • Make the ground rules ahead of time. There will be conflicts and disagreements. How will you handle them when they arise?
  • Be patient. It is easy to get impatient with each other if you aren’t moving forward at the same pace. Keep the end goal in mind!
  • Guard against being critical. There are some things that each of you do better than the other. Take advantage of this by learning from each other instead of criticizing.
  • Apologize when you are wrong. This did not come easily for Mr. Yamada, but over the years he has learned he is not always right.

“Getting our pilots’ licenses actually improved our marriage,” Mrs. Yamada says. “We had to learn how to communicate better, trust each other’s decisions and manage conflict. We have been on several trips already. It has been awesome to be in the cockpit with my best friend!”

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Read Mad About Us, Part 1 here.

Almost daily, unhealthy anger causes some kind of devastation. It could be anything from child abuse or domestic violence to road rage, or to children methodically preparing to harm their teacher. The emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem, though. When people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion, it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others.

“We have to continually remind ourselves that anger is energy and energy is neutral,” says Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse, with his wife, Carrie. “We have total control over how we choose to express our anger, so we can choose to express this emotion in unhealthy or in healthy and constructive ways. Plus, we can choose to spend the anger-energy by expressing it in ways that hurt ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to invest the anger-energy in building a healthier relationship.”

The Olivers believe that anger can be an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship. It can serve as a powerful source of motivation. Healthy anger provides the power to protect loved ones, and healthy anger can lead to more intimate relationships.

“Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger,” Oliver says. “Anger sets most people up for conflict – and most couples don’t know how to do conflict well. Couples can choose to spend their anger-energy by dumping, blaming, attacking or walking out. Or they can choose to acknowledge the fear, hurt or frustration and invest their anger-energy in seizing the opportunity to better understand their spouse.”

For example, Oliver spoke with a couple in the middle of a serious conflict. The husband made a comment at a party, and his wife responded with a joke about it. Her response embarrassed him in front of their friends. He was making a serious point and, she spoke without thinking about how it would impact the situation. Since this was not the first time she had done something like this, her husband was hurt, embarrassed, marginalized and frustrated.

When they headed home, the wife asked him what was wrong. Although he initially denied being upset, he releases his frustration after several questions.

In working through Oliver’s seven conflict management steps, they discovered that the wife had no idea he was being serious. The husband realized that his wife didn’t intend to make him look bad, but his friends started laughing and he felt naked, exposed and embarrassed in front of them. As they talked, the wife truly felt bad and apologized. This was a landmark conversation for them because they were actually able to talk through what had taken place and understand each other. Then they set a new direction for how to manage their conflict.

Couples who develop the healthy habit of working through differences often find that listening, asking questions, listening again and asking more questions leads to understanding. Additionally, it provides a window into each other’s hearts and a pathway to greater intimacy.

“When you know someone loves you enough to take the time to understand you rather than take a walk out the door, you know that person’s love is not a shallow, superficial, conditional love,” Oliver says. “That type of love makes a person feel safe and secure. This type of security leads to an increase in trust, which creates the perfect environment for deep levels of intimacy to grow.”

If you’re seeking to more effectively manage the conflicts in your marriage, try these seven steps:

  • Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s core concern? What is my core concern?
  • How important is it? On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being low-ticket and 10 being high-ticket, how important is this?
  • Ask yourself, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”
  • Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?
  • Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out and seek understanding—be willing to take the first step.
  • Choose what both of you can do differently.
  • Make changes and review them.

“Healthy conflict is good,” Oliver says. “When a couple has a disagreement and one person takes the time to listen even if they think the other person is wrong, that says to their spouse, ‘I value you and you are important to me.’”

It isn’t always about agreeing on something. When you know your spouse is trying to understand what is going on, it increases your sense of value and safety.

One of the best ways to go from being mad at each other to “mad about us” isn’t reading books on new sexual positions. Instead, it’s about creating a sense of trust and safety within your marriage. A spouse who feels understood will feel safe and be willing to trust. Consequently, that trust leads to the deeper levels of intimacy every person longs for. Guaranteed!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***