By LaVerna Wilk, Master of Counselling R.C.C C.G.T
Back in December, Darren Wilk wrote a blog that gave a point form list of ways to improve your sex life. We are going to look at those items individually here because it’s a great list. Today you are reading part 1. Stay tuned for part 2.
A question couples often ask a therapist is “How can we get closer and increase our desire for great sex? Is it even possible at our age or at this stage in our relationship?”
The answer is a resounding YES.
According to some of John Gottman’s more recent research there is actually a very specific list of things happening in relationships that experience great sex. Believe it or not, it’s not just something that magically appears in an ailing relationship. Now, I’m not going to lie – grooming, a personality and a good sense of humor won’t hurt, but the universe is not in charge of randomly gifting a dynamic love life to some couples while denying others. The beauty of it all is that it is possible for anyone to create the right context.
So here’s the list. Ready? Couples who report a good sex life are…
- Telling their partner that they love them daily
The phrase “Listen, I told you when I married you that I love you. When that changes I’ll let you know.” simply will not fly. Even if you are the sort of person who doesn’t need to hear it daily, chances are very high that you married someone who does. So, don’t withhold. Be bold. Be creative. Unless you are saying that good sex is not worth those three little words… in which case, by all means, remain silent.
- Kissing passionately daily
One German study showed men who kiss their partners passionately lived 5 years longer. So how can we make our lips more kissable? When there are a lot of negative emotions and we get flooded, our reproductive system shuts down and we go into fight or flight mode. Arguing is the opposite of foreplay.
On the other hand, showing our partner that we really know and get them, that we feel fondness, respect and admiration for them, and that when they speak we engage with them builds a strong connection. Be careful with your words. Keep your lips kissable.
- Enjoying lots of cuddling and expressing affection
It is usually pretty disappointing and confusing for couples who enjoyed a lot of cuddling in the developmental stages of the relationship and then suddenly find, after the commitment, that it stops.
In the same way it changes the relationship when it starts, it changes the relationship when it stops. So don’t stop.
Doctors John and Julie Gottman went so far as to buy themselves a cuddle couch to remind themselves to find opportunities to connect. Touch each other. Give backrubs. Did you know that for women who have just given birth, if their partner gives them a loving backrub or massage for 20 minutes each day the instances of Post Partum Depression decrease significantly? So rub things. All the things. And not just the obvious things.
- Giving gifts regularly
These do not have to be large, expensive gifts. It can be bringing them a Starbucks coffee (provided you can show them how well you know them by ordering it the way they like it), a little Post-it note you left for them, or the lyrics to a great song.
Good gift giving shows your partner two important things. First, that you were listening when they commented that they needed or loved or were amused by that item, and second, that they were on your mind long enough for you to remember to stop and pick it up. Very important. It makes them feel known, like you get them.
- Displaying affection in public
This promotes the secretion of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. It is also the hormone of bonding. Studies show that physical connection between loving partners soothes our brain and helps us to feel safe. It also keeps them from wandering off in Costco.
- Speaking kindly and politely to eachother
In the beginning of the relationship, when we were on our best behavior, we were probably pretty consistent with kind and gentle ways of speaking to each other. We teach our children to say please and thank you, so why would we stop when we become committed to eachother? When your partner folds your laundry, say thank you. So what if it’s their job. It is a sign that the friendship is still working.
- Making sex a priority
If you leave it to “chance”, then there is an excellent “chance” you will be too rushed in the morning, too tired at night, or have too many kids around in the afternoon. As a culture we schedule our lives in 15 minute increments to maximize efficiency and to increase the likelihood of success. We can commit to being at the gym at 5:30 in the morning, or take our exercise clothes with us to work to stop off on the way home. The kid’s dance lessons/hockey practice/music lessons/ dentist appointments/after school play dates are all scheduled into our lives so that nothing is missed.
We resist putting intimacy on the calendar because then it won’t be "spontaneous"-
Most of us would say that our lives don’t have room for spontaneity. Sex is a game changer. As I said earlier, it changes the relationship when it starts, and changes it when it stops. So plan for it. Talk about it. Put it on the calendar and set a reminder on your phone. Then prepare for it.
Sounds like pretty simple stuff, right? Pretty practical. None of these items require us to be emotional gymnasts. However, I think what people often forget to ask is the rest of the question… “How can we have a great sex life when there has been so much water under the bridge, when there has been so much hurt?” Maybe that will be part 3 in this topic. In the mean time, let me say that believe it or not, satisfaction with the quality and quantity of sex in a relationship falls into the Quality of the Friendship category of Gottman’s Sound Relationship House. Interesting, right? Which says that part of having a strong friendship includes your physical relationship being where you want it to be. Whatever that means for you. So work on the friendship. If we work too hard on trying to solve the problems in the relationship and neglect building the friendship then we become problem focused, and all our conversations revolve around conflict and then that is all we see. So hopefully this is a good reminder to back to looking at the whole of the relationship. And enjoy practicing.