During an interview with Christian sex therapists Clifford and Joyce Penner, e-Harmony founder Neil Clark Warren asked, "What percentage of couples can attain a mutually satisfying sexual relationship?" The Penners responded, "100 percent of them. We've never worked with a single married couple whom we felt were incapable of attaining a high level of sexual satisfaction with each other."
Couples often ask us how to keep the excitement in sex. Our answer: Stay connected. Being connected body to body and heart to heart is what makes sex fulfilling and fun. Here are 13 ways you and your spouse can have more passion.
1. Kiss deeply.
Do you remember the kind of kissing you did when you first fell in love? Do you still kiss that deeply and passionately? Rediscover passionate kissing. Take your time. Enjoy the touch and taste of each other's lips.
2. Bask in the afterglow.
Savor the closeness you feel after having sex. Stay in each other's arms. Tell your spouse how good it felt and how much you love him or her. This is one of the most intimate times as a couple.
3. Become a student of your spouse's sexual zones.
One episode of the sitcom Friends dealt with the different erogenous zones. The characters were discussing sex outside the context of marriage, which, of course, we don't condone. However, the scriptwriters made an interesting point about males and females. Monica and Rachel identified seven erogenous zones. Chandler said, "You're kidding. I thought there were four." One of the women replied, "See, that's your problem. You go one, two, four. You're missing three, five, six. Oh! And toes! Seven."
A woman has more erogenous zones than just her breasts and vagina. Explore with her, and discover where she's most responsive. Kiss, stroke, or caress each body part. Ask, "How does this feel? Does it make you tingle? What would make you feel even more tingly—if I caressed less or more?" Remember that although it's good to work toward climax, the journey is pretty unbelievable too.
4. Understand a wife's definition of satisfaction.
"I don't get it, Gary," Doug told me at a conference. "I do everything I can think of in bed, but Janet doesn't usually have an orgasm."
"Does that bother Janet?"
"No. She seems content. I don't get that either."
"That's because many women are still satisfied with sex, even when they don't have an orgasm."
Doug stared blankly at me. "Huh?"
Husbands, if you want to satisfy your wife, shift your definition of satisfaction. Of course, wives love to climax (who doesn't?), but they can enjoy the lovemaking experience even when they don't reach that place.
Many women enjoy the sensuality of cuddling, kissing, and touching every bit as much as they enjoy the thrill of a climax. Women's sexual pleasure occurs on many levels other than simply orgasm.
5. Understand, accept, and appreciate sexual peaks.
Most men reach their sexual peak in their late teens or early twenties. Most women reach theirs a decade or more later. Often when a woman is in her thirties and forties her sexual desire becomes stronger, sometimes insatiable. And as a man ages, his emotional side increases. Through each stage, couples grow and learn more about each other and become more patient and sensitive to each other's needs. This is God's blessing to us, because it allows a couple's sex life greater longevity and duration.
6. Understand the different kinds of sex.
So often couples feel the pressure to have "perfect" sex—complete with earthquake, fireworks, and multiple orgasms. Not every time you have sex will be a "bell ringer." And that's okay, because you're both connecting. Sometimes sex will be a quickie to meet the need of the moment. Sometimes it will be functional sex, or just because sex, when you think, I'm not in the mood, but my spouse needs me right now. Sometimes it may be comfort sex, when life has brought devastation and the only comfort and security is to be found in the arms of your spouse as a lover. You'll be ahead when you understand that the different kinds of sex point to the ultimate reason for sex: the relationship. The goal is not whether you end with a climax. The goal is that you're connecting as a couple.
7. But make passionate sex the main kind.
Don't rush. In a sex survey we conducted recently, we asked women what they hated about sex. Rushed sex ranked number five. When you have a solid foundation and you've spent years growing together and discovering, then you want to have a lot of variety. But a woman who is repeatedly unsatisfied, who senses that her husband's pleasure always comes before hers, can feel used and empty. She wants to experience the whole spectrum of sex—the physical, emotional, spiritual, relational. We aren't saying rushed or quickie sex is wrong. But sex can't be rushed all the time. That would be like eating nothing but fast food. Going through the local fast food drive-through for a chili dog and onion rings every once in a while isn't a problem, but your health would suffer if you did it every meal. Make your goal pleasurable sex that satisfies both of you.
8. Communicate what type of sex you need.
If you think you're going to have a quickie and your spouse is expecting a long, passionate encounter, both of you will probably end up frustrated. Clarify your expectations. Women need to prepare mentally for sex. If a wife knows she's headed for quickie sex, she can mentally prepare for that, including the realization that she may not climax. Most of the time she'll still enjoy it, even if she doesn't have the same outcome as her husband.
9. Learn your spouse's sexual triggers.
We often joke about his-and-hers sexual triggers. Usually we say that men have one sexual trigger: everything. Women are a bit more complex. But seriously, because men are more visually stimulated, a man can become aroused by seeing his wife naked, undressing, or wearing something provocative. Typically, women are not that way. So a husband needs to discover what his wife's sexual triggers are.
A wife may be a "touch me" girl: she likes hugs and caresses. She may be a "tell me" girl: she likes affirmation and verbal foreplay. She may be a "listen to me and share with me" girl: she opens up after connecting with her husband through conversation. She may be a "doing" girl: she appreciates it when he picks up messes and helps with housework. She may be a "spiritual food" girl: she becomes open to sex after connecting with him through prayer, reading Scripture, and discussing spiritual matters.
10. Practice the fine art of appreciation.
There's a part of each of us that likes it when our mate is happy with our performance, insight, or advice. We long to hear, "You did a good job," or "You've worked so hard this week; I want to take you out for dinner so you don't have to cook." Sincere verbal appreciation motivates us. Overwhelm your spouse with appreciation, and watch sexual desire increase.
11. Make each other a priority.
Multitudes of sex therapists and marriage counselors name fatigue as the number one enemy of sexual intimacy. When couples are worn out, sex is one of the first things to go. If sex enters our minds—even fleetingly—we think, I'd really like to have sex, but when do I have the time and the energy?
We can push sex to the side and claim it's "just for a season." But pretty soon, that season turns into a pattern. That's when it becomes ingrained in the heart and we become blind to what we're doing. Of all sexual issues, exhaustion is the one over which we have the most control. How? By reprioritizing, working less, saying no to outside activities that don't further the marriage, or asking for help. Carve out time each week just to relax and have fun with each other.
Grab your calendars, sit down with your spouse, and talk through your schedules. Ask each other these questions: What is an absolute priority? What feels like an absolute priority but really isn't? What can we get rid of, at least for now? What is the best day to set aside as a time for just the two of us to have sex, to have fun, and enjoy each other? Get yourselves back to remembering, Oh yeah! This is really fun!
12. Say "Why not?"
When our young grandson asks for something, I (Barb) love to respond with "Why not?" He asks, "Can I have a Popsicle?" and I answer, "Why not?" He understands the response so well that he's begun to mimic me: "Why not, Gaga?" I love that because in a sense I'm telling him that I'm his greatest cheerleader. Anything he wants, I affirm.
You know what? That's how I want to be in my marriage. Don't you? I want to be my spouse's cheerleader and affirmer.
What if you started to say "Why not?" to your spouse? Let's say your husband calls you and announces, "I'll meet you at home; we'll enjoy some lunch—and each other." Instead of lamenting the lost opportunity to run an errand, respond, "Why not?" Or when your wife e-mails you and announces, "The kids are going to be at sports practice for two hours. If you come home early, I'll make it worth your while," don't think of that backlog of paperwork on your desk. Respond, "Why not?"
Give yourself permission to enjoy sex. Be open to pleasing your lover. Take on a "Why not?" attitude.
13. Keep practicing!
Sex stirs the craving for more sex. Lovemaking elevates the brain chemicals associated with desire. So as we decide to have sex and find we enjoy our time of lovemaking, our libidos increase, often leading to an increased yearning to have sex more often. What could be more fun and exciting than that?
Adapted from The Five Sex Needs of Men and Women. © 2006 by Gary and Barbara Rosberg. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.