Q. After 18 years of marriage, my wife told me our sex life is dull. Now I'm afraid to initiate sex for fear she'll get bored. What can we do to make things more than routine and for me to gain back my confidence?
A. After 18 years of marriage, sex can get dull. In fact if a couple doesn't work at it, all of marriage can sink into a sameness that saps the excitement out of everything. That's why so many couples split up when the children leave home.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. The secret lies not in avoidance born of fear, but in accepting the challenge and finding ways to woo and win back your wife—and not just in bed.
We could give you a formula, but our formula probably wouldn't work for you. Melissa can give you a list of things that light her fire, but you're not married to her. (Louis is the only one who gets that list!) And your wife has her own list. That's the one you need. Here are some ideas about discovering what those things are:
Since most women are more interested in relationship than physical sex, your best avenue to make things exciting again is to work on the relationship. She needs to hear you talk about your feelings, memories of great times with her, your thoughts and opinions. There's a delicate balance of maleness that's exciting to women: strength combined with tenderness. The tenderness she wants is on an emotional level. Try talking about the feelings you just described to us. Let her in on your fears and longings, and listen well when she talks about her fears and longings. This will increase your closeness, which will naturally lead to more physical affection and perhaps sex. But don't make sexual intercourse your goal. Instead have "oneness" as the destination. Your fear will dissipate as you express it verbally. Then you won't have to struggle with it and can focus on your wife and her needs. Otherwise, she'll sense intuitively that you're afraid—which isn't attractive to most women.
But another tip? Just flat out ask her what you can do to make things more exciting in the bedroom. We bet she'd love to be able to tell you.
I Want It More
Q. My husband has a lower sex drive than I do. He's fine with once a week; I'd be fine with every other day. Our involvement at church and our careers keep us busy, but not stressed. He refuses to visit a physician to see if there's a physical problem. He wants to have children in the future, which I'm open to, but from everything I've read, couples have sex less often after children arrive—and I'm unsatisfied with the frequency as it is now! Help!
A. Our first question is about how your sexual "dance" looks. How does your husband respond to your expression of desire and frustration? Who initiates sexual foreplay? Is your sexual interaction mutually satisfying when it does occur? The answers to these aspects of the "dance" may provide useful insights into why your husband doesn't seem motivated. Also, have you had open, honest talks about your sexual desires? If not, give that a try.
Since you connected the problems of frequency to having children, my second question is, How does your husband feel about the possibility of you becoming pregnant sooner rather than later? Sometimes when men feel a bit fearful about parenthood, they try to minimize their risk of fatherhood by limiting the possibility of impregnation. If that's what your husband is thinking, reassure him that today's forms of birth control are extremely effective. And if he's still nervous about it, lay off for those few days in your cycle when you're most fertile.
You also asked about the possibility of a physical problem. It's possible he has a low testosterone level, which could be determined with a simple blood test. He can probably schedule that without a physician's examination. Then, based on the results, he'd find whether he needed any treatment or follow-up. Perhaps you could suggest he at least take that step.
Finally, you may want to reconsider your assumption that frequency of sex will decrease after children come along. That isn't necessarily so. We've known many couples who've increased their frequency after children come along. You may find the same thing happens in your marriage!
Q. My husband isn't interested in hygiene—and it's a huge turnoff to me, to the point where I don't want to have sex with him. I've tried to say things such as, "Honey, where's that good smelling cologne I bought for you?" Is there something I can do?
A. Good try with the cologne! That sort of gentle hint works with some guys. Then there are others who are olfactory challenged and don't have a clue. Smells as though you got one of those.
There are two approaches you might try. The first may appeal to his machismo, but requires the right equipment. If you have a big enough and non-slip shower—invite him to play around with you there. Tell him the idea of showering together really lathers you up. Then you can lather him up with some good smelling gel. It might work.
The second is more direct but may be better in the long run. Make a date with him to talk then use a non-threatening "preamble" to set the stage. You could say, "Darling (or "Dimples" or "Brute"), I have a problem I can't seem to solve and I really need your help." That usually appeals to a man's need to be a fixer of things not working. Then tell him you have an overdeveloped sense of smell and that the doctor (McBurney) said that's directly connected to your sexual response center. The doctor pointed out that different smells are a definite turn-on or turn-off for many women and you're one of those. The problem is that your highly sensitive system makes you vulnerable to such things as (fill in the blanks). One of those is male body odor. So it's hard for you to become sexually stimulated when you're exposed to that and even though you really want to make love, your hypothalamus shuts you down.
Take It All Off!
Q. My husband asks me repeatedly to strip for him. I understand men are visual creatures, and that by my doing this he'd have a pleasing experience. While I'd love to do this for him, I feel self-conscious. I'm not the thinnest woman. How do I get over this negative self-image so I can please my husband? And anyway, is stripping even a healthy sexual suggestion?
A. Stripping is definitely a healthy sexual suggestion! And believe us when we tell you your weight isn't going to make the experience different for your husband. Love is blind and lust is at least myopic. It's wonderful that your husband has a touch of both.
If you're still self-conscious about your weight, ask your physician if you should lose a few pounds. But this is more than just a weight issue. We encourage you to try to remove your fear of your sensuality. God gave you all the right equipment to be a Song of Solomon woman. Read that book in The Message (a paraphrase of the Bible). While the descriptions in that translation sound a little more seductive, the meaning stays the same. A lover is a delight to the eyes of her beloved and he's eager to feast on her loveliness.
Also try to take off your inhibitions and embarrassment. Learn to undress one bit of clothing at a time with some stimulating music playing in the background. Practice alone until you're less self-conscious, then turn the lights low, light some candles, and surprise his socks off.
Q. Can a woman have a vaginal orgasm, and is there such a thing as a "G spot"? My husband, who was married before, says his former wife always had a vaginal climax during intercourse and he thinks there must be something wrong with me because I've never had one. Am I doing something wrong?
A. The human sexual response is individualized and there's no superior or inferior way of achieving satisfaction. More important than identifying a "vaginal" or "clitoral" orgasm or specific "G spot" response is to experience sex as a way of expressing mutuality in bringing pleasure to your mate.
Orgasm is the culmination of sexual arousal and can occur with any erotic stimulation. From kissing to breast caressing to clitoral or vaginal stimulation, you can experience an orgasm. The more romantic the setting, intimate the relationship, and exciting the lovemaking the more intense that orgasm may be. One prominent aspect of a woman's orgasm is the rhythmic contraction of the vaginal wall. So in a sense, every orgasm is a "vaginal" orgasm, even when the primary stimulation is in some other erogenous area.
It's also possible for a woman to experience orgasm when the vagina is the primary stimulus. Because of its location just above the entrance to the vagina, the clitoris usually receives some of the effects of pelvic thrusting and penile penetration.
There's also anatomic evidence of a "G spot," which is more of an area than a spot. This is located in the anterior, or front, wall of the vagina and has a richer network of sensory nerve endings.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that when sex becomes a performance that establishes anyone's adequacy, the whole meaning of intimacy is diminished. So we'd recommend you both relax, put away the score cards, and enjoy your love for each other!
Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counsel clergy couples.
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