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5 Tips To Keep Sex Healthy In Your Marriage

Build intimacy, connect and do life well together.

How’d you get stuck in a sex rut? It’s just life. It’s normal and to be expected. More importantly, how do you get out? You know, fun, passionate, surprising, and playful sex!

Here are some tips to keep sex healthy, hot, and happenin’ in your marriage.

1. Talk About Sex. 

This is the gateway right here. Many people just aren’t comfortable talking about sex with their spouse. Create an environment where it’s safe for both of you to be honest and vulnerable about your sexual thoughts and feelings. Easier said than done? Probably. 

Here You Go:

Option 1. Make a game out of it. Sexual Truth Or Dare

Option 2. The internet. Is full of questions. To help couples. Get talking. About sex.

Pro-Tip: Keep it positive. No complaining. No judgments. Take turns listening.

2. But What About The Kids?

Isn’t it ironic that you (typically) have kids by having sex, but by having kids, it’s harder to have sex? Again, totally normal, but Kids-In-The-House-Sex: Quick. Muffled. Vanilla. It’s like Splenda. Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s not that pure raw sugar.

The Workaround:

Option 1. Hotel Sex. It doesn’t have to be a vacation or your anniversary. It can be because it’s Thursday and you have a babysitter. You don’t even have to go out of town or somewhere nice. Make it part of the family budget. Best money you’ll spend. Repeat a couple of times a year.

Option 2. Stay-At-Home Synchronized Sick Days. Or take vacation days. Go through your typical morning routines and dress for work. Take the kids to school or daycare like a typical weekday. Nothing going on here. Then meet back at the house. Take your time. It’s not all about sex. Talk through some “get to know you” questions. Go for a walk, then shower together. Have a great day of which sex is just a part.

Pro-Tip: Tell your spouse to take such and such day off. (Don’t tell them why. Plan a fun day.)

3. Don’t Have Sex. Yet.

Anticipation is a powerful stimulant. 

Wait For It:

Option 1. Agree to have sex in 24 hours. Spend that time flirting. Leaving love letters. Texting what you’re looking forward to doing. Engaging in some non-sexual touch. Teasing. Then, finally, pleasing.

Option 2. Same as above, but 72 hours. (Yup.) Crank up that sexual tension. Enjoy it. Don’t neglect the biggest human sexual organ — the mind. Have some great conversations. Do some fun things together. Strengthen your bond. Talk about your relationship.

Pro-Tip: Put your energy into connecting with your spouse in non-sexual ways. Pressure, or wondering if sex is on the table, is off the table. (But you know it’s coming.) Get emotionally intimate in the meantime. When you do connect sexually, it will be more profound.

4. Roll Play.

Equipment Needed: Two dice. You. Your spouse.

The Roll Rules:

Option 1. First dice: (1.) Caress. (2.) Kiss. (3.) Tickle. (4.) Lick. (5.) Nibble. (6.) Roller’s Choice. Second dice: (1.) Neck. (2.) Hands. (3.) Mouth. (4.) Chest. (5.) Tummy. (6.) ???

Roll the dice, feel something nice. Time limit per roll? Hey, this is your game.

Option 2. (I think you can see how this game lends itself to modification.) 

Pro-Tip: Roller with the highest score after 4 rounds gets to “make a request.”

5. Play Doctor.

Sorry, not THAT playing doctor. Have weekly or monthly “check-ups” or “check-ins.” Coming full circle, talking about it is the best way to improve sex and keep it healthy in your marriage. Connecting on levels beyond the physical enhances sex. Connected couples who talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives. Talk honestly about your sexual health. Discuss sexual frequency. Talk about what’s working and what might need to be modified. 

Don’t turn to the internet with questions like, “How much sex should couples have?” Turn to your spouse. Sex is best when you don’t just focus on “doing it,” but doing life well together. 

Other helpful blogs:

How Often Should We Have Sex?

7 Questions Every Couple Needs to Ask Each Other to Improve Their Sex Life

3 Ways Good Communication Can Enhance Sex In Marriage

4 Reasons Why Sex Matters In Marriage

I love talking about sex. No, not in a pervy way. Let me explain: I think more problems happen when sex is not discussed than when it is, especially among married couples. Get this: even nerdy science says couples who talk about sex have much healthier… and dare I say, steamier… sex lives than those who don’t! Kind of makes you want to cue up the conversations! 

But just what exactly should you talk about? Uhhh… honey, I like sex… do you like sex?… Ok, cool…

No, no, not like that! There are a gazillion great questions to help couples discuss sex. Questions about likes & dislikes, turn-ons & turn-offs, mood-makers & mood-killers. 

So, because I love talking about sex, and because I want you to love talking about sex, here are seven questions every couple (that’s you!) needs to ask to improve their sex life.

1. What makes sex fun for you? 

Sex is fun, right? But everyone has their own take on what makes sex fun. Talking this through helps you understand what makes the bedroom romp more enjoyable for your spouse and facilitates the fun! 

2. What do you consider be-foreplay?

Some people need certain things to be in place before the room starts rockin’ – perfectly normal. That’s be-foreplay

Do the dishes have to be dried and put away, the bedroom door double-locked, or a fresh coat of WD-40 applied to the bed frame? Discussing this helps you be more aware of what helps your spouse get in the mood and what you can do to make that happen. 

3. What is off the table? (And what’s on the table… if you know what I mean…)

Part of what makes sex in your marriage so adventuresome are the different things you can try. A new position, a new location, a new piece of lingerie, a new piece of furniture… Discuss what you are open to and what isn’t in the cards for your love life. 

4. How does stress affect sex for you? 

Some people have to feel de-stressed before the lovemaking commences. Others de-stress when they have sex. One isn’t any better than the other. But knowing where your spouse is on the spectrum helps you set the tone.

5. We have different interest levels in sex. How do we meet in the middle with that? 

It’s normal for two people in a marriage to have different sex drives. But often, it goes unaddressed, and frustrations can quickly build. 

  • Who has the more active libido? 
  • How can one of you let the other down gently when you don’t want to have sex, and how can you assure them you’re looking forward to the next time? 
  • What are your expectations as a couple as to how often you have sex? 

Discussing these kinds of questions helps put you on the same page in how you approach intimacy and improving your sex life. 

6. What makes me insecure about sex? 

Whether big or small, we all have insecurities about the sexual part of our marriage.

  • I don’t know if I can be kinky or seductive enough for him. 
  • I’m not sure I will last long enough for her. 
  • How do I compare with popular standards of beauty or body type? 
  • Am I a failure if my spouse doesn’t climax every time? 

Call these insecurities out together; work to put each other’s insecurities to rest as you affirm each other. 

7. How has sex changed in our marriage over time? 

Marriage goes through seasons, and your sexual relationship can change as well. 

  • How have these seasons affected your love life? 
  • Have big life events like job changes, moves, grief, or mental health struggles had an impact? 
  • What effect have children had on sex? 

Talking about this helps you work through oncoming seasons of marriage to keep your love life alive and active. 

A final word of wisdom: Sometimes, these conversations will be fun, lighthearted, even hilarious. Don’t be afraid to laugh about sex. Other times, your discussions will carry a more serious tone. Some topics can be heavy and difficult to discuss. Either way, talking about sex in your marriage benefits your marriage. And the best way to get the most benefit is to make it an ongoing discussion. It’s healthy to have sex regularly in your marriage, so doesn’t it stand to reason that you should talk about sex regularly? Talk it up, ask yourselves these questions, and watch your sex life improve! 

Other helpful blogs:

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage

3 Ways Good Communication Can Enhance Sex In Marriage

3 Ways to Have Better Sex in Marriage

4 Reasons Why Sex Matters In Marriage

How to Have More Sex in Marriage

Keeping these things in mind can help it to happen.

I know it ain’t easy to keep things rolling in the bedroom. 

Life happens. Marriage goes through seasons of busyness and stress. Not to mention—one of you may be “in the mood” or tired more often than the other. And finding time to have more sex may not be at the top of your list.

But healthy sexual intimacy in marriage is a good thing. It can enhance and stimulate other parts of your marriage, like emotional intimacy, too. And vice versa. (Related: 4 Reasons Why Sex Matters in Marriage

But if there’s conflict, well… chances are, sparks aren’t flying in the B-E-D. 

So then… how do you go about having more sex? Here are some thoughts:

1. Don’t make more sex the goal.

Wait, what?! Isn’t the title of this article How to Have More Sex? Yes, but here’s the deal. 

Quantity and quality are not the same. And sexual intimacy doesn’t equal emotional intimacy, either.

Emotional intimacy involves understanding each other. Learning and growing together. Caring for and knowing each other well. When each spouse feels valued and understood, that closeness translates into a more satisfying sex life for you both. (Try these 6 exercises to strengthen emotional intimacy.)

Quality sex is where emotional and sexual intimacy meet. It means realizing what goes on in the day to day affects how much you enjoy your sexual experiences. Don’t underestimate the impact that considering your spouse’s needs in AND out of the bedroom can have on your sexual fulfillment. 

So what is your goal? It’s being aware and working toward that emotional connectedness, which naturally leads to  (you guessed it!) some pretty awesome sex. Who doesn’t want more of that?

(Up your Emotional Intimacy IQ here: What Is Emotional Intimacy in Marriage and Why Does It Matter?

2. Don’t let your kids get in the way. 

We’ve all been there: the heat is rising in the bedroom when KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK… “Mommy? Daddy? I can’t sleep. I’m thirsty.

And just like that, the mood is shot.

No doubt, kids can unintentionally hinder sexual intimacy. Over the years, my wife and 

I have established a lockdown procedure. 

Lock door. ✅

Minimize the noise level. ✅. (There’s a closet door close that rattles if it’s not cracked. TMI? Well, now you know…) 

If my wife thinks our activity could draw our kids’ attention, the deal’s off the table. Can you relate? 

So, set up some lockdown rules. 

  • Install locks. 
  • Teach your kids that the bedroom is your room, and knocking is required. 
  • Establish “closing time” for both your bedroom and you; if it’s after closing time, don’t drop by. (Double Bonus: Kids learn respect and boundaries.) 

If they’re old enough, you might bribe your kids to leave the house sometimes. Here’s a dollar; if you go play in the yard and don’t come in for half an hour, I’ll give you another. 

Or, if you’re like a friend of mine, throw 99 pennies in the backyard and tell the kids they can’t come in the house until they find all 100 of them. ; )

3. Talk about sex (more). 

Studies tell us that couples who talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives. 

  • What turns each of you on or off? I mean, what if you’re doing something you think your spouse LOVES, but they don’t (or the other way around)? 
  • That thing they did that drove you crazy? Tell them.
  • Discuss your favorite positions or things you’d like to do that you’ve never done.
  • Send a sexy text, write a racy Post-it note or leave a steamy voicemail to build anticipation for your next rendezvous. 

These ideas can be beneficial if one of you is more like a crockpot that needs to simmer and get ready for sexy time. If one of you is more like the Instant Pot, building up the pressure beforehand will make the release that much sweeter when it’s time to get down to business.  

4. Schedule it.

Seriously, get a room. Or find a sitter. Have some “alone” time that works for both of you. 

  • Getting the kids to bed is a great incentive if you know prime time comes afterward. 
  • Are your kids late sleepers? Just might be worth it to be the early bird.
  • Kids in school? You won’t have to worry about interruptions or those lockdown procedures if you take a long lunch here and there… just sayin’. 

5. Get busy with dates.

Couples who have regular date nights report greater happiness. It’s true! 

  • Use what you learned from your sex talks to creatively plan something new and exciting for each other. Finding ways to please each other outside of the bedroom can help you score inside the bedroom. 
  • Invest in conversation and activities that help you connect more deeply.  
  • Plan it or be spontaneous! Dating your spouse doesn’t have to be expensive, but NOT dating your spouse can cost you some of the closeness you crave. (These date nights can make it easier!)  

Doing these things will not only improve the quality of sex you have—it also sets you up for more frequent romps. You’ll be well on your way to more (and better) sex.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t you have some lockdown procedures to take care of?

More Resources:

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage

It may be uncomfortable at first, but it could be a great thing for your sex life.

Awkwardness. Uncertainty. Embarrassment. Shame. These common emotions (and others) can keep married couples from talking about sex. You’re not alone if talking about sex with your spouse is uncomfortable. But let’s get real: you’re more likely to have satisfying sex if you talk about it together. 

Most couples want to enjoy their sex life, but learning how to talk about intimacy in your marriage can take it to the next level if it’s not where you want it to be. The experts agree. So do most couples who’ve found a way to make the uncomfortable a little more comfortable

So, how do you talk about sex in your marriage in a sexual-healing-kinda way?

1. Make the sex talk a priority. 

It may be uncomfortable or awkward. You may have baggage (most of us do). Your feelings are real, but don’t let your emotions keep you from having a better sex life.

2. Pick a good time to talk. 

This isn’t the time to surprise your spouse. Calmly say something like, “I’d like for us to talk about some ways we can improve our sex life. When do you think would be good?” Initiating the topic will give your spouse time to get ready to talk. Then, nail down a time.

*Note: Many experts speak against having this conversation in the bedroom. Take a walk in a park. Sit in a coffee shop. Send the kids outside and find a cozy spot at home.* 

3. Eliminate distractions. 

This may already be a delicate topic, so you’ll want to be fully engaged and tuned in to each other—no cell phones. And set aside plenty of time.

4. Be specific about your goal. 

Maybe you could start with, “I want us to have the best sex life we can have. I’d like for us to talk about understanding each other’s sexual needs.” (You could also say, 🎵🎵 “Let’s talk about sex, Baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…”  🎵🎵 Thank you, Salt-N-Pepa!)

The Gottman Institute reminds us, “The less direct you are about what you want, the less likely you are to get it.” Tell each other what you want (what you really, really want)!

5. Don’t rush the conversation. 

Your spouse may need time to think and express their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Be patient. This leads us to the next point.

6. This isn’t a one-and-done conversation. 

You don’t know how many times I’ve replayed conversations with my wife because I thought of something later that would help her understand me. I’m sure she’s done the same. You won’t cover everything in one talk. 

7. Listen to understand. 

Feeling valued will always be a part of having good lovemaking experiences in your marriage. One way to ensure your partner feels like they matter is to genuinely try to understand them.

8. Encouraging and positive statements will go further than critical or negative ones. 

For example, “I like it when you do this” is more helpful than “I hate it when you do this.” Or saying, “I need this from you,” is probably more effective than, “You don’t meet my needs in this way.” Think “I” statements instead of “You” statements. 

Talking about sex is not about being right or wrong. It’s about sharing what works, what you like, and what helps you both have fulfilling sexual experiences. Respecting each other’s differences is a must. Different is not deficient—it’s just different. 

The more you talk, the better you connect, the less uncomfortable it becomes, and the clearer you’ll understand one another. As the experts say, talking about sex in your marriage increases the likelihood that you’ll be doing something worth talking about later on. But shhh, we don’t kiss and tell.

More great stuff to read about sex in your relationship:

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

***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 that 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.***

Help! Our Intimacy is Gone

Rekindling the passion may be easier than you think.

You expect a campfire to burn hot and then turn into ashes. But you didn’t expect the fire to die down in your marriage, did you? Love… sex… connection… You expected them to go through ruts, maybe. Highs and lows? Sure. But nobody expects to wake up one day and realize the intimacy is gone.

And we’re not just talking about sex. Intimacy is way more than sex. It happens when you and your spouse fully know and experience each other—sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

If your intimacy is gone, there are some things you can do to understand why—and find ways to reignite the flames. These questions and “fire starters” may heat things up a bit.

Has your marriage become child-centered? 

Before kids, the backseat was for… you know. (Oh, don’t act like I’m the only one!) But maybe now the backseat is full of car seats. Does your marriage feel like it’s taken a backseat to the kids?

Children can be exhausting. (I know. I’ve got seven of them!) They keep you awake, and they require a lot of energy. It’s hard for parents to be intimate. It can be different, though!

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Schedule kid-free time.
  2. Give kids a bedtime that allows you to be friends and lovers.
  3. Schedule a good babysitter for date nights.
  4. Teach your kids to do some things on their own.
  5. Intentionally put the married back in married parents.

Where’s your focus? 

It may seem logical to you that if intimacy is gone, more sex will help—but it doesn’t work that way. I said this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Intimacy is about so much more than sex! In fact, there are 6 different types of intimacy in marriage. (If you want to learn what they are and how you can grow them, check out this toolkit.) When intimacy is gone in your marriage, focusing on emotional intimacy is a great place to start rekindling the flame.

Fire Starter Tip: 

Schedule 15-20 minutes daily to learn about each other’s thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, emotions, etc. 

No technology. No kids. And no interruptions. 

This consistency will reignite and deepen your intimacy. If you’re too busy, cutting something out of your schedule to focus on each other will help. (Try these marriage conversation starters.) 

Are you holding back? 

Being vulnerable is hard. I get it. Especially if there’s been hurt, distrust, or betrayal. But hiding parts of yourself from your spouse (or feeling unsafe) can smother the fire of intimacy. Without transparency and vulnerability, the disconnection grows and blocks the airflow.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Breathe life into your relationship by identifying why you may be holding back.
  2. Discuss why it’s hard to open up. A good marriage counselor can help.

Are you both at your best? 

I feel like I’m a better husband when I’m:

Esther Perel, author and marital intimacy expert, says we can offer our best when we are most connected. Different seasons of marriage—having a new baby, caring for a loved one, or working an intense schedule—call for different responses. Being sensitive to extra stress your spouse may be experiencing can increase intimacy.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Look at your schedule together and prioritize your marriage. 
  2. Talk about how you can help each other.

What do you expect? 

The early stages of marriage can make you think intimacy is natural. There’s a 2-year honeymoon phase when your body naturally produces chemicals that drive your passion. After that, your body stops producing those chemicals, so it may feel like the natural intimacy is gone. It can hit you unexpectedly. You wonder if you married the right person or if you’re just not in love anymore. More than likely, you’re just moving to a different season of marriage. Perel tells us that our desire for our spouse increases as we see them in their element. It reminds us why we fell in love and increases our curiosity about them. 

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Don’t look at what you’ve lost; look at who you’re missing. 
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate what your spouse does well. 
  3. Stay curious. 
  4. Do something different.

Intimacy dies when we stop exploring each other (in all the ways) or put up walls. But sometimes, fresh eyes or fresh adventures can get that flame burning high and hot once again. Don’t give up!

***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 that 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.***

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

Why People Really Have Affairs (It’s Not Always Just About Sex)

Protect (and maybe even save) your marriage by being open with your spouse and talking about these ideas.

Marital affairs are kind of like rust. On the surface, it’s apparent that a single, ugly event has happened. But underneath is a complex process of chemical reactions and driving forces that have built up over time. Affairs are complicated like that. And finding out why people really have affairs can be even more complicated.

Therapist Esther Perel describes an affair as having three essential elements: 

  • A secretive relationship
  • An emotional connection
  • A sexual chemistry

The word chemistry is used here because actual sexual activity doesn’t have to be involved to be a marital betrayal. To paraphrase Perel, the mere thought of a single kiss can be as powerful as hours of lovemaking. 

It’s essential to understand emotional affairs-—when one is getting their emotional needs met by someone other than their spouse—are just as damaging to a marriage as sexual affairs. Not to mention the fact that emotional affairs often quickly escalate to sexual ones. 

But what causes a spouse to stray? It’s tempting to want to peg the blame on a single factor. He just wasn’t getting enough from his wife, so we went hunting in the bars. She didn’t feel loved at home, and another man showed her attention. 

Rarely do affairs boil down to one single reason. What leads up to the one-night-stand or the seductive conversations over text is usually a mix of ingredients that have been simmering for a while. To understand this, it might be more helpful to think of affairs as having contributing factors rather than reasons.  

Let’s look at five of these contributing factors to help explain why people have marital affairs: 

1. They let their guard down. 

Good marriages do not prevent affairs. Just when you think, “I could never do that,” or “Our marriage is much too healthy for infidelity,” is when you are the most vulnerable. Anne Bercht, director of Beyond Affairs Network, writes that the keys to affair prevention are realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good, and being informed. She says there is no such thing as affair-proofing your marriage. But “developing open, honest, respectful communication in your relationship, including the ability and commitment to give and receive constructive criticism” is a strong foundation to keep your guard up. 

2. They let their marriage go out of focus. 

We often become hyper-focused on work, stress, hefty schedules, or even kids. Especially kids. Life happens. It’s easy to fool ourselves and say we do this for our marriage. The problem is our marriage suffers because it’s not being focused on. It’s in these circumstances the doors to infidelity crack open. You can minimize this factor by ensuring your focus remains on your spouse. 

3. They give a NOD

Infidelity and marriage expert Scott Haltzman explains in his book, The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity, that an unfaithful partner gives a “NOD” toward an affair: Need, Opportunity, Disinhibition. The Need is something they feel is missing in their life, such as love, respect, attention, or emotional support. The Opportunity for the affair might be a business trip, an office party, the gym, or being alone with someone in your circle of friends. And the Disinhibition can be alcohol or drugs, but perhaps more often something such as resentment, depression, or a sense of entitlement. 

What is interesting is the NOD can also be the key to avoiding infidelity. The more two people seek to meet each other’s needs in marriage, it minimizes the opportunities and disinhibition that leads to betrayal. 

4. They were seeking something they feel they didn’t have. 

Esther Perel says that affairs are less about sex and more about desire. “At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity…” The problem here is that often the other spouse doesn’t know these things are missing because they are never told. A healthy person communicates needs to their spouse. 

5. They aren’t happy with themselves. 

Many times, the affair is more about the unfaithful person than it is about the marriage or the other spouse. Perel, again, offers lots of wisdom here: “When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner we are tearing away from, but the person we have ourselves become… We aren’t looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.” Experiencing something missing from your marriage and seeing the NOD at work requires a hard inward look at yourself. It begs the question, “Am I happy with who I am? Am I about to let dissatisfaction with myself damage my marriage with this choice? 

The truth of the matter is we are all capable of having an affair. However, every spouse has the ability to say, even though I am capable, I will make the conscious choice not to walk through that door. As Anne Brecht puts it, be informed. Be aware of the contributing factors that can be at work and work to reverse those. Be open with your spouse and talk about these ideas. Together, make the conscious choice to remain steadfast in your marital relationship. 

***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 that 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.***

This is the actual conversation I had with my teen. All through middle school, we had talked about sex, his phone, and pornography, but it was more about warning him and encouraging him to make good choices. I realized that at his age now, he had undoubtedly seen porn. (The average age of first exposure is 8-11. 94% have seen pornography by age 14.)  Even though I had never seen anything amiss when I checked his phone, it was time to hit porn head-on. So, I educated myself and just found a good time when we were alone and came out and asked.

The conversation was not as bad or awkward as I thought it would be. I set the tone by being calm and genuine. Plus, this was not our first “difficult” conversation. I have a track record of not freaking out and have built up relational “capital” with him that I can draw from. This helped a lot!

So, here we go…

ME: I know at your age and you having a smartphone, you have undoubtedly seen pornography. Your body is changing and being curious about girls and sex is healthy and normal. You are well past girls having cooties. There are other things about them that you are curious about now, right? So how about it, have you seen porn?

MY SON: [Chuckles about cooties.] Yes, I’ve seen porn. [Looks Away.]

ME: I get it. I’m not shocked or surprised. When was the last time you looked at porn?

MY SON: Three days ago. I know it’s wrong.

ME: Why do you think it’s wrong? [Notice I am probing gently, not lecturing. I am a concerned questioner, but I’m not bombarding him with a million questions. I want HIS thoughts.]

MY SON: I know it can become an addiction. I know it goes against my religious beliefs. And, I know it affects the way I look at girls and it’s just not good to fill my head with.

ME: Those are a lot of really good reasons. How’d you come up with them?

MY SON: I’ve talked with (his older brother of 8 years) about it. He asks me questions about it.

[ME INSIDE:] Great job older bro!] What did he tell you about how porn is addictive? How did he explain it?

MY SON: He said the more I looked at it the more I would have to look at it… what “did it” for me before wouldn’t “do it” for me next time. He said I would start to see “real-life” girls only sexually.

He’s right!

ME: Do you know the science behind that? Your brain releases chemicals when you look at porn. One of them is dopamine and another is oxytocin. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical. You’ll want that feeling more and more BUT your brain will build a tolerance for it. It will take more and more porn and more explicit porn to get that feeling. It’s called “The Law of Diminishing Returns.” The chemical oxytocin is the chemical that creates bonds. It gets released when mothers have babies and people hug and kiss. Porn releases it too, creating a “bond” between you and pornography. It’ll become easier to bond with pornography than real people. Does that make sense?

MY SON: It’s like drug addiction?

ME: Yup. And it’ll affect how you look at girls in real life. Have you noticed that yet?

MY SON: Yeah. I’ve already noticed.

ME: If you look at porn, I want you to remember that that girl is someone’s daughter and someone’s sister. I have a daughter that’s your sister. [This felt a little old-school and even a little corny, but it got a strong reaction from him—he loves his older sister and did not like connecting those dots at all. No way.]

MY SON: Ewwwww…

ME: And what you might be enjoying with pornography destroys many of the lives of the people that make it. The drug addiction, alcoholism, and STDs among “porn stars” is crazy high.

MY SON: Don’t some of them make a lot of money?

ME: Some do probably, but at what cost? Did you know that a lot of the girls you see in porn are not there because they want to be—they’re there because of sex trafficking? Do you want to participate in that?

MY SON: No. Of course not.

ME: You know how for years I’ve talked to you about how great your heart is and how you need to protect it?

MY SON: Yeah.

ME: Nothing will harden your heart faster than pornography. You have to keep protecting your heart. The people that make porn have problems having real relationships in real life. So do the people that watch porn. So how often do you look at porn? How do you look at it? 

MY SON: Once or twice a week. Free porn websites. The first phone you gave me blocked porn websites. When you upgraded my phone, you didn’t block porn websites.

ME: [This made me sick to my stomach. I was asleep at the wheel. I have to live with this.] I blew it then. How can I help you now not look at porn?

MY SON: Keep talking with me about it. Keep me accountable. You can change settings on my phone but it’s everywhere. We need to keep talking about it.

ME: I will for sure. And thanks for being so honest with me. You can always talk to me when you feel tempted. Let’s keep this conversation going.

Talking to your teen about pornography is not a one-time talk. It’s an ongoing dialogue. Hopefully, this helps you get your dialogue started. Don’t avoid it because it’s a hard topic. Lean into it because it is a hard and incredibly important topic. You got this!

fightthenewdrug.org

2020 might be the year everyone wants to escape from and/or forget for so many reasons. This means we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of us are looking for ways to escape the pain and fear. One of the escapes that has seen a dramatic increase in use during the coronavirus pandemic is porn. 

A variety of sources report a 16 to 30% increase in use in the U.S. since March. India reports a 95% increase. Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website, reported an 18% increase in users after making its premium content free for 30 days. 

To give you some perspective, check out these porn usage statistics from 2018 tabulated by Webroot Cybersecurity:

  • Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography.
  • $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet.
  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites.

Let those stats sink in for a second. Staggering to say the least.

Coronavirus and Porn

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Justin Lehmiller explains that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting not just the amount and type of porn being produced. It’s also affecting how much porn people are consuming and what they’re searching for on major sites. According to Lehmiller, people are not just searching for porn, either. In one month’s time there were more than 9 million searches for coronavirus-related or pandemic porn, as in people wearing masks, surgical gloves and gowns engaging in sex.

He explains that porn searches are up, in part, because a lot of people are at home with more time on their hands than usual. But, he and other experts say there are other potential reasons for increased porn site visits. Some of those reasons include using sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with fear of disease and death, plus loneliness and the dramatic increase in experiencing anxiety, stress and negative emotions.

The Impact of Porn Addiction

So what about this “gift” that Pornhub has given to people, married, single or even teens, in the midst of COVID-19? The truth about porn is, most people don’t realize how pornography reaches out and grabs people. Research shows that when a person sees pornography, the brain releases endorphins that are 200 times more potent than morphine and more addictive than cocaine. They also give you an enormous false sense of well-being. Fight the New Drug likens it to eating junk food. It seems like it is really good and satisfies you in the moment. However, it actually leaves you wanting more and never feeling full.

Additionally, research consistently indicates that pornography use can hurt a couple’s relationship. This is especially true when one person is frequently viewing pornographic images online.

In an open letter discussing the dangers of porn, Drs. Julie and John Gottman argue that intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people. But when one person becomes accustomed to getting pleasure from porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse. Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. 

Here are some red flags that may indicate your spouse is involved in this highly addictive activity.

  • Is their body language open and does he/she respond appropriately when you ask questions? Does your spouse look you in the eyes when he/she talks to you? One lie often leads to another. You may ask a simple question and get a very complicated answer or an answer that was different than the day before.
  • Does your spouse have appropriate boundaries? They seem to live in drama and chaos all the time. They may ask you to record yourself or take pictures of you getting out of the shower or at intimate moments. 
  • Does your spouse use lots of sexual humor and innuendos, even when the conversation has nothing to do with that subject?
  • Is your spouse preoccupied with sexual behaviors? Is he/she constantly wanting to push the boundaries and experiment sexually in ways that make you wonder where they got the idea from? 
  • Does he/she exhibit inappropriate anger? This anger appears to come from nowhere. For example, if you ask about household cash flow or what time they will be home, he/she explodes. 
  • Have they lost interest in you sexually? Or has their demand for sexual activity increased, although they seem to be “elsewhere” in the midst of sex? If so, sex at this point is not about intimacy. Instead, it’s about control and power and what he/she can get you to do. 
  • Do you seem to constantly have money problems? No matter how much money you have coming in, there just is never enough to cover the expenses.   

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and people being quarantined, many have commented on how they really didn’t realize how much they really needed in-person, face-to-face experiences for their emotional wellbeing. The research is clear: while a person may be using porn as a coping mechanism, the thirst for it is insatiable. And it still leaves them feeling empty, unfulfilled and needing more.  

Helpful Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with porn addiction, the Fight the New Drug and The Addiction Center sites may help you determine best next steps.

***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 that 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.***

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