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How Often Is Normal?

Also: "Are Dirty Words Okay?", "Speeding Up Orgasm", and "Emotions of the Heart"

Q. I think having sex once a week is fine; my wife thinks that's abnormal and that I have a problem. All her girlfriends tell her how annoying it is that their husbands want sex all the time. So she feels I don't want her, that there must be something wrong with her. I'm just one of those guys with a lower libido. I don't think sexual frequency should cause so much stress in our marriage. What do you think?

A. We receive this question of frequency a lot! It's as if there's some grand scale of "normalcy" that everyone wants to fit in. Just because you don't have the same libido as your wife's friends' husbands doesn't indicate an "abnormality." This isn't a competition. Though it's true that most men want sex more often than their wives, there's no normal frequency of intercourse. It's whatever is right for you as a couple.

We suggest that when your spouse is interested in having sex and you're not, see that as an opportunity to give her a love gift. You might encourage your wife to take the freedom to initiate sex. Even if you're not feeling "in the mood" at the time, you can give her good foreplay and stimulate her to orgasm whether you become aroused or not. She might really enjoy having all your attention focused exclusively on her sexual pleasure. Be creative in finding ways to give her the necessary stimulation. Any body part will work.

Who knows? In the process you might become aroused and find the time spent focusing on her will bring you delight. Besides, fulfilling your wife's sexual needs is scriptural. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 that we are not to deny our mate the benefit of our body for sex. You wouldn't want her to become vulnerable toward other men. And your relationship will be smoother in all areas if she's sexually satisfied.

Are Dirty Words Okay?

Q. My husband and I use dirty words while we're making love. But we're not "cursing" at each other. While I'm aware the Bible says we should let no unclean thing come from our mouths, Jesus also said it isn't words alone that make a man unclean, but rather his heart (meaning the intention behind the words). The Bible also says the marriage bed is undefiled, and everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. My husband and I want to make sure we're okay in every aspect of our spiritual lives. Are we biblically okay to use profanity in this context?

A. While we understand your desire to keep lovemaking fresh, we're concerned about how the street lingo became your preferred stimulus. Often the more lewd language carries hostile feelings or demeaning attitudes. If you're masking negative feelings by expressing them playfully in sex, they may wear thin and begin to allow real abrasive responses to develop. If you learned about sex in an environment that elevated the vulgar words to erotic status, perhaps that's just a conditioned response.

Of course, using God's name is always a no-no. One of the Ten Commandments states it clearly: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God" (Exodus 20:7).

The bottom line for us is the intent of language. Words that have not the least tinge of vulgarity can be used in deadly, demeaning ways that wound another's spirit. Other words that are more common street talk can be used in loving, affirming ways. We're hesitant to give specific examples in this context, but one that comes to mind is the apostle Paul's expression about his pedigree in Philippians 3:8. He says, "I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." But in the Greek—the language he originally used—he writes, "I count all this to be excrement compared to finding Christ." Eugene Peterson, in The Message, uses the term "dog dung."

So we'd say if the words are used in a loving way to enhance your bonding, go ahead. We don't think your private, loving use of any words will be a surprise to God. If your words (whatever they are) are used in a destructive or demeaning way, though, cut it out!

Speeding up Orgasm

Q. Whenever my husband and I have sex, it usually takes me 45 minutes or more to climax. Then I feel guilty because it takes me so long. Is there anything I can do to have an orgasm quicker?

A. Forty-five minutes of sexual togetherness sounds like fun! We're betting your husband enjoys every minute of it. So relax and don't worry about the amount of time.

Reaching orgasm depends on your unique sexual response curve. Most women are much slower than men to progress through the arousal phase to the plateau and orgasmic phases of sex. Anything you can do to enhance your climb up that curve could hasten your orgasm. Here are some possibilities.

Establish some romantic mood-setting several hours before you begin physical interaction. Touch. Cast a lingering glance at your honey. Cuddle each other. Dim the lights. Bring out the candles. Focus on thinking about being intimate with your spouse. Those thoughts can bring an anticipation that helps you climb that curve.

Eliminate, or at least reduce, distractions. Unplug the phone. Turn off the television. Lock the kids in their rooms (just kidding, but you can send them to their rooms early). Finish any chores you have trouble ignoring. Ask your husband to help with the dishes or the other chores. Then wink and say, "The sooner we finish these, the sooner we get to play."

Discover what foreplay works best for you. There may be things your husband does that cool you down rather than warm you up, such as too vigorous clitoral stimulation. Those things may delay your climax. If you're in a fixed routine, consider adding some variety to your lovemaking. Whatever you decide to try, talk about it and make your changes a team effort.

Emotions of the Heart

Q. After the birth of our second child, my wife began to feel that she had no "romantic" love for me. She became more distant and our sex life dropped off. We began counseling, and she revealed her lack of feelings along with her decision not to have sex with me again until the "feelings" return. It's been more than a year now, and she's still waiting for the feelings to "magically" reappear. I show her a great deal of affection that she doesn't return. Does she really not "love" me anymore, or could it be that her lack of sex drive has convinced her of that?

A. How unpredictable and strong emotions can be. The bad news is that when a spouse allows "feelings" to become the controlling factor of marital behavior, the couple can begin a roller-coaster ride in their relationship. The good news is that there are many variables that affect feelings. Identifying what they are can allow you control over the emotions rather than being controlled by them.

We don't know how far you went in counseling to discover what changed her feelings. Was it connected with the birth of your second child? Were there areas of growing disappointment or resentment? Could she have experienced postpartum depression that she never recognized or treated? Did she fall in love with someone else? Are there differences in your languages of love that leave her feeling not cherished (even though you've shown her affection in your language)?

We rarely see feelings "magically" change, unless you include the magic that's conjured up by the hard work of marriage adjustment and communication. She may even have to consider "doing" love first and allowing the feelings to follow! That can be magical.

For now we encourage you to tell her how frustrated and mystified you are, and ask her some of the questions we've raised. Talk about how you both want your marriage to look, what you want for your children and how you can role model a good marriage to them, and what "love" means. If she is willing to pursue more counseling, go for it. If not, try going for yourself.

Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado.



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