What if you could transform your sexless marriage into one where you "make love" all the time?
“Not possible, Chuck!”
But it IS possible, when you understand what it means to truly make love.
Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote a book entitled
I LOVE THIS TITLE!
It’s brimming with hope, isn’t it?
(By the way click on the link at the bottom of this page to go where Harville and Helen are offering this book free. This book is “required reading” for my clients.)
The title implies what we all know intuitively.
That there’s more to making love than having sex.
Sex is the “icing on the cake”.
And of course what’s a cake without the icing?
But then our point is…
What is the icing without the cake?
If you didn’t get that…
The point is - there’s a whole lot more to making love than just sex.
What are you talking about?
Making love involves building a safe and connected relationship,
where open communication happens,
where you embrace the differences of your partner,
where anxiety evaporates,
where defenses come down,
and you experience feelings of being fully alive.
And all this happens before you have sex.
If you want to transform your sexless marriage, here’s where it starts!
Sex is that fantastic thing that results from this kind of close and connected relationship.
Sex is what celebrates a relationship like this.
If you have a close and intimate connection with your partner, sex will not only be awesome…
it will be regular.
And you don’t build this kind of relationship, sex will be…well,
not so regular.
Result: Sexless marriage.
Are you in a sexless marriage?
How do I know if I’m in a sexless marriage?
Uh… Hello…if you don’t know, we need to talk!
Ohhhh…I get it. You’re really wanting to know…
What is the definition of a sexless marriage?
Experts define a sexless marriage as having sex no more than 10 times in any given year, or less than once per month.
That includes 20% of couples married today.
But 40% of couples report being unsatisfied with their sex life.
I don’t see how they can define it that way because everyone is different.
So for our purposes, let’s stretch the definition a bit.
Then take a look and see if you fit. (rhyme intended).
For example, if you want sex daily and you get it less than once a week, some experts say you fit the “sexless marriage” category.
I guess it’s all relative.
So what’s so bad about a sexless marriage?
A sexless marriage is painful disappointment
This certainly was NOT what I was expecting in my marriage.
And it hurts to think about all I’m missing.
Sometimes the disappointment is so painful the marriage doesn’t survive.
In one study 50% of men surveyed said that they would not have married their partner had they known their marriage would have been sexless.
My bet is, if you asked the wives of those men, you’d get the same answer.
A sexless marriage misses all those wonderful health benefits
Medical studies show that frequent sex helps us maintain youth, because it triggers more human growth hormone.
It also reduces the risk of prostate cancer, burns calories, boosts immune and cardiovascular systems, and relieves stress.
That’s great. But if you aren’t getting it, this just adds to the pain of all I’m missing.
A sexless marriage misses out on the closeness That makes us feel fully alive
Sex promotes the flow of oxytocin, the chemical that promotes the feeling of bonding.
And that bonding is what helps us feel fully alive.
When sex is regularly experienced as a special activity shared only with each other, this bonding enhances the relationship, keeping it monogamous, loving and strong.
A sexless marriage makes my marriage vulnerable
When I’m not experiencing intimacy, I become vulnerable to substitutes that aren’t so healthy.
There are plenty of “illusions of intimacy” I may fall prey to, including affairs, pornography addiction, etc.
Anger and disappointment over a sexless marriage can drive us into cheating, sex addictions, and other unhealthy exits we use to try and fill that huge vacuum that exists in a sexless marriage.
One husband said that after years of being rejected on a regular basis, and after begging his wife to change with no result, he started signing up on dating sites online.
He said, “I no longer feel anything for her, and I don’t even care if she finds out.”
Imagine the pain of living in this “silent divorce”.
OK, Chuck I get it. A sexless marriage is not good. What can I do?
Learning how to truly make love is the key to enjoyable sex.
Making love involves two people, with two separate realities, coming together in an intimate connection.
Making love means making the relationship safe, regulating your defenses, and listening to each other, so that every pain is shared, every fear is understood, and every desire is expressed.
Making love results in all the happy chemicals flowing, creating passion, connection, and a feeling of being fully alive.
Making love like this prepares the way for the best sex possible.
So, for a moment, remove your focus from just sex and put your focus on this fuller idea of making love.
Here are some things you can do to bring sex back into your marriage.
Use the Imago Dialogue process to communicate four things to your partner.
And then listen as your partner communicates these four things to you.
(I’ve included guides along the way.)
1. Communicate your appreciation
Break the power of the negativity that your sexual dissatisfaction has produced.
“Why are you so cold and resistant to sex?”
“Why is it that every time we cuddle you have to have sex?”
“I feel like you only need me when you want sex. It makes me feel used.”
“I’m tired of your rejecting me.”
Our brains are biased toward negativity. And criticism activates this bias so that everything positive is lost.
Dr. Herb Tannenbaum says, “Our brains are Velcro for negatives and Teflon for positives.” We naturally dwell on the negatives.
It’s like the little girl who was enjoying a day at the beach. As she walks in the soft sand, she notices the warm sun, the gentle sound of the waves, the color of the clouds in the sky, the way the light shimmers in the water.
She’s taking it all in and feeling fully alive.
But then she steps on a razor sharp shell that cuts deeply into her foot.
The pain floods her psyche, and everything else but that pain disappears.
The beauty around her is now irrelevant. The pain is all she can see and feel from that moment on.
In the same way many of us are stuck in the pain we experienced with our partner, and have lost sight of everything else.
In our pain, all we see is negative. The pain eclipses anything positive.
But, I promise, if you look past the pain, the beauty is still there.
All the reasons you fell in love with your partner are still there.
And if you’ll take time to see it, and express it in the form of an appreciation on a daily basis, you’ll both be transformed.
Take turns using the guide below to share and mirror your appreciations.
As the sender completes the first sentence, “One thing I appreciate about you is…”
The receiver says, “What I hear you saying is…” “Did I get that right?” “Is there more about that?
Then the sender completes the second sentence and the receiver mirrors, and so on.
It may feel awkward at first, but using this tool to slow things down can unlock the unconscious, and allow the sender to go deeper into feelings, uncovering things not previously known by both of you.
Sharing an appreciation immediately pushes the negative energy out of the space between you and opens your eyes back up to see the positive things about each other.
Plus it feels good:-)
2. Communicate (and embrace) your differences
Let’s say you are one who needs to feel an emotional connection before you can be open to sex.
But, for your partner, sex is the way he or she gets to that emotional connection.
So you and your partner are different.
Sex for your partner is an event. But for you, sex is an experience that includes an event.
There are many reasons we are different. Some of those reasons go back to our childhood experiences where our adaptations limited our growth in some way.
Imago Dialogue can help you communicate and embrace your differences.
When you MIRROR, VALIDATE, and EMPATHIZE with your partner, you experience differentiation, which transforms your relationship and makes it possible to connect on a deep level.
What is differentiation?
Differentiation is what it sounds like: seeing that your partner is different from you!
Differentiation enables you to fully hold your reality while holding your partner’s reality at the same time.
Differentiation means you don’t have to always be right. That your partner can be validated even though you may not agree with the way they see things.
Without this differentiation couples cannot feel connected.
A breakthrough comes when you stop expecting your partner to be like you.
When you give up those romantic projections and expectations that have nothing to do with who your partner really is.
When you make a commitment to listen and really know your partner and embrace your differences, that’s when the breakthrough comes.
3. Communicate your frustrations
Frustrations happen and if you don’t talk it out you’ll act it out.
Most people act it out by either withdrawing or becoming outwardly explosive. Both strategies make the relationship unsafe.
The key is being able to communicate your frustrations in a way that results in connection rather than conflict.
Use the guide below to share and mirror frustations with your partner.
I encourage couples to share three things, just to get the ball rolling.
– What happened (the trigger for my upset)
– What I felt (my emotional reaction)
– What I did (my defense mechanism)
“When you passed by me at the party twice without speaking or even looking at me, I felt abandoned, so I didn’t speak to you during the whole next day.”
The dialogue process will uncover the fact that most of our upset comes from history.
What my partner did was only the trigger for some much deeper pain I wasn’t aware of.
And my reaction usually points to a defense strategy I learned in childhood.
In this example the wife who felt abandoned was able to relate it to one particular pattern in childhood that resulted in her feeling abandoned.
This helps your partner to “see you”, and helps your partner realize they are not to blame for most of what’s going on with you.
Here’s a guide to help you share your frustrations in a productive way.
4. Communicate your desires
Harville Hendrix says that behind every frustration there lies a hidden desire (a deep, unmet need).
If you are learning how to have safe dialogues like I’m prescribing, then you can use that process to communicate your frustrations in a safe way that unlocks your hidden desires.
When the conversation is safe, you can uncover your hidden desires and communicate them to your partner in the form of "change requests".
This is where healing and growth occur in the relationship.
Healing for the person expressing the desire, and change and growth for the person granting the change request as a gift to their partner.
In the example above, the wife who felt abandoned uncovered a desire to feel connected with her husband, even when they are in a crowd.
The request she made was, "The next time we are at a social event, would you find me every 30 minutes, touch my hand, look into my eyes and ask how I am?"
If this husband had not seen how the source of her pain was rooted in childhood, he might have laughed it off as a “silly request”.
But, after not only mirroring her, but validating, and empathizing with her, he was MORE than happy to do this for her, although it was a stretch for him.
And it brought real healing to her.
That kind of sensitivity is what she had been longing for all her life.
This is an example of how our relationship can be an amazing partnership for healing (as she experienced) and growth (as he experienced).
Not to mention the way it swings the door wide open to the best sex we've ever had.
Once you have established safety in the relationship where your deepest desires can be shared and honored…
…well you can imagine what effect that could have in the bedroom!
It’s my desire that each one of you would see your relationship come to a point where you are…
Making love all the time!
Here’s to making love all the time – and enjoying sex too!
Until next week,
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MIRRORING - VALIDATION - EMPATHY
3 steps to getting past the all the blaming and defensiveness.