Creating a healthy marriage doesn’t just happen. If you’re like us and you don’t have a perfect marriage, recovery and life can feel like a lot of ongoing work. Add in the busyness of the holiday season, with additional financial stress, and extra time with relatives, and the holidays can feel more stressful than joyful.
So how do I find joy in giving sexually to my spouse?
In our marriage, we have found that positive sexual experiences together means that we have been doing the work consistently in our relationship to create something healthy, and we are reaping the rewards. As the saying goes, “Sex starts in the kitchen,” but that doesn’t mean we actually start having sex in the kitchen.
It’s all about CONNECTION.
Here are three things we’ve learned that contribute to the sexual health in our marriage, especially during the holiday season.
If I want to give out of a joyful heart—and not obligation or expectation of getting my own needs met—I have to start by creating a sense of safety in the relationship.
Ask yourself, “Is it safe to be vulnerable with my spouse in all areas of my life? Are we working on this and growing in it?” Maybe ask your spouse, “Where is a place in our relationship that I don’t make it safe for you?” Rodney would say: for him it is when I do not validate his thoughts and feelings. If I have to be right all of the time or I don’t have the same opinion as him, I still need to help him feel heard and validated. After almost 30 years of marriage, each of us have a tone or way of expressing ourselves that triggers the other person to not feel safe. Fortunately, we also know that we are committed to a lifetime of growing in this area and all areas of our health, individually and as a couple, so that “outside the bedroom” safety contributes to a healthy sexual relationship.
Safety really builds respect for each other. Honesty and empathy for where the other person is at shows respect for our spouse. Creating healthy boundaries for how we treat each other also goes a long way in creating safety. If you are comfortable with me setting boundaries and you aren’t a “boundary buster” to me, I can relax and have less of a protective stance toward our relationship.
Once we have established safety, we can build intimacy in all areas of our marriage, not just sexually. Do you want to know the thoughts and feelings of your partner? Are you taking the time to talk and listen to your spouse and find out what they need?
Sex is part of a healthy marriage relationship. Now, having a lot of sex doesn’t mean the marriage is healthy. But a healthy marriage relationship includes sexual intimacy. Seek to meet the other person’s needs before your own and communicate about your needs: what does or doesn’t work for you sexually. To truly experience sexual intimacy requires a lot of vulnerability.
In our marriage, we have practiced this over the years by making a point to let each other know what we want or need—especially more or less of something. It may go something like this: “I would like it if you help me get ready for our company that is coming tomorrow.” If we want to go a step further, we can also let them know how it makes us feel: “When you help me prepare for company, it makes me feel loved and appreciated.”
Rodney will tell me that sometimes we may need to speak a guy’s language (if they are a little slow with the feelings word sheets) and it may get their attention if we say, “It makes me feel sexy and turned on.” Now, possibly you want to work through any resentments you have in your marriage before that type of joking is funny (and in my case, understanding your spouse’s crazy sense of humor helps). The point being that communicating wants and needs, and connecting to how it makes us feel when those needs are met, or not met, builds intimacy that spills over into all areas of our relationship.
If you and your spouse agree that you have worked on building an intimate relationship in the other nonsexual areas of your marriage and are still having a hard time making sex more than a chore, seek out a counselor, couples group, a book, or other resources that can help move you toward sexual intimacy with your spouse.
When we are giving to our partner in other areas of the relationship—supporting them, understanding them, and enjoying them—it is less of a leap to joyfully give sexually.
It is difficult to give to our spouse with a heart of joy, sexually or otherwise, when we are disconnected. Give your marriage the attention it deserves. It is easier (and much more enjoyable) to willingly put in the work.
Another important part to the joy of giving sexually is simply enjoying your spouse. We may either ignore the relationship (avoidance and denial) or commit to working so hard on the relationship that we forget to stop and have fun. Everything becomes an obligation, including sex.
I’m pretty sure most marriages didn’t begin hoping that they would plug along through life together not enjoying themselves. A marriage can easily move into a silent partnership, a boxing ring, or a companionship where we just make decisions together without connecting with each other’s thoughts and feelings.
One of the ways that we have cultivated joy AND sex during the holidays is by switching up “the norm” and figuring out what is meaningful to each of us.
Every family has their different traditions when it comes to gift giving. This is definitely not the number one Love Language for either of us, so I buy my own gifts and write on them: To me, From Santa (happy wife). Rodney’s three favorite gifts are: 1—He didn’t have to shop; 2—I didn’t spend money on a random gift for him, thus saving him money; and 3—Letting him know there’s a “special gift” for him upstairs after the kids are in bed. So that’s a window into the gift giving in our house. Done deal! Easy peasy!
Several years ago, we started a tradition that has strengthened the intimacy and sex in our marriage during the holidays, and it’s something we now look forward to every year.
Instead of giving gifts to each other, we go to a hotel for one night in our town during the month of December. We basically step out of our normal busy roles and routines—ignore the hustle and bustle of the season—and focus on each other. This often includes a little shopping, massage or pedicure (yes, guys, pedicures are for men too), maybe a movie, and definitely dinner out, looking at Christmas lights or really whatever we feel like doing. This is not much more than 24 hours, but it makes a huge difference in our connection during the holidays and creates an atmosphere for both of us wanting sex at the same time (imagine that) and enjoying it. This is a gift for our spouse and a win for our marriage.
We take along our “team rule” of no conflict resolution on vacation (or at the dinner table or in bed, but that’s for another blog). We are just there to have fun and enjoy each other’s company, without expectations and extra distractions or responsibilities. If conflict comes up, we can set a time and place to pick it up at another time. Yes, we too have felt tension while eating out at a nice restaurant or at a hotel—or just about any other special or mundane situation a couple can feel tension—but we have used boundaries and tools through the years to practice the skill of setting our issues aside for the moment. If we know that we have made a commitment to come back to it and not leave it unresolved, we can set it aside and keep having fun.
We find that when we stop to enjoy each other, enjoying sex together is a byproduct of our continued investment in the relationship.
We don’t need to have it all figured out, but we can learn how to become joyful gift givers. The work we put in on a regular basis pays off during the holidays and any other time when we want to experience a little joy in our relationship.
This holiday season, discover the joy of giving...sexually.
Traci is the Advancement Assistant for Pure Desire. She travels around the United States with her husband, Rodney, sharing the message of hope and healing. Traci cares deeply about recovery for women––leading Genesis, 8 Pillars, and Betrayal & Beyond groups. She also has experience as a recovery counselor, where she shares her 20+ years of healing.