By Tina Tessina for Divorce360.com
Sexless marriage is a complaint I get often from clients. While sometimes, in case of illness or injury, a complete sexual experience is not possible in marriage, it is always best to have whatever sexual experience is available to the couple. Marriage without sex is wide-open to temptation. Don't kid yourselves that you can be “best friends” and your marriage will last. Sooner or later, temptation will arise, either from a partner's co-worker, another member of the church choir (this happens a lot) or a neighbor. The drive to have sex is powerful, and it will be satisfied, one way or another.
Love and sex are like the roots that feed the tree. To keep that vital energy going, and the sap rising, you need to provide something new and interesting. Seduction can be as simple as causing your partner to ask what you've been doing that has you so energized and interested. When you're enthusiastic, you're seductive -- it's the most attractive we can be.
Relationships continue to develop in stages, even after the honeymoon is over. Most of us are familiar only with the early stages: meeting, dating, courtship and commitment. Some have experienced moving in, marriage and the honeymoon phase, where everything is brand new and wonderful. This is what the romantic songs and movies are all about, and it has become what people call "being in love." Extending the honeymoon phase indefinitely is what people fantasize about as "happily ever after." However, when the all-absorbing process of planning a wedding and honeymoon is over and the couple comes home to chores, work, money issues, etc., post-honeymoon shock can set in. Real life is not as romantic as the courtship, wedding and honeymoon, but the real work of developing a great marriage begins now.
Because many people have not had lasting relationships of their own, they have no experience or models of the later stages: the development of intimacy and settled partnership phases.
In the development of intimacy, love matures and becomes reality-based. It's the part where the magic fades, and both of you begin to relax and show your innermost, less-perfect selves. You're beginning to get to know each other, warts and all. You may feel vulnerable and awkward with each other. In this stage, you may argue, struggle for power, become irritable and unreasonable. The fear that your lover will not like this more realistic view of you arises. As a result, both partners need, and have trouble providing, lots of reassurance and usually lots of personal space. Many relationships don't make it through this stage, because if the lovers don't understand or expect this change, it can feel like something is terribly wrong.
Eventually, if the relationship survives, the couple develops a style of intimacy that works for them. A couple who've made it this far feels more secure, more settled. Now the settled partnership issues come up: how to keep love alive over a long period of time; how not to take each other for granted; how to set goals beyond just being together; and how to handle changes.
Settled partnership is the stage where the pleasures of lasting love are realized. At this point, successful couples know they're loved as they really are. They have become experts in living life together. When all goes well, the couple has a feeling of security, intimacy and partnership that's truly satisfying and rewarding. When problems arise, they have the wisdom and experience to keep their commitment alive through cooperation and mutual understanding.
However, it takes several years to achieve the full benefits of these later stages. Unless you've been through a very long-term relationship before, it's hard to understand the difficulties encountered in the development of intimacy stage and the settled partnership phase. It's easy to be discouraged and give up. People often do much better in their second or third long-term relationships because their early experience taught them what to expect, and gave them a chance to acquire the necessary long-term skills. Because we lack education and experience, our early unsuccessful relationships often serve as practice for later successful ones.
Here are four simple steps to create a successful marriage:
1. Talk frequently and honestly to each other—about your frustrations, about sex, about anger, about disappointment, about your appreciation of each other, about the meaning of life, about everything.
2. Strive to work together to solve anything that comes up -- be a team, a partnership. Don't get stuck on who's right or wrong. Focus on what will solve the problem.
3. Keep your connection going through communication, sex, affection, understanding and concern for each other.
4. Have a sense of humor; give the benefit of the doubt, care about each other.
When your relationship lasts for a while, your lovemaking will change. As you get closer, passion no longer grows automatically out of the excitement of the new and unknown.
Rather than allowing your energy to subside, you can allow your lovemaking to change and grow, deepening as your partnership does. Couples who develop a"sexual repertoire which includes a variety of sexual habits, attitudes and options report feeling more satisfaction and freedom to express their love with enough variety that they never get bored. These suggestions will help you create a variety of experiences together.
Quickies: These are ways you have sex when you don't really have time for a full, leisurely romantic evening: One of you giving oral sex before you leave for work, petting to climax in the car at a drive-in movie, using vibrators to have orgasms without a lot of foreplay late at night, taking a nap and having a "quickie" before rushing off to a party.
Sneaky Sex: This has the added excitement of "forbidden fruit" -- having silent sex behind locked doors while the children are watching TV, sneaking lovemaking in your childhood bedroom while visiting your parents, visiting your partner at work and having quickie sex on the couch in a locked office.
Romantic Sex: This is the full-blown variety: candlelight, dinner, quiet talking, dressing up, perhaps a lovely hotel room, or a romantic dinner for two when you have time alone at home. Especially good for anniversaries, Valentine's Day, or anytime your relationship needs a boost.
New Couple Sex: Recreate a scene from your dating days, as closely as possible -- the time you met at church and couldn't wait to get home and make love, the flowers you used to bring home as a surprise, or saying all the silly, wildly in-love things you said then.
Making-up Sex: After you've had an argument or a struggle, and forgiven each other, lovemaking can be extra tender and memorable.
Comforting Sex: When one of you is sad or stressed, the other is especially caring and soothing, doing all your favorite things to comfort and relax you.
Relaxing Sex: This is the kind to do on a weekend morning, when you have no obligations, and can laze around, have breakfast in bed, and make love for as long as you want; no pressure, no hurry and no demands on each other.
Reassuring Sex This is affection and intimacy intended to reassure a partner who is temporarily insecure, or designed to reaffirm your mutual love and commitment to each other. It is often accompanied by many verbal declarations of love and explaining again why you are so important to each other.
Fantasy Sex: Act out all the silly, forbidden or exciting fantasies -- nurse and patient, two little children "playing house", master or dominatrix and slave, stripper and customer, extraterrestrial alien and abductee, famous movie star and adoring fan, your two favorite characters from a soap opera, novel or movie, or anything else you can imagine. This is a great time for costumes, masks, sexual toys, leather outfits, or whatever enhancements you enjoy.
Tina Tessina, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist and author of more than 11 books.