It's a number you might wonder about - but never talk about. Does how much you have sex matter, in a relationship?
Studio 5 Family & Relationship Contributor Dr. Liz Hale offers up the straight answer.
OK, so there isn't a magic number on the number of times per month or week that a couple "should" have sex, but marriage requires making love - it is an integral part of a healthy relationship! Learn about each other's sexual needs and put in the effort to meet those needs. You are the one person in the universe that has the responsibility and privilege of making your partner feel they are the center of your world. We all want to know we count; that we matter..…significantly! What is it about marriage that sets that relationship apart from all other relationships? Intimacy. Just take the term "nakedness." There is a literal and figurative definition. The latter is to know and be known by this one person……without obstacles, boundaries, fears or secrets.
Let's look at physical exercise. (Sex can be a form of exercise but let's leave that form aside for now!) How many different forms of exercise are there? Cardio, muscle-strengthening, interval training and yoga, to name a few. Now, under each category are numerous ways of achieving that end-goal. For instance, a cardio work-out could be reached by hiking, running, walking, biking, rowing, swimming, etc. When it comes to strengthening muscles, look at all the exercise equipment in a training gym! There is more than one apparatus per muscle-defining exercise!
When we approach love making with a myopic focus, such as, this is how and when we "do it" without looking at the big picture of intimacy, it would be similar to entering a gym full of health-building equipment and only go for the 2 10-pound weights in the corner that work one tiny muscle called the bi-cep. We are missing all the other ways to exercise the body; similarly, we are missing all the ways to express love and affection to our mate. There is no substitute for intercourse for most people, especially men, however, intercourse doesn't take on this over-zealous, one-stop-shop energy when it's coupled with touching, cuddling, kissing and hugging in and out of the bedroom!
I was working with a couple last week and she turned and said to her husband, "You know, you were a little grabby this week." And, he hung his head and nodded, seeming to feel ashamed. Well, it turns out that this husband was starving for her affection. She had been rather aloof and distance, which set in motion for him to grab for anything! Condition yourself to look for the reason underneath your spouse's behavior; what are they grabbing for? Ask, "what do you need from me right now?"
Marriage causes us to stretch and develop muscle groups that refine us. And like the development of any other muscle, it must be done continually!
Research abroad and research within my own clinical practice echo the sentiments of couples who believe that having sex twice a week is the optimal for keeping love alive! Just remember, there are different forms of exercise like there are different forms of expressing love!
Use technology for good! Keep each other aware of your day and your thoughts and feelings about them via text, e-mail, voice mail or phone calls. Continue to pour and explore….pour your heart out in gratitude while you're thinking about something your mate did that brightened your day. Share it as soon as it comes to you so you don't forget! Continue to make deposits into your relationship account for life has a way of taking out withdrawals without our permission, causing us to feel deplete. Dr. John Gottman's research determined that the marriage masters have 5-times the positives per every negative interaction between partners. (Divorcing couples are 1:1!)
Physical touch can calm and sooth the heart and mind, as well. I know a couple who recently invested in a professional massage table for their bedroom! She is the recipient of nightly massages by her husband. They both feel like the hit the jackpot! She loves his touch, where intercourse is currently not something she is particularly fond of, and he loves touching her! While the back rubs have not entirely replaced love making, which they should not, they have filled in the gaps in-between. Think about what can sustain your touching connection during the gaps of sexual intercourse. Sustaining a connection is much easier that recreating a connection from scratch.
One more little tip….while not everyone may like having their feet rubbed, it's surprising how often this sweet gesture is mentioned and requested by partners in marriage counseling. The answer could be because the brain that senses touching of the feet is right next to the area that senses touching of the penis and clitoris. No wonder a good foot rub can be so realizing, satisfying and even erotic!
Set yourself up to be successful when you're together by practicing wise moves while you're apart. How do you speak to others about your mate? What things do you say to yourself about him or her? What words do you share with them when they call in the idle of the say? What's your tone? Pitch? Know that whatever comes out of your mouth causes an effect on you because the inner-ear is always eavesdropping, taking your words to heart. Treat each other well! Put your best foot forward when it comes to giving your mate the better parts of you…in addition to the raw truth! Remember how we presented ourselves in dating, trying to capture the heart of our lover? We would go to great lengths to improve our dress, our breath, our conversational charm and manner.
Improve your conditioning within marriage. When we set out to improve our physical conditioning, such as prior to getting ready to run a marathon, there isn't just one area to focus on, there are a re myriad of areas to address. So it is with conditioning training within marriage. Caring for yourself nutritionally and physically has an effect on the rest of your efforts throughout the day. We treat each other with more respect and patience when we have practiced our own self-care.
Menopause doesn't have to mean "a pause on sex!" We may need to pause, however, look at things a bit differently. Certain adjustments may need to be made to accommodate this wonderful and perfectly aging cycle of the body. Common symptoms of decreased estrogen during menopause are vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy. (Decreased estrogen also leads to fatigue, mood changes and sleeplessness, none of which are great for your love life either.) Visit with your gynecologist and educate yourself about the hormonal therapy options available to you. Explore using over-the-counter moisturizers and lubricants, and consider estrogen creams and other hormonal preparations obtained by a prescription. If painful intercourse is caused by the constriction of the vaginal walls, graduated dilator therapy can help gently stretch these tissues. If you are experiencing difficulty achieving an orgasm, a gentle vibrator may help intensify your stimulation, making orgasms easier to achieve.
Mature men and women should approach sex differently than they have in the past. Rather than focus on penile-vaginal intercourse and orgasm, focus on the immense pleasure you can give and receive through foreplay alone. Your heart and your brain are, and will always be, your most potent sex organs! Research consistently shows that people can enjoy sex well into their 8th decade of life. (And some women report that sex only improves with age!)