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Nurturing life long sexual desire in a marriage is challenging for many couples. Sex and Relationship therapist Emma Waring gives us some tips and help on how we can do this as well as advice on how to tackle sexual problems which are very common but rarely discussed.
When I am asked what the biggest single thing one can do to improve sex, my answer is always to talk about it and keep talking. Sex is not an easy subject to broach, even with the person you are closest to, your spouse. Sex may have been discussed in your families in very different ways and this will impact how you feel discussing it in your marriage. If you feel uncomfortable talking about sex, don’t try and hide this. Although you may feel vulnerable, opening up about your feelings is a really good way to connect with your spouse. Developing good lines of communication is vital and will enable you to keep sharing your desires and needs.
2. Forget spontaneity and be Intentional
Films and television would have us believe that sex is always spontaneous, effortless and always satisfying. The truth is, that when a couple has been together for some time, sex is less likely to be spontaneous because life is so busy. If we wait for it to be spontaneous the chances are it simply won’t happen. We need to be intentional about it and discuss with our partner how we prioritise sexual intimacy. This might seem like hard work and not particularly romantic, but the truth is to keep sex alive we need to talk about and plan times to have it.
3. Enjoy what you do
It is important as a couple to talk about what you are doing sexually and to review this. If one or both of you is finding sex boring or unsatisfying then it is going to be difficult to get aroused. If you are not aroused, you are more likely to run into sexual difficulties, such as erectile dysfunction or dyspareunia (painful sex) For the woman, think about introducing a vaginal lubricant if sex is uncomfortable or painful this can make a huge difference. Ensure you include enough foreplay before you attempt sexual intercourse. Perhaps as a couple consider exploring vibrators to aid female sexual arousal. There are lots of things a couple can do to introduce variety and keep sex interesting, and at the heart of this is effective, honest communication.
5. Give sexual intimacy as a gift
Sometimes I work with couples where one person wants sex and the other doesn’t, perhaps because they are too tired, not in the mood or recovering from a life event such as childbirth or illness. It’s important to remember that sex doesn’t always have to include penetrative intercourse and we don’t have to always engage in reciprocal stimulation. It may be that a wife stimulates her husband using her hand, for example, without the need for him to touch her, if she doesn’t feel that she wants to be sexual on that occasion. Perhaps the husband lies with his wife while she stimulates herself but doesn’t have to feel a pressure to get an erection, if he is stressed. By giving these sexual acts to a spouse as a ‘gift’ it enables the needs of both spouses to be met.
I am not advocating this approach as a replacement for couple intimacy, but it can be a great way for couples to remain close. I think it also means that couples are less likely to get pulled into unhelpful behaviors, such as masturbating secretly or watching pornography, to try and get their sexual needs met on their own.
6. Enjoy good-enough sex
Sex therapists Metz and McCarthy talk about the “good-enough sex model”. It is very countercultural to think of sex in this way but, if we embrace this approach, it means we can lay aside our expectations and just enjoy whatever happens. Sometimes this means sex will be passionate and deeply satisfying, and sometimes it will be good or perhaps even a bit boring, and this is ok. I rarely meet a couple who have engaged in sexual intimacy and wish they hadn’t, even if it’s not the most earth shattering encounter! Interestingly, most couples I work with say that when they have sex it is a really bonding experience and they don’t know why they don’t do it more often.
3. Seek help together
Sexual problems are very common but rarely talked about. For men these can include erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory problems and low desire. For women these commonly include dyspareunia (painful sex), vaginismus (an involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscle making vaginal penetration difficult or impossible) and low desire. When we marry our spouse we undertake to do this “in sickness and in health” and it is really important to recognise that a sexual problem is a ‘couple problem’ and should be tackled as a team. Be kind to one another and talk about how you are feeling. This will ensure you stay emotionally close.
Emma Waring is a sex and relationship therapist, cardiac specialist nurse and Christian.
Her pioneering work combining her nursing and therapist role was recognised when she won the Nursing Times Rising Star award in 2004.
In 2001 Emma set up the Male Cardiovascular Health Clinic, now an internationally renowned clinic for treating male cardiac patients with erectile dysfunction.
In 2011 she set up a clinic in a private hospital in London, working with individuals and couples experiencing sexual and relationship difficulties.
She regularly speaks to healthcare professionals and in churches on how couples can nurture lasting sexual enjoyment in their relationship, and how to manage common sexual difficulties which are rarely discussed. Emma is the author of Seasons of Sex and Intimacy and writes a column on sex and relationships for Liberti Magazine, a Christian magazine for women.
Emma is in the final stages of completing a training in transactional analysis psychotherapy. She is married to Steve and they have two children.
Be intentional about having sex and plan when this will happen.Talking to your partner is the best way to ensure that you have regular intimacy and that you know what each of you enjoys.Talking about sex can be very difficult. Explain to your partner that you are struggling as this will often help to ease the tension. Agree a time to sit down as a couple and discuss this away from the bedroom.
If you enjoy sexual intimacy you are much more likely to do this regularly. Work out the time and place that suits you best as a couple. Knowing what each of you enjoys will mean you are both more likely to get fully aroused which will make sex more enjoyable and reduce the chances of experiencing difficulties. If the woman is struggling to get aroused then use a vaginal lubricant and consider introducing a vibrator to aid clitoral stimulation.
Sexual difficulties are common. 1 in 10 men experiences erectile dysfunction. 1 in 10 women experiences dyspareunia (painful sex) at some point in their lives. If you are struggling with an aspect of sex then be kind to one another and seek help as a team. Go to your GP first of all to rule out any obvious physical causes and then seek help with a sex therapist if additional support is needed.