Episode 212 – Maintaining a Strong Sexual Connection

sexual connection

Has sex become boring for you? Do you not want to have sex? Maybe you’re not having sex because there are so many other things that get in the way. So the question becomes, are you not having sex because you don’t like it or do you not like the sex you’re having? In this episode, we discuss how we can maintain that strong sexual connection throughout our marriage. Because life will get busy and you will be tired, but we’ll talk about some ways you can get back that connection again and sustain it this time.

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Show Notes:

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References for this episode:

Emily Nagoski TedTalk

Ondina Wellness

Show Summary:

Have you ever been invited to a party?  At first you are so excited to go.  It sounds like it is going to be so much fun, right?  But as it gets closer the anxiety starts to kick in.  What am I going to wear? Who’s going to be there? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something wrong? Maybe they will think I’m weird.  And there’s going to be horrible traffic on the way there.  And I’ve got to find childcare.  I can’t go.  This isn’t working for me. 

Now, at this point, there are usually a few different things that can happen.

  • You call your friend and back out.  They probably tell you it’s ok, and while you are relieved, you feel a lot of guilt and maybe some shame about not going and letting your friend down.
  • Maybe that guilt kicks in before you even call your friend.  You don’t want to disappoint them.  You don’t want them to be mad at you.  Maybe there’s a pattern here that they will give you the cold shoulder for the next few weeks because you didn’t come.  So to avoid all that, you go, even though you aren’t too excited about it.  
  • Or maybe you talk yourself into it, and you go.  You convince yourself that you’ll have fun once you get there.  Or maybe you even remind yourself that last time when you went, you had a good time.

Does this remind you of what happens with sex?

I recently watched a TedTalk given by Emily Nagoski.  Emily is a sex educator and the author of one of my favorite sex books Come, As You Are.

In this talk she gave this analogy of the party and talked about how couples can maintain a strong sexual connection.  I loved it so much, I wanted to share it with you.

As the years go by, sex in most couples tends to decrease.  Why?  Life!  We get busy.  School.  Jobs.  Kids.  Activities.  Church callings. Stress.   I don’t think there is a single person I’ve ever talked to that was like “I have so much time I don’t even know what to do with myself” unless they no longer have any children at home.  Life is busy.  And let’s face it, sex often takes a back seat, even if we don’t necessarily want it to be that way.

And guess what, for most couples, sex is pretty mundane.  Now don’t get me wrong, if it’s working for you, doing the same thing over and over is fine.  Great even!  But, because we are so tired and busy, sex tends to be the same all the time.  Same days.  Same time.  Same place.  Same position.  Same routine.

So when couples realize that they are not having sex very often, and when they do it’s not fun, wild, adventurous sex, they figure that something must be wrong and it needs to be fixed.

According to Emily Nagoski, the best predictor of a strong sexual connection that is maintained over the long period (marriage) is not how often you are having it or the kind of sex you are having, but how much you cuddle afterwards.  Interesting right?  That connection piece is huge.  Couples who connect well right after sex tend to have more sex.

What do couples in strong marriages with strong sexual connections have that sets them apart?

1 They have a strong friendship that includes strong trust.

According to Sue Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight and clinic psychologist who developed Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy on attachment and bonding says that the secret ingredient that makes a relationship thrive is emotional responsiveness.  We want to know if our partner is there for us.  She breaks this down into the acronym A.R.E.

A = Accessibility

Accessibility isn’t just about being in the same room together or even being able to get a hold of each other if needed.  It’s about being open to one another and paying attention to one another.

When you are on a date with your spouse, are you checking texts and emails? Or are you giving them your undivided attention? Are you showing them that they are the priority?

R = Responsiveness

Responsiveness is about being able to rely on your partner to interact with you on an emotional level in both good and bad situations.   Can your partner not only tell when you are struggling emotionally but they want to help you work through it as a team.  Equally important, if it’s good news, can they celebrate with you?

Neurologically, this level of connection and ability to respond is very calming to the nervous system. Biologically, we are primed for survival; so when we know we have someone looking out for us who is able to respond appropriately, it is very reassuring. It gives the message that we are not alone in the world, we are taken care of, we can relax and let down our guard

E = Engagement

This one is all about those wonderful feelings of knowing that your partner is attracted to you, values you, and wants to be involved with you.  It gives you the message that you are valued by your partner and that you matter to them.

Having someone engaged with you in this way is also very calming to the nervous system. Knowing you have someone by your side who is looking out for you means that on a biological level you are not alone, having to fight for your survival. This allows your more primitive neurological wiring to relax.

The second thing that couples in strong marriages with strong sexual connections have that sets them apart is

2 They prioritize sex.

Yep, that’s it.  They make it a priority.  They decide to set aside all the other things they could be doing

  • Children
  • Job
  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Church Callings
  • Television
  • Sleep

And they make sex come first.  Does that need to be every day?  No!  But making it a priority over everything else on a consistent basis is.  This is not having sex because you “should” or your partner guilts you into it.  This is both of you, deciding with intention that you are going to prioritize sex and each other over everything else consistently because it is what is going to sustain you and make a stronger marriage and sexual relationship over the course of your lifetime.

Remember that party we talked about in the beginning? Does sex maybe sound nice (or at least it did in the beginning of your relationship) but now you can find every excuse not to do it?  Are you letting other things (like anxiety, duty, or other priorities) get in the way of going or enjoying yourself?  

Going back to the party metaphor.  If you actually go, what determines if you enjoy yourself at the party or not?  Are you worrying about how you look? Are you worried about saying the wrong thing? Do you not like the food, the music, or the people?  

These same kind of thoughts will determine if you actually enjoy the sex you are having or not.  So, is it that you don’t like sex or that you don’t like the sex you are having?  What kind of sex is actually worth wanting?  Some really great couples who love each other come to dread sex because they don’t like the sex they are actually having.

Why?

  • Life has gotten in the way
  • Criticisms
  • Stories that we have told ourselves
    • You’re not there for me
    • You don’t listen to me
    • You don’t support me

The couples that experience strong sexual connection over years, its not that they don’t have these negative emotions and experiences, it’s that they turn toward them with kindness and compassion so that they can work through them productively and find their way back to each other instead of using it as a barrier.

Good marriages and sexual relationships are not ones that are devoid of conflict.  Good marriages have plenty of conflict, but it is dealt with in a healthy and productive way.  A way that maintains trust and connection.  

  • Not blaming
  • Not shaming
  • Not avoiding the conflict in the first place

So it’s not just about sustaining a strong connection but it’s how to find your way back to that strong connection when life and conflict get in the way (and they always will).  Looking at all of the issues, all of the disconnect, all of the hurt feelings, all of the stories, the conflict, the belief systems, and the trauma.  Looking at all of these with kindness and compassion so that we can set them free and find our way back to the one we love most. The connection that matters for our relationship and the sexual relationship that we actually want.

Often, when clients come to me, they have experienced years of disconnect, especially over sex, in their marriage.  There’s been lots of blaming, shaming, or avoiding.  And it takes work to change this pattern.  But that is one of the things I love seeing with clients, when the patterns start to change.  When they start communicating with their partner in ways they haven’t before.  When they start being able to be open and vulnerable in ways they never have before.  When they can look at themselves and their partner with love and compassion for everything they’ve been through and find their way back to each other.

“Nothing is sexier than being chosen as a priority because that connection matters enough.” – Emily Nagoski

Keep choosing to find your way back.  And if you need help working through all of those pieces, come into coaching.  Where I can help you navigate these in a way that helps bring you back to where you want to be. With each other.

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