If we want a truly fulfiling, monogamous and even sexy love affair in our marriage, how in the world do we get there?
Our lives are busy and pressured with all of the duties and responsibilities of marriage and family life; our work lives are demanding, and we’ve got needs for rest and physical exercise, a home that needs maintaining, and yearnings for some kind of creativity and relaxation. We may have ageing parents who need our attention or a child who’s having trouble at school, or a roof that’s leaking—and it all has to be attended to.
Challenge of getting the experience of rich sensuality in marriage
So how do we keep our heads and our bodies in our sex and intimacy with our partner through all of that? How do we get the experience of lush and rich sensuality in our relationship and build a regular sense of fulfilment into our weeks together?
I remember being in locker rooms with my girlfriends years ago, and we’d say things like, “I’d never stay in a relationship if we weren’t having sex at least three or four times a week.” Now those same girlfriends are quietly confessing that they haven’t been intimate with their partners in months. How come?
It’s not that we don’t love our partners. It’s that adult life is taking us out at the knees, and our focus on sex and intimacy is being usurped by duty and responsibility.
Drifting – biggest issue in long-term partnering today
I believe that our biggest issue in long-term partnering today is what I call drifting. We know that we love each other, we’re not at a breaking point, we’re not cheating or being destructive towards each other, but we can’t feel our love. Why can’t we feel it?
We can’t feel our love because we’re not engaging in it. We’re not engaging in the fun and romance that builds ease together, or the affection that helps to build desire, or the straight-ahead sex and naked-in-the-sheets intimacy time that opens us up and lets us let go into each other. We’re not, as a society, offering ourselves the things in marriage or partnership which support closeness, and so we fall prey to what I call “roommate-itis,” or “marital bed death.”
And we don’t want that. When our relationships are plagued by drifting, we feel distanced—from our passion, from our love, and from our sensual connection to our commitment.
Sensual life is the magic glue that keeps us close
Our sensual life is the magic glue that keeps us close; the barometer of how we’re doing with each other. So how can we fight off drifting, and get to the love we really know we have?
Here’s how: We have to have a practice of loving. We all know that if we want to get fit or learn to cook or learn a skill—speaking French, doing yoga, playing the guitar—that we get better with practice. With time-in. And that’s what we’re after in love. A practice of it, so we feel our love rather than just talk about it.
Implement naked strategies to enhance intimacy
How, practically, do we get to the love we say we want? Here’s how: we get ourselves a set of simple Naked strategies. Short and sweet actions that get us into our intimacy quickly and easily. In my new book, Naked Marriage, I offer these tips:
To make our relationship sexier, healthier and more intimate, we need:
- A weekly “Naked Date” with an undisturbed hour or two for being intimate and sexual with each other.
- Sex grounded in mutual fulfilment, so we want to come back for more.
- Affection guidelines that help keep us in our sensuality, even when we’re busy.
- Easy-on-the-soul strategies for checking in with each other
- Clear strategies for our money, parenting and lifestyle choices so financial and family pressure don’t block our path to the bedroom
So let’s talk about the first of these tips
Set aside time for a naked date
What’s a naked date? It is just what it sounds like: it’s a time you set aside, each week—every week—to get naked with each other and be close. Does it have to be sexual every time? No, not necessarily. Many couples will find that the act of getting naked with each other will often generate a sexual experience. What we’re after—sexual or sensual—is the act of being intimate with each other—being naked, and open, and willing to be close to each other on a regular basis.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Hey! My desire just doesn’t turn on and off at a set time. It’s variable!” And that’s reasonable enough. But what we’re after in long-term love is a cue for loving that blasts us out of our complacency—out of our waiting and watching, dodging and ducking to see if our partner is “in the mood”—and instead, gives us a cue to show up for love. We want to build into our bodies and minds a Pavlovian cue for intimacy so that we get to the loving we say we want.
At the first mention of a naked date, most people will say, “Hey, my desire can’t show up on cue, at a set time!” And I say, yes it can. And, in fact, we want it to. Setting a cued, regular time for love and sex is the antidote to drifting. We want our bodies and hearts to wake up at a certain hour, set aside the world’s pressing stuff, and the get naked, next to each other.
To make this work, we have to address one engrained thought process we’ve had since our dating years: we believe that sex should be a spontaneous act—that we should run through the wheat fields towards each other in perfectly aligned desire, ripping each other’s clothes off.
Revive the spontaneity
But marriage and long-term relationships are not spontaneous animals. Adult life strips the spontaneity from us: the more we have public and familial responsibilities as a couple, the more we will tend to identify with those roles. So we have to fight back against that by admitting to ourselves that long-term relationships are not spontaneous. Then, we can use that truth to build a strategy for ourselves that gets our bodies and hearts into our sex and intimate life.
How does the naked date actually work, in the real world? It’s easy: you set a time, each week, when you know you will not be interrupted. Thursday nights at six, Saturday mornings at eight, Sunday afternoons at four. If your kids often have birthday parties or sports events on Saturday mornings, then that’s not your time. If you have a family dinner every month on Sundays at five, that’s not your time. You want to be able to honor the time slot every week.
Show up for love
How come? Because when we show up for love, each and every week, we blast past the issues about whether or not our partner wants us—it’s already built into our naked date. When we show up each week, our partner begins to relax with us, and we both begin to relax about the when of sex. We know no matter what else goes down in the week, we will get to our love-filled time, and that tends to make us feel closer and trust each other more.
It also builds prowess. What do we mean by prowess? Having regular time-in our sex life means we get better at it. We get more relaxed. We have a platform to explore and discover.
What I’ve found in my own marriage is this: at first, my husband would drag me out to the burger joint, and then say he was “too full” by the time we got home. After about two months we started to get the hang of it (failing is part of the learning process), and then he’d stand over me at 5:45 pm on our day—our time was 6:00—and say, “Hon, it’s almost six. It’s time!” and I’d laugh and go get ready. It took those two months to press up against our resistance and get the thing going.
In the beginning, we used all of the stuff we knew to please each other in bed—in other words, we got a baseline of building pleasure. Over time, we started to explore more. The set date meant we knew we’d each show up for each other, and we didn’t have to guess if we wanted each other. Even if it had been a hard week, we could fall into each other’s arms and know that our commitment to show up for sensuality would carry us over the falls.
Then, the real magic began. We began to play. We got loose with each other. We trusted each other’s love more. We came to feel as sexy with each other because that’s what we were experiencing. Our practice of intimacy got us freer and even wilder sometimes.
Are there days when we’re not in the mood for it? Sure. But that’s the beauty of having a partner who has prowess with our bodies. She or he can—when we’re willing to just show up—carry us over when we need carrying; and we can do the same for him or her.
Building rock-solid foundation for loving over time
Once we have the principle of the Naked theme—showing up, in short and sweet time slots for our intimacy—we can apply this theme to the other parts of our relationship which support our closeness: affection, fun, checking in with each other, creating agreement about our lifestyle so the path to our bedroom stays clear and unblocked.
These are the principles that give us a rock-solid foundation for loving over time. It’s the beams upon which we can build a forever love. And that—for all of us who are partnered—is worth its weight in gold.