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Desire Differences Lesson 5: Understanding marital gridlock

Desire Differences Lesson 5: Understanding marital gridlock

How To Break Free Of Marital Gridlock​​​​​​​

Our last lesson on marital gridlock was a bit heavy. I realize going in to this topic that it will be a difficult concept to convey. In today’s lesson, I want to clarify a bit more about gridlock and its role in growing up within marriage. 
  
First, lets reinforce the belief that marriage is indeed designed to grow us up into better people. 
It’s not about happiness, or completion, or stability – it’s about growth. These aspects are present at times, but they’re not the ultimate purpose of marriage. 
  
If you buy into this belief, then you have to add to it the fusion fantasy we all bring into marriage. The belief that we will be one with our partner and live a tightly choreographed life together. As if we could read their mind, or they could read ours. The illusion of this connection is the source of much of the marital discord and gridlock in marriage. 
  
To break free you must recognize the separateness between you and your spouse, and not react to the fear this separateness can produce.

So, marriage is about growing up and the mechanism for our growth is the constant push and pull of our own desire for separateness and togetherness with our spouse.

Gridlock in marriage results, and is increased, when we believe we can get our spouse to come around to our way of thinking on an issue. As if when they see our point of view they will accommodate us and the issue will go away.

Reality is, a majority of issues in marriage will not go away. In fact, John Gottman has discovered that roughly 2/3s of the issues we face in marriage are perpetual.

So if our problems won’t go away and my spouse isn’t going to think the same way as me (or always accommodate for my way of wanting things) what am I left to do?

There are four possible responses:

  • Dominate my partner,
  • Submit to my partner,
  • Withdraw physically or emotionally from the relationship, or
  • Grow up.

David Schnarch refers to this kind of dilemma as a crucible – a severe test of our self-hood and personal integrity that is built into emotionally committed relationships.

So how exactly does this play out in the process of marriage? Let’s look at the fictional story of a married couple.

Steve married Michelle when they were in their early 20s. Neither had experienced the world nor life on their own away from their family of origin, and both entered marriage with the naive belief that life would be wedded bliss, aside from the silly arguments that occasionally would surface.

Steve realized early on the push and pull his relationship with Michelle had on him and he fought the forces by avoiding, both emotionally and physically. He would seek out Michelle when he wanted something from her, and push her away or avoid her when she wanted something from him.

It wasn’t long before some chronic issues surfaced between them – particularly in sex and sexual desire.

There were heated discussions surrounding their differences in desire for sex. Michelle frequently avoided the discussion and rarely initiated sex (or fully engaged in the sex that occurred) because sex was largely focused on Steve’s needs, not hers.

Steve and Michelle fell into the common and ineffective pattern of sexual interaction referred to by Schnarch as the devil’s pact. Steve would complain that Michelle never initiated sex, to which Michelle would respond, “You never give me the chance to initiate because you’re always initiating.”

So Steve and Michelle made the fateful agreement that Steve would stop initiating sex so Michelle could be more forthcoming with her desire.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Create a vacuum and the low desire partner will fill it because they’re no longer pressured by the high desire partner.

It doesn’t work in practice because it doesn’t fundamentally change the system – in fact, it reinforces the status quo. Initially, Michelle didn’t initiate because she enjoyed not feeling pressured to have sex, plus, she wanted the sex to be meaningful and pleasurable rather than simply a catering to her husband.

As the days passed however, Michelle felt more and more pressure because of her awareness of Steve’s growing frustration. Since one purpose of the pact was to keep Michelle from feeling pressured, she could feel entitled to not initiate because she still felt pressured. Michelle wouldn’t initiate sex because she refused to capitulate to Steve who could seemingly pressure for sex by not initiating.

To break free of gridlock, Steve and Michelle had to face to difficult personal truths. It was easier for Michelle to say, “I just don’t like sex” than it was for her to say to her husband, “I don’t like sex with you. I get very little pleasure out of it.”

Once the emotional gridlock was in place, it was easier for them to live within their comfort level than to tolerate the discomfort and anxiety surrounding their individual growth.

But it’s this tolerating of anxiety that is necessary for the relationship to move forward.

Growth in their marriage required each of them to live according to their individual strength and integrity.

To discover the deeper parts of themselves, and at times, create the deeper part of themselves.

When Steve faced his selfish sexual style it forced him to become accountable for his unrealistic view of sex (shaped largely by his struggle with pornography), and his deep fear of being unable to truly satisfy his wife’s sexual desires.

By keeping the focus on himself and spectatoring (focusing on performance rather than connection) throughout the encounters, he kept the emotional levels at a tolerable level. When Michelle upped her presence and began speaking up about what she wanted during sex, this forced Steve to face his own “inadequacy” fears.

At the same time, Michelle was struggling through her growth into viewing herself as a sexual being rather than a sexual object. She had to develop the ability to speak up for her wants, not just in sex but other areas of her life as well. She had to face head on her dependence on Steve and her fear of being emotionally betrayed or hurt by him.

Today, Steve and Michelle still deal with desire differences, but Steve recognizes more of the subtle initiations Michelle makes towards sex and Michelle recognizes Steve’s desire to be closer to Michelle on an emotional level outside of the bedroom.

They both recognize the improved presence of each of them during sex and marriage.

Have the desire differences gone away? No. Will they? No. Has their marriage improved? Yes. Has sex improved? Yes. Can it get even better? That’s what they’re still growing up towards!

​​​​​​​For more on this idea, join me in The Art of Marriage . The next one begins April  14th, 2017.

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Desire Differences Lesson 4: I want you to want me

Desire Differences Lesson 4: I want you to want me

I want you to want me​​​​​​​​​​​​​​,

Today we’re not talking about Cheap Trick and no, I’m not going to break out into song. 
  
Instead, let’s wrap up the first part of our lessons on desire differences by expanding what you can do to utilize the differences to create something better in your marriage.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve had some great discussions about sexual desire differences and how this is part of every marriage.

Let’s wrap up this discussion by expanding the Four Points of Balance proposed by Dr. David Schnarch (and once again, these are trademarked by him and can be found in his work).

  1. A solid flexible self is different than a reflected sense of self as it means you’re able to maintain your psychological shape while in close proximity to important people who pressure you to conform or accommodate them. You don’t have to keep your distance (emotionally or physically) in order to stay clear about who you are.
    The more solid you are, the more important you can let your spouse be to you, and the more you can let yourself be truly known. You can seek advice and let yourself be influenced by others; you can change your mind when warranted; and you can be flexible without losing your identity.
  2. Having a quiet mind and calm heart allows you to regulate your own emotions, feelings, and anxieties. The inability to soothe and comfort yourself means your desires and life’s frustrations will pull you apart.
    Self-soothing is the ability to calm yourself down, soothe your own hurt feelings, and keep your fears and anxieties under control. This point of balance is what separates us from the other species on the planet and plays a critical role in mature adult love.
  3. Making grounded responses to the people and events around you means you don’t overreact to your spouse’s anxieties. This concept is especially important when it comes to interacting with those you love.
    Due to the nature of marriage, you’ve experienced the idea that other people have minds of their own, replete with perceptions, beliefs, and desires. When it comes to the people you love, being able to make grounded responses will help you remain close and connected, even when you don’t see eye to eye.
  4. The ability to meaningfully endure means you endure discomfort for the sake of growth. All species seek pleasure and avoid pain, but humans are adaptive in that they can forego immediate gratification and endure hardship. This is what makes us able to pursue long-term goals and stick to the values we hold dear.
    The ability to endure the pain and heartache of relationships is what makes marriage, family, parenting and caring for others possible. It’s not easy, but it’s easier to tolerate when your pain and heartache is meaningful, or when it serves some purpose you value, or when something good may come out of it.

Each of these aspects are involved in maintaining, caring for, and developing your self – and are vital when it comes to handling gridlock. They help you keep (and/or develop) your emotional balance when things get rough.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you able to stay clear about who you are in the face of opposition? Or do you fall apart?
  • Can you calm yourself when you’re upset or hurt, or do you need someone else to comfort you?
  • When you hit relational difficulties, do you overreact and run away from (or cling to) your spouse?
  • Do you accomplish those difficult things that need to be done to meet your goals or do you give up, bail out, or goof off?

If you want to experience the kind of marriage (or sex) you want – it’s your responsibility.

And on the flip side – it’s highly possible that you are killing the sexual passion and desire in your marriage by the way you live your life.

Remember, you are responsible for you, and all you can do is present something worth wanting.

For more on this idea, join me in The Art of Marriage . The next one begins April  14th, 2017.

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Desire Differences Lesson 3: Use desire differences to create something better

Desire Differences Lesson 3: Use desire differences to create something better

How desire differences help create a better marriage

There’s always a low desire spouse and there’s always a high desire spouse – and there’s one of each in every marriage. 
  
The most common reaction to this is to believe there’s something wrong … either with yourself, your spouse, the relationship, or all the above. 
  
For starters, things going wrong and things not going the way you want are two different things. 
  
Second, if there’s nothing going wrong, it’s more likely you can turn things around and make them more to your liking.

Previously we’ve discussed the idea that there’s a low desire spouse and a high desire spouse on every issue and decision in marriage. And, no one is the low desire, or high desire on everything. Positions shift on different issues throughout the marriage.

Fact is, desire differences are going to happen – and the positions you take (low or high) are simply points on a continuum. There will be a high desire spouse and there will be a low desire spouse. And contrary to popular belief, the high desire spouse isn’t always male. As the comments in the prior post attest, it’s just as likely that the high desire spouse will be female.

While neither the high or low desire position is right or wrong, one thing will be true … the low desire spouse always controls sex.  And this is true whether the low desire spouse wants to, or likes it, or not.

Couples have often sought ways around this problem. Or more aptly stated, high desire spouses have sought ways to increase their spouse’s desire. But, inevitably, the low desire spouse will control sex.

Here’s how this works:

  1. The high desire spouse makes most, if not all, of the overtures and initiations for sex.
  2. The low desire spouse decides which of the sexual overtures he or she will respond to.
  3. Which determines when sex happens. Giving the low desire spouse de facto control of sex – whether he or she wants it or not.

When you look at it this way it seems simple.

The key is – how you experience this, and handle this, will say a lot about you regardless whether you’re the high or the low desire spouse.

The fact that you experience desire differences doesn’t necessarily mean there is something going wrong – and shifting your perspective could change everything.

It could open the door to you both using your sexual desire differences more productively. Desire problems can be useful to people and relationships – they push you to become more solid within yourself.

Being in a committed relationship brings two life forces front and center. The drive for togetherness and the drive for separateness. The desire to connect and share experiences with another person and the refusal to submit to another person’s tyranny.

When it comes to sexual desire, the low desire spouse understands tyranny. He or she feels oppressed, pressured to want sex and have sex, thanks to the badgering by their spouse’s higher desire.

BUT, the high desire spouse understands tyranny too. He or she will feel the pressure to have sex when and how it’s available since opportunities may be few and far between.

They must settle for “getting lucky” rather than feeling wanted. And on top of all this, they usually must act grateful for mediocre sex.

Marriage: a state of slavery involving two masters and two slaves. ~ Ambrose Bierce

Sex is a common gridlock issue. And gridlock in marriage is inevitable … but also resolvable.

When it comes to sex, sure, the low desire spouse can stop having it, but there’s usually a limit to how far you can play that card if you want to stay married – particularly happily married.

So what can you do?

Put simply, grow up!

Plus, you must realize that what we’re talking about here is not just sex. There’s a whole lot more going on.

Most of the time, sex is approached from an other-validation stance (also called a reflected sense of self).

Take intimacy for example. Other-validated intimacy involves one spouse disclosing feelings, perceptions, doubts, fears, and inner truths and the other spouse 1)accepting, validating, and empathizing, and/or 2) disclosing in kind.

Other-validation hinges on reciprocity.

In sex this plays out as I’ll do you then you do me.

What this actually does is boosts or shores up your reflected sense of self.

Here’s something you must get straight in your mind:

Being intimate with your spouse doesn’t mean you get the response you want.

Marriage is an interdependent relationship – it’s resilience lies in both spouse’s ability to function independently.

Holding on to your self

The balance between your reflected sense of self and your solid flexible self has a dramatic effect on your level of sexual desire and passion – and whether or not you miss it when they’re non-existent.

Plus, there’s more to developing your self than simply staying true to your values and goals.

You may be a good person with fine values and good intent, but if your anxieties drive you to avoid things or act impulsively, you’ll do things that violate your integrity, ideals and goals, and diminish your self-worth.

You’ll react harshly to other family members when your anxiety is high, which may go against your ideal of being a good solid parent, which then makes you feel guilty, thus your self-worth takes another hit.

Dr. David Schnarch has created Four Points of Balance (all of which are trademarked by him and can be found in his work) that are part of the people developing process of marriage.

  1. Solid flexible self – This is the ability to be clear about who you are and what you’re about, especially when your spouse (or others) pressure you to adapt and conform.
  2. Quiet mind, calm heart – Is being able to calm yourself down, soothe your own hurts and regulate your own anxieties.
  3. Grounded responding – Is the ability to stay calm and not overreact, rather than creating distance or running away when your spouse gets anxious or upset.
  4. Meaningful endurance – Is being able to step up and face the issues that bedevil you and your marriage, and the ability to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth. (Schnarch, 2009)

When it comes to sex, like I stated before, there’s more going on than just sex.

Look at it this way – There are many things I can do to get my wife to have sex with me. I can woo her, set up a romantic date, get her several drinks, manipulate, beg, persuade, plus many other things that may work. But, none of these tactics will make her want me.

That’s something I can’t control.

When it comes to being wanted … all I can do is present something worth wanting.

And something worth wanting develops best when you confront yourself, challenge yourself to do what’s right, and earn your own self respect. A scary proposition, yes. But it’s the way a marriage fully alive really works.

For more on this idea, join me in The Art of Marriage . The next one begins April  14th, 2017.

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

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Desire Differences Lesson 2: How to view desire differences

Desire Differences Lesson 2: How to view desire differences

How to view desire differences​​​​​​​

Are you the high desire or the low desire spouse when it comes to sex? 
  
Have desire differences created problems in your marriage? 
  
Sooner or later, most couples experience problems in this area. Desire problems are the most common sexual complaint for couples. 
  
It’s natural to feel bad about having sexual desire problems, especially if you believe that sex is a natural function. 
  
Most people believe that love automatically creates sexual desire in healthy people. At first glance, this makes a lot of sense. 
  
But once you buy into the belief that sexual desire comes “naturally,” you’re in for a load of eventual problems. You’ll feel pressured to create something that just isn’t there. You’ll get defensive and despondent when problems surface in your sex life. You may even begin to feel defective or screwed up. In turn, it’s less likely that you’ll address these sexual desire problems and even less likely you’ll succeed if you do. 
  
When you believe that sex is a natural function, it sucks to be the low desire spouse. You may see yourself as the one with the problem … plus it’s likely that your spouse (the high desire spouse) sees you that way too.

The other big problem with approaching sexual desire as a natural biological function is it actually helps create low sexual desire because it makes sexual desire impersonal.

It’s hard to desire sex when it feels like your spouse just wants to relieve their physical needs.

Dr. David Schnarch proposes a completely different way to view desire differences.

There’s always a low desire spouse and there’s always a high desire spouse – and there’s one of each in every marriage.

There’s a low desire spouse and a high desire spouse on virtually every issue and decision in marriage. One of you wants to do something the other doesn’t, or wants to less than you. And even if you both want the same thing, one of you will want it more than the other.

Plus, no one is the low desire, or high desire on everything. Positions shift on different issues throughout the marriage.

Desire differences are going to happen. And the positions you take (low or high desire) are simply points on a continuum.

The most freeing point of this view, neither the high desire position or the low desire position is right or wrong. They’re simply differences.

Let’s say you want to have sex every day, you’d likely think that would make you the high desire spouse. But if you’re married to a person that wants sex two times per day, you’re the low desire spouse.

Desire isn’t either high or low due to biological drive, past history, or even how much you like sex – it results from some standard of comparison, usually this is your spouse. If you buy into this idea it will help you stop the arguments over how much sexual desire is normal or healthy.

Let me state this a different way – I really like sex.

I also really like chocolate – but not every day.

When my wife and I have attempted to have sex every day for a certain number of days in a row, it becomes burdensome and impersonal. But does that mean the couples who have sex more often than us are better or healthier than us? Nope.

Same for those that are less frequent.

This is the comparison devil rearing its head again.

Differences are going to happen in marriage.

Especially when it comes to sexual desire.

Why?

Because this is how relationships are designed and operate.

There’s more going on than “happily ever after.”

When it comes to marriage, the relationship is driven by more than just feelings, plus it helps to realize that feelings aren’t always accurate. 

I believe this idea can help you to stop taking things so personally in your relationship and begin to grow up and experience more than you imagine in your relationships.

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

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Sex and Intimacy Bonus Lesson: Stages of Married Sex

Sex and Intimacy Bonus Lesson: Stages of Married Sex

Stages of Married Sex,

There are countless ways to talk about, and have, sex. 

But, if there’s a topic more difficult to discuss with the person you actually perform the act with … I’m not sure what it is. 

Learning how to discuss this subject with your spouse is the path to creating a better sexual relationship. And this conversation isn’t just about what you like and don’t like, or wish your lover would do or not do. This can be a conversation about who initiates, and how. What does this, or that, mean to you? 

The point is, mustering the courage to talk about sex with your spouse will reap huge rewards.

Honeymoon sex.

Vacation sex.

Make-up sex.

The quickie.

Missionary position.

Reverse cowgirl.

On top.

From behind.

Upside down.

One thing that trips many couples in the sexual arena is unmet expectations. The main problem is that often these expectations are unspoken.

Let’s say you make a move for sex, your spouse responds positively and you both have a pleasant experience together – but you weren’t looking for pleasant … you wanted “sweaty, you do me, then I do you, then we do each other together while waking the neighbors” type of sex.

I believe expectations are really planned disappointments. And this disappointment is all but guaranteed when you fail to speak up. This doesn’t mean you don’t pursue your desires.

It means you must learn to adjust and adapt as your pursuit unfolds.

We don’t always get what we want in this life. And sometimes, we get more than we want!

Ana and I just did a show on The Rich Flow Of Life on this idea. And I recently came across a section in a book that can help you and your spouse get more on the same page when it comes to the kinds of sex each of you are interested in, or willing to participate in, or sleep through.

The Stages of Married People Sex, via the metaphor of going out to eat:

  1. Drive Thru – This is the bare bones maintenance sex, the “lie back and think about your day”, “Honey, I’m too tired but you go ahead and do your thing”, “If you really need it I’m here for you but try not to wake me up” kind of sex. Emergency sex. Sex when it’s not necessarily about anything other than tearing one off. School-night sex. Eye contact is optional. So is consciousness.
  2. Golden Corral – No-frills sex, usually no more than one or two positions, without more than token foreplay but with eye contact, kissing, a sweet nothing or two. Expectations are low for both of you. Orgasms are often optional, but pleasantly received. Post-coital pillow-talk beyond the basics is unnecessary.
  3. Pizza – Light to medium foreplay, oral but not necessarily to orgasm, kissing, intercourse with at least two and up to four positions. Moderate to heavy pillow talk afterwards. Comfortable, pleasant, “was it good for you, too” sex. Friday night sex, not Saturday night sex.
  4. Chinese – Medium to heavy foreplay, oral usually to orgasm, major kissing, intercourse in three to five positions, moderate pillow talk afterwards or between the first and second course. (It’s Chinese . . . you’re usually horny again an hour later). Usually you can’t consider Chinese or above with kids in the house. Not if you do it right.
  5. Italian – Saturday Night sex. Sex after a genuine date, usually casual, but you definitely got a sitter. Maybe a few drinks or a concert. Public displays of affection, hand-holding, suddenly pulling her into a corner for extended smooching, making out in the car, maybe a little light foreplay on the way home. Sex in at least four positions, likely twice (or once but for an extended period of time), with mood music and appropriate lighting. Light fantasy play and toys are also a possibility.
  6. Continental – High Fantasy sex. The kind of sex you have when the kids are at the grandparents for a three-day weekend, you have the house to yourself and access to soundproofing. This is where you may experiment with costumes, role plays, apparatuses, etc.
  7. Four Star – Hotel sex. It’s in a class by itself. You put even the most demure wife (even husband) in a nice hotel room and the possibilities of invoking her inner slut are limitless. Hotel sex is a fine art, and like fine art it’s ridiculously expensive. There are countless ways to cutdown on the expense for a creatively-minded couple, but unless you’re fulfilling your cheap hooker fantasy at a local hot sheets rooms-by-the-hour motel, you’re going to spend a couple of hundred bucks on this. It’s worth it. Two or three nights of Four Star hotel sex a year can go light-years in keeping your marital relationship fresh.

What helps you discuss this topic with your spouse? 

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

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Sex and Intimacy Lesson 7: How Bad Sex Can Improve Your Marriage

Sex and Intimacy Lesson 7: How Bad Sex Can Improve Your Marriage

How Bad Sex Can Improve Your Marriage​​​​​​​,

Steve meets Michelle.

They fall in love and get married shortly after graduation.

For our story Steve’s the high sex desire spouse and Michelle’s the low sex desire spouse.

Early in their marriage, Steve’s always raring to go. Anytime, anyplace, the more the better. Which, by the way, is part of a lie about what constitutes good sex in our culture.

Michelle likes sex with Steve, at least in the beginning. He’s spontaneous, adventurous and full of energy.

His desire helps her feel free and alive, like tapping into something sexual deep within her. But, she’s still unsure who she is sexually (incidentally, so is Steve, although it looks like he isn’t because he more closely fits a cultural norm.)

Life as newlyweds wears off, although it too has provided another level of pressure through the perceived perception others have of their “happily married couple” existence together. Maybe kids have entered the picture, or they’ve struggled to have kids but can’t, either way, things begin to change.

Steve is still the high desire spouse and wants sex any way he can get it. But Michelle begins to prefer routine encounters, usually focused on Steve because she’s feeling a little bit used but is in a bind of trying to appease him so he’ll back off a little, or at the very least stop begging.

In doing so, she sets her inner sexuality (i.e. her desires, identity, and pleasures) aside in an attempt to relieve the pressure from her husband. In fact, between the pressure from Steve and the stresses of her daily life, she sets it aside so much that she forgets she has it and even begins to believe she never did.

Meanwhile, Steve doesn’t mind routine sex with Michelle. Certainly not enough to hold out for something more. After all, it’s sex! And sex makes him feel less alone, even though he has to resort to pleading and guilting his wife in to it.

This leaves him in a real bind. Because this isn’t just about horniness, contrary to popular belief, because actually he’d give up his very soul for sex, and now does so regularly. This happens because he not only accepts, but eventually begs for less than what he really wants.

Now we’re not talking about biological drive – we’re on to something much deeper.

Michelle picks up on Steve’s “neediness” – because at this point it’s presented as need, not desire. Big difference. Steve is in need of validation and Michelle is in need of a relief from the pressure … so she finds one.

She realizes that whatever leftovers she puts out there for Steve, he’ll lap it up. So that’s all she puts out there – the bare minimum. Thus, the birth of mercy sex. Actually, this is more aptly termed mercy f@%#ing because what’s happening isn’t just sex, there’s an undercurrent of cruelty by both of them but generally this isn’t a socially accepted term among Christian and polite audiences.

Many times couples at this point believe what’s really going on is a communication issue. Many professional approaches teach this as well. And sadly, religious communities harm this process further by encouraging believers to submit and serve each other more, or show more love and respect.

Most people seem to think that if they could somehow communicate and understand each other better then everything will be okay. Reality is, Steve and Michelle communicate and understand each other quite well. Problem is, they don’t like the message the other is sending.

They’ve wound up in gridlock.

Steve is seen as either the sex expert or a devious man. Because either sex is natural and everyone should want it (a lot), so what’s wrong with Michelle, OR he sees himself as devious and thinks he’s all wrong. At the same time, if Michelle is married to a sex expert then there’s something wrong with her so she must need to see a doc or therapist to help “fix” her OR if she’s in a marriage with a devious man then she can lord this over him. After all, it’s just his nature to be so out of control of himself, so he needs help from a therapist or doc in order to “fix” him.

Many couples endure sexual turmoil and private agony for years without knowing this is normal. And sadly, many couples end the marriage too soon before the process can actually be used for their own personal development bootcamp. 

Because bad married sex is an evolutionary (i.e. developmental) process.

When more couples can understand this dynamic they gain a big boost in working through the inevitable struggles it causes.

People seek out information to help improve their sex life because, sadly, many professionals and even the religious are subtly selling a lie that married sex is supposed to the great, mind blowing, hot and heavy, all night every night type of sex – or at the very least regular and somewhat enjoyable. Couple this ideal with the sexual wounding many people carry into relationships you’ve got a recipe for major struggle.

But what if there’s actually something bigger going on?

Perhaps you, like me, have bought in to your own detriments and shortcomings in the sexual arena. So when things don’t flow naturally you believe there must be something wrong.

To be more accurate and change our path forward, let’s put it this way.

Married sex CAN BE good sex, REALLY good; like passionate, erotic, transcend you to a higher place kind of good – but only after it’s gotten really, really bad – not bad as in kinky, “bad girl/boy” kind of bad – I mean bad.

You see, married sex is bad on purpose. This is because really good sex requires growing up, a.k.a. humility, maturity, generosity, and at least a developing sense of self-respect – and this generally develops later in life when wrinkles, cellulite and gray hair enter the picture.

Take Michelle’s treatment of Steve. Let’s say Steve starts paying attention to and caring that Michelle isn’t terribly interested in him. Let’s say he says that he doesn’t get the sense that she is really into him. Let’s say that Michelle takes offense and tells him that she’s sick of never being enough for him – that she gives and gives and gives but he is just never satisfied.

If you’re paying attention here what you just saw is akin to the mercy f$%*#ing we saw earlier. But what you have just witnessed is called mind f$%*#ing – which is the worst part because it’s just plain cruel. It’s Michelle trying to make Steve believe that she is truly “giving” and that it’s his problem that it’s never enough. But the reality is that she may be giving him sex – but she’s denying him the sweetness of her.

Instead of being straight about her low sexual desire for him she turns it in to him never being satisfied. It alleviates the pressure on her but it also prevents them from getting honest and moving out of gridlock.

Now let’s look at Steve’s part in all this.

Steve has been communicating quite clearly all along that his greater interest lies in getting instant gratification – not only of his sexual drives but also of both his need to be validated and his need to get control. He knows the she hasn’t been into the sex for a very long time but he takes it anyway.

Some high desire spouses do this with begging and weeping. Some do it with an explosion of rage and physical dominance. This, my friends is the darker side of marriage – one that most of us don’t want to look at – but it’s there, nonetheless. And when we’re not looking at it straight, it is in charge. But, when we look straight at these things in ourselves we may feel badly, but over time we can achieve something unique and powerful.

Sex in marriage, especially bad married sex, asks for something from us.

It’s asking the Michelles of the world to deal with the pressure inherent in close relationships with courage, determination, and honesty. It is asking them to play it straight and plunge into the unknown world of letting themselves be truly seen – the good and the bad – and to be honest and assertive by living with more self respect so that passion, collaborative alliance, and love-making have a chance.

It’s asking the Steves of the world to stop looking to others to define their sense of worth and meaning and to stop punishing others for not defining them in a positive light. It is asking them to recognize in peace where they end and another begins. It is asking them to stop grasping for love and to start being grounded in love.

What we’re really talking about here is the development of authenticity and integrity. It’s the path to really good sex. And, it’s what makes the world a better place

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

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Sex and Intimacy Lesson 6: Curl Your Toes Sex

Sex and Intimacy Lesson 6: Curl Your Toes Sex

Curl Your Toes Sex,You couldn’t be further from the truth. Every couple will experience at least some difficulty in the area of sexual connection. When it comes to sexual connection, there are three categories of couples.

 This is Part 2 to the first email in this course I sent you a few weeks ago.
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. ~Robert Frost
If there ever was an area that needed to be more openly discussed among married couples, it’s this one: sex. It is easy to believe that every other couple has no difficulties with the subject. That if you and your spouse are having trouble when it comes to sex, you are the only ones.

The sexually Barren,

The sexually Average,

Blessed Few.

Membership in these categories has little to do with physical anatomy. To be part of the blessed few requires more of each person mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Couples who fall in the sexually barren category often are not having sex due to reasons other than physical incompatibility. They often have resentment, bitterness, disappointment or all of the above directed towards their partner. While these emotions may manifest themselves in physical ways, the problem is not physical.

It’s mental and emotional. If it truly is a physical issue, there are medical procedures and pharmacological products that may be tried. Viva Viagra, need I say more?

The sexually average are also not immune to these difficulties. Although they have most likely had times when they felt a deeper connection they are desperately trying to recapture the experience.

To reach the promised land of the blessed few requires you to be more present not only during sex, but also during life. You must grow up. And so must your spouse.

Anyone beyond the age of puberty is capable of having sex. But this doesn’t mean you’re ready to handle all the components surrounding sex. Truth is, most people aren’t ready for all the components. To do so requires much more than you may think you are capable.

Even if you have been having sex with your partner for years, for me it has been several years now, isn’t there a part of you that gets a bit anxious when it comes time for sex?

Sex is so much more than just an act. Sex is a language. When you begin to look at your sexual language, you will discover it is in line with how you live your life. It will uncover the areas of your life where you are insecure, scared, anxious, or even ashamed.

To begin the growth required to be among the blessed few, work to be more present with your spouse.

Both during sex and the day to day interactions. Speak up about what’s going on inside your head. Listen to your spouse as they tell you what’s going on in theirs. It’s the fastest way to better sex.

Better sex doesn’t automatically create a better relationship, but the personal growth required to enhance sex and intimacy will improve the marriage in other ways.

When you learn ways of maintaining yourself in your marriage you will improve all your relationships as well.

Here are a few ideas on creating a more passionate relationship.

  1. Let the best in you run your life. If you’re like most people, you have a scared, angry, vindictive, or lazy side that limits the quality of your relationship. You don’t have to let that side of you run your life. Instead, live from the resilient side of you. Remind yourself of what is admirable, competent and good about yourself, and about your partner. Seek to relate to your partner as though they are capable of developing further as a person.
  2. Sustain eye contact with your partner outside of the bedroom. This is a quick and meaningful (but not easy) way to stay in touch with your spouse. Begin with trying this during your conversations. Beyond this, make an agreement with each other to look into each other’s eyes for at least five minutes in a quiet, private place. This is not a staring contest. Instead, take the time to really look into each other and let yourself be seen. Expect to run into your own resistances. Note them in the back of your mind. Discuss the experience with your partner. In time, this will become a warm and inviting experience.
  3. Hug until relaxed. This is a fascinating way to get more in touch with your partner and yourself. Prepare yourself by settling down, relax, take a few deep breaths and slow your heart rate. Balance yourself squarely over your own two feet. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax more. When the two of you are ready, open your eyes, without loosing your relaxed balanced position, hug so that you have one foot between your spouse’s feet. Get close enough to easily put your arms around your spouse without feeling off-balance, or pushing or pulling them off-balance. Let yourself relax into the hug and continue to breath. Lots of feelings about your partner, yourself, and your relationship are bound to surface. Note the resistances but don’t give in to them. After the agreed amount of time has passed, break the hug, then discuss the experience with your spouse. In time, you’ll be amazed by the improvements this brings.
  4. Make eye contact in bed. Building upon the previous two points, try maintaining more eye contact in bed. Start by lying next to each other, and gaze into each other’s eyes as in tip #2. Seek to remain relaxed, focus on your partner and being seen by them. If you feel the urge to touch your partner, touch their face or hold their hand. Stay away from their genitals until you can both reach a relaxed connection with some reliability. You can then expand this activity to include foreplay and intercourse.
  5. Pay attention to depth of involvement with your spouse during sex. When you and your spouse are actually having sex, you are using one or more of three psychological mindsets. You are focused on 1) physical sensations, 2) playing out sexual fantasies, and/or 3) engaging your partner. Most people seem to focus more on the first two. Instead, focus on engaging your partner during sex. Pay attention to what they seem to be thinking and feeling. Share with them what you are experiencing. Don’t just simply try and bring him or her to orgasm. Try to establish a deeper connection. Once you and your partner are good at engaging each other rather than getting lost in your sensations or playing out sexual scripts, you can work as a team to create terrific sexual experiences.

Sexual compatibility is developed over time. “Curl-your-toes sex” does not just happen by chance. It is co-created by both partners being more involved, not just physically present. When more of you comes forward, it is often greeted by more of your partner. This growth isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to enter into the realm of the blessed few.

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

P.S. If you want to consider using the Marriage/ Relationship Fitness approach to heal your relationship, here are some proven products and services for you to review.  Consider joining the ART OF MARRIAGE & RELATIONSHIP RETREAT This program has saved thousands of marriages and relationships alike. Wouldn’t it be great if “happily ever after” really were the end of the story? Find out here when next program begins. For more information go to:  Next  Retrea

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Sex and Intimacy Lesson 5: 10 Mistakes Women Make During Sex

Sex and Intimacy Lesson 5: 10 Mistakes Women Make During Sex

10 Mistakes Women Make During Sex,

Okay ladies, it’s your turn. Hey, I’m an equal opportunity type of guy. 
  
When it comes to a couple’s sex life, there are many things that will cause it to ebb and flow. Everyday stresses with work, kids, schedules, and household tasks are bound to take its toll on sex.
With all the things that can preclude intimate moments together with your lover, let’s tackle some of the issues that may come up during the encounters. 

A word of warning, this lesson continues the “gutsy” approach to the topic by addressing things honestly. Adults only please.

Two days ago I took on my own gender and the mistakes men can make during sex. Now it’s the ladies turn.

And another word of warning, this post continues the “gutsy” approach to the topic by addressing things honestly.

1. Trading in hot momma for mommy. Motherhood does not make you celibate. Unless that is your conscious choice. While the rigors of being a mom can impact your sexual desires, it most likely doesn’t extinguish it. You need to nurture your sex life.

Leave him and yourself little notes to discover during the day. Wear something sexy under your normal childcare uniform or business attire. Do something that helps you remember you are a sexual goddess. Research has found that a happy and healthy marriage is the best thing you can do for your children.

2. Unresponsiveness in the sack. Sex with a corpse is not a good thing. Don’t just lie there. Get involved. Move. Make some noise. If sex isn’t pleasurable for you, what’s missing? Try different positions, or locations throughout the house. Whatever ignites things for you.

3. Not speaking up or being direct. Similar to men, women can fall victim to the idea that your partner will know or sense what’s going on with you. If something is going on you don’t enjoy, speak up. While it may dampen the mood, when you’re honest and communicate your needs, you get the chance to experience even more during sex together.Also, if he inquires about sex, be honest. There’s a big difference between saying flat out “no” and “not at the moment, but I could be enticed.”

4. Not owning your own body. What most men find as a lasting turn-on more than anything is how a woman carries herself. Her confidence. If you are always down on your body, you can do something about it by working out if you want. But one thing you can for sure do is learn to embrace the skin you’re in. Walk around naked. Have sex with the lights on. When you own your own body, you can flaunt one of your biggest assets, you!

5. Forgetting your feminine side. There are many roles women have thrust upon them today. Caretaker, mother, business woman, boss, manager, chauffeur, nurturer. One of the main roles sometimes lost in our society is that of Eve. The last of God’s creations! The manifestation of God’s beauty! Women are beautifully and wonderfully made. Don’t forget that Eve is the beauty in the story of life. Carry yourself as such, and don’t settle for being seen as less.

6. Insecurity towards other women. Similar to not owning your own body, being constantly threatened by other women is not attractive. Remember your husband chose you, so focus your energies on keeping his eyes on you. Learn to seduce him, tease him, tempt him.

7. Fear of your erotic nature. Many women may fear if they are erotic, they’ll come across as slutty or cheap. That may be just what he wants at times! Have the courage to let go once in a while. Be erotic. Play to his visual nature. Make him notice you. Get on top during sex. Take charge. As the Usher song states, be “a lady in the street but a freak in the bed.” A common thought is that men are led by two brains. Don’t forget about his northern brain.

8. Not going down. There are some couples who fear oral sex. If you don’t like going down on your husband and he wants you to, have you talked about it? Share your thoughts, listen to his. Are there other things you could do? Sure there are, but blindly hoping they happen usually isn’t good for both of you. Speak up. Incidentally, if you do go down, no teeth please!

9. Failure to initiate. The number one complaint I hear from men is this issue of their wife not initiating sexual encounters. Perhaps this is due to some of the other points previously made, or something different. When you’re interested in sex, let it be known. Even if he’s at work, send him an email disclosing what’s on your mind.

10. Slow down. Just like the advice for the men, slow down. Take your time together. Enjoy the moments you have together.

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

P.S. If you want to consider using the Marriage/ Relationship Fitness approach to heal your relationship, here are some proven products and services for you to review.  Consider joining the ART OF MARRIAGE & RELATIONSHIP RETREAT This program has saved thousands of marriages and relationships alike. Wouldn’t it be great if “happily ever after” really were the end of the story? Find out here when next program begins. For more information go to:  Next  Retreat

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Sex and Intimacy Lesson 4: 11 Mistakes Men Make During Sex

Sex and Intimacy Lesson 4: 11 Mistakes Men Make During Sex

11 Mistakes That Men Make During Sex​​​​​​​,

Alright fellas, in this lesson we’re in the cross-hairs. Don’t worry, our next lesson will focus on the ladies. Oh, wait, perhaps this lesson will help us focus on the ladies. 🙂 
  
A word of warning, this lesson is a bit more graphic than previous lessons on the subject. Adults only please.

So as a gift to you male readers – or maybe it’s a gift to your wife – or maybe it’s a gift to both of you! –  here are a few blunders to avoid while being intimate and having sex with your wife:

For the past couple of weeks we’ve had a lively discussion about intimacy and it’s various meanings.

This whole discussion started off with the question, what’s the difference between intimacy and sex?

Since your first host of the Global Fairy Tale Marriage Project is a guy, I thought I’d take a moment and cover the easier of the two topics in the question. And let’s look at them through the lens of common mistakes.

While both genders commit sexual faux pas, this time I’m targeting us men.

So as a New years gift to you male readers – or maybe it’s a gift to your wife – or maybe it’s a gift to both of you! –  here are a few blunders to avoid while being intimate and having sex with your wife:

1. Pursuing her only in bed. At the end of a long, busy day, as you climb into the sheets together, if there’s been no pre-game, it’s less likely that the main event is going to take place. Think of pursing your lover as an all day affair. Women love to be wooed. And the best wooing can be of her mind. Let her know you’re thinking about her. You desire her.

2. Not speaking up or being direct. Many men fall victim to the idea that sex will just happen. It’s part of marriage, right? If you believe this then little more effort than “hey honey, wanna do it?” may be made. Or the issue may be brought up via passive language, “so are we going to have sex tonight?” While you may think there’s nothing wrong with this last statement, wording it that way makes it seem like an obligation. Another thing on the to-do list. Try being a bit more direct, “baby, I want you.”

3. Letting yourself go. While you may have said “for better or worse” and this may include some fluctuations in weight, don’t let yourself go completely. Moving from the wash board abs to the round rock abs may be a bit of an inevitability over time, don’t rush it. Your wife wants a husband who takes care of himself – from your basic hygiene, to how you dress, to what shape you’re in – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

4. Going south too soon, or not at all. Diving in for the genitals too soon, whether this be by hand or orally, usually isn’t the best idea. Your wife needs to be properly aroused before heading south. Focus on her whole body. Head to toe. And don’t forget her mind. For those who don’t go at all, that may be fine with your wife, or it may not. Have you asked her?  Talk about your thoughts on the subject together.

One thing I’ve come across while counseling “good Christian” clients is a guilty feeling tied to the oral sex subject. To combat whether or not oral sex is Biblical, spend some time reading Song of Solomon.

5. Ignoring, or not knowing, the clitoris. Many men may think a woman’s orgasmic ability is due to penetration. And while there is pleasure during penetration, a major player for her is on the sidelines.

The clitoris’ only function is pleasure – so don’t ignore her prime-time performer   If you’re one of the many men who don’t know what I’m talking about, go to the library and find an anatomy book.

At the risk of TMI, one of the best things for our sex life has been what my wife and I learned during the “sexuality” coursework of my education. Become a student of her body – she’ll thank you for it.

6. Missing other erogenous zones. Most women have more erogenous areas than simply her breasts, nipples, and genitals. The big three may be the zones that are most stimulating for men during foreplay, but you may want to wait until you’re invited before moving in. Ask her what she likes. And then remember what she tells you!!! Take the time to learn your wife’s other “hot” zones.

Neck, shoulders, back, buttocks, and feet are common zones. Generally speaking, their other zones are usually what lights up the big three! Never forget – the hottest zone of all is between her ears  – her mind.

7. Seeking to score for yourself. Many men may seek to just “get some.” Be sure to realize that sex is best when there are two of you playing the game. Learn to stay present in the moment. To follow her lead. And to follow the connection between the two of you. This will lead to the best climaxes for both of you.

8. Not exploring her fantasies. All women have an erotic side. While some may have no idea where this is located, research has found that women are more aroused by explicit fantasies than romantic ones. If you are one who wants to up the role-play or fantasy side of sex, have you taken the lead? If you long for your wife to “dress up” for you and she’s unwilling, how about greeting your wife one evening in costume? Come into the bedroom with only a bow tie on and a towel over your arm as “Jeeves, her butler willing to serve her for the evening.”

9. Thinking she should act like a porn star. Speaking of fantasies, one of the many terrible things depicted in pornography is the thought that she should fulfill your every fantasy. This is not reality. She is not an object, don’t treat her as such.

10. Believing once is enough for her. She just had a through the roof orgasm, she’s perfectly content, right? Wrong. Many women are not near as quick to come down from their revved up state as men. Even if you’re content, don’t rule out the second half, or even overtime. There are many other ways of pleasing her. There’s the whistle, get back in the game.

A word of caution – make sure she’s the one interested in more. Men can turn the pursuit of more into a personal scorecard – “The more orgasms I can give her, the better lover I am.” Not true if she’s either satisfied or not made for multiples. If that’s the case, then you’re manipulating her body to stroke your ego -“ and that’s never sexy!

11. Going too fast. If there’s one bit of advice I’ve given almost every couple I’ve counseled when it comes to sex it’s this: slow down. Take your time with each other. Enjoy the moments together. If you only have time for a “quickie” then this may not apply. But if you’ve got the time together, don’t rush it. Slow down. Relax. And enjoy!

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

P.S. If you want to consider using the Marriage/ Relationship Fitness approach to heal your relationship, here are some proven products and services for you to review.  Consider joining the ART OF MARRIAGE & RELATIONSHIP RETREAT This program has saved thousands of marriages and relationships alike. Wouldn’t it be great if “happily ever after” really were the end of the story? Find out here when next program begins. For more information go to:  Next  Retreat

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Sex and Intimacy Lesson 3: 14 Ways to Make Your Spouse Hate Sex

Sex and Intimacy Lesson 3: 14 Ways to Make Your Spouse Hate Sex

14 ways to ruin sex … guaranteed​​​​​​​,

While this course is not a how-to when it comes to sex, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up some sure-fire “how-not-tos.”

There are many ways you can ruin sex in your marriage, more specifically, your partner’s sexual experience.

It’s really not all that difficult to ruin sex – and if this is your goal, simply follow these suggestions and you’re sure to end up in a barren, sexless marriage that’ll allow both of you to feel isolated and alone.

Sex is so easy to mess up due to the feelings often associated with it being so vulnerable and tied the core of who we are. Our sexuality is affected so easily by self-esteem, emotional insecurities, pressures, criticisms, and expectations.

So to effectively ruin sex for your spouse, follow these steps:

1. Expect sex simply because you’re married.
Every marriage partner should fulfill their marital “duty” therefore they owe you sex. It’s one of the benefits of being married. They said “I do” to you – so they should “do you.”

2. Have sex the same time and place every week.
This way neither of you will have to wonder when or how sex will occur. “Saturday night – 9:30 p.m. in the bed.” Just like clock work – who really wants spontaneity and chance when it comes to their sex life?

3. Follow the routine each time.
Be sure to follow the same steps and plays each time. It’s way too much work to come up with different things to do together. And after all, variety and spice aren’t necessary for sex, right?

4. Be sure to be intoxicated so you can loosen up.
After all, sex is really only about you. If your drinking is a turn off to your spouse, tough. If they love you then they’ll just have to get over it.

5. Only touch your spouse with the goal of sex in mind.
Who really needs non-sexual touch? Save the hugs, kisses, holding hands crap for the build up to the deed. That way your partner will clearly know that sex and touch go hand in hand. No chance for missed signals or misunderstandings. How great would that be?

6. Skip the foreplay and go straight for the gusto.
In the fast paced world we live in, who really has the time to slowly build up to great sex? It simply takes too much work to bother with all that extra stuff. Stop wasting time and get right to the intercourse. Besides, you both have to work in the morning and need your sleep.

7. Keep your clothes on during sex.
There really is little need to get completely naked during sex. It simply adds more work afterwards because you have to get dressed again.

8. Criticize your spouse’s sexual performance.
It’s called tough love. How else is your spouse supposed to know the areas they need to improve? If they are going to keep up with your abilities in bed they need to know where they suck (oh wait, encouraging them where and what to focus on would improve things, so disregard this point).

9. Criticize their physical appearance.
As your partner ages and perhaps lets themselves go, be sure to inform them how much that turns you off. This will encourage them to do something about it, which only helps both of you in the long run.

10. Have sex with the TV on.
You want to be sure that you don’t let sex get in the way of your favorite shows. Keep the TV on the entire time, that way you can watch the latest American Idol’s hopes get crushed while celebrating the love and affection you share with your spouse. What a winning combination!

11. Answer the phone during sex.
You never know if the call may be important, and you really can’t trust voicemail. The same rule applies for text messages and emails. Reply to them ASAP, after all, you don’t need to use your hands during sex, might as well send a few texts.

12. Tweet about it before, during, and after.
In our social media saturated world, be sure to let everyone else know what’s going on with your sex life. After all, if something happens to you and you don’t Tweet it or update it via your status on Facebook – did it really happen?

13. Get sex over with as fast as possible – as long as you’re satisfied.
Sex is really all about you. No need to ask your partner if there’s anything you could do for them. Assume everything is fine unless they say something.

14. Get away as fast as possible once you’re finished.
The sooner you’re done, the sooner you’ll be able to get some sleep. Save the talking till tomorrow at breakfast. And no need to cuddle or touch each other, refer back to rule 5.

If you’re ready to think differently about sex in your marriage and act in a way that will create demonstrative change in your relationship, register for the Art of Marriage Retreat. It’s a 3 -day retreat.

P.S. If you want to consider using the Marriage/ Relationship Fitness approach to heal your relationship, here are some proven products and services for you to review.  Consider joining the ART OF MARRIAGE & RELATIONSHIP RETREAT This program has saved thousands of marriages and relationships alike. Wouldn’t it be great if “happily ever after” really were the end of the story? Find out here when next program begins. For more information go to:  Next  Retreat

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