The Fire Has Gone Out, Part 3
By Marita Littauer with Chuck
Noon, MA, LPCC
When one spouse changes, the marriage changes. Often, neither spouse is anticipates—and one spouse may actively or passively resist—the unexpected alterations to established roles and routines.
The balance in Todd and Erica’s marriage has tipped, due to the rather sudden success of Erica’s new career. Last week, we offered recommendations for how each spouse could respond to their Personality differences, which had been worsening the ever-widening gap between them.
This week we will look at some specific strategies for renewing intimacy that may well be helpful to your marriage as well.
If you have not been following along with us, I encourage you to go back and read parts one and two before reading part three.
Erica has complained that Todd has not "touched her in months." As we have seen, their relationship needs work before they even look at the sexual issues. Once they learn to meet each other's differing emotional needs, the sex issues may take care of themselves. As they rediscover each other and make an effort to enjoy one another again, they are creating an environment of affection. In his book His Needs, Her Needs, Willard Harley states, “Affection is the environment of the marriage and sex is the special event.” Everything we have discussed up to this point is about creating that environment. Now, on to the special event.
Here both spouses can do things spiritually, physically, and emotionally to set the stage for the "special event," but again, the wife can lead in this area. Diane addresses this beautifully: “Our husbands also need to know that we desire them. We can purpose in our hearts to create romantic interludes with our husbands. Be playful, soft, vulnerable. Bottom line—the relationship between husband and wife is ultimately far more valuable than a successful career. If we take as much time to cultivate this mentality with our husbands as we do in being successful, we can experience the greatest success in both arenas!”
I love her idea of using our success mindset to be successful in this aspect of our lives as well. We Powerful Choleric women love a good challenge. Making sex a special event after a damaged relationship will be a challenge, but one that can be conquered. It will be worth the effort!
Start with Prayer
The place for Erica to start is with prayer. She needs to pray for an attitude adjustment so she will be willing to take the physical and emotional steps to improve their sex life. In responding to Erica's situation, Suzy offered the following. “Whenever I have found my husband ‘unappealing,’ I have done two things. First, I pray about my sex life. I know this sounds simple, but many times we do not ask God for help. I started praying about my sexual experience when my husband went through a depression many years ago, and he didn't seem to be the man I married. Whew! If God doesn't honor our prayers! He created sex and knows how to make it what it was intended to be! The next thing I did was try to recreate the things that sexually attracted me to my husband in the first place. We love to workout together, so we found time to play together by swimming, running, and playing tennis. After that, I saw him in a whole different light.”
Shellie Arnold advises further: “In the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world and Adam and Eve's marriage, Scripture tells us, ‘And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other's presence’ (Gen. 2:25 AMP). Todd and Erica will have to work to strip the stress and persona of the day away and get reconnected physically. God loves to help love making become more fruitful and enjoyable for His children. After all, it was His idea and His plan in the first place.”
Prayer is the best place to start. In her book The Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian suggests the following prayer: Lord, bless my husband's sexuality and make it an area of great fulfillment for him. Restore what needs to be restored, balance what needs to be balanced. Protect us from apathy, disappointment, criticism, busyness, unforgiveness, deadness, or disinterest. I pray that we make time for one another, communicate our true feelings openly, and remain sensitive to each other’s needs.
Have Realistic Expectations
It may be helpful for Erica to realize, at this phase of life sex is probably not ever going to be what it was on the honeymoon. After reading Erica and Todd's situation, a peer advisor, Mallory, wrote, “Sex, now let me think...what was that like? A few years ago I went to my dentist—a 100 percent Popular Sanguine woman. While waiting I skimmed Parade Magazine and read its decade report on the sex profile of Americans. When my dentist's hand was out of my mouth, I shared what I had read with her. It said the middle-aged group had sex seven times a month—we both died laughing...wondering who did it that many times when we were all working and exhausted and could care less? Somehow the pace of living has us fall into bed together, hug, snuggle, and fall asleep. . . . However, I can honestly say that our relationship is much better when we do have sex! It really does bring a sense of intimacy like nothing else does.”
Like Erica and Todd, Cassie's marriage is in a role reversal stage as well. She reports, “Love making is less frequent, but definitely more tender. When we do make love, it generally starts out slower and builds. In this period of life, I have found that the danger for older couples, even with intimate conversation and sharing, can be feeling more like brothers and sisters than lovers. This is another reason to continue to seek a healthy and satisfying relationship.”
Yes, sex does change in the different phases of a couple's life, but embers can be fanned into flames again. There are many nights when falling into bed together, hugging, snuggling, and falling asleep is the best we can do. Yet, when we are on vacation, the statistics are totally different. During a week in St. Thomas we walked hand-in-hand on the beach. We went snorkeling. We had fun dinners together. We sat on the balcony of our room and watched the sunset. Without the stresses and cares of daily life, we rediscovered a honeymoon quality was romance. We have found similar results at a nearby bed and breakfast and at a friend’s borrowed mountain cabin.
Order Your Priorities
When Chuck works with couples, he coaches them to begin looking at long and short-term priorities. When asked, most of us would order our priorities: God, spouse, children, and so on. Yet on a day-to-day basis our lives are filled with short-term trivia. If the gas gauge on the car says empty, we put gas in the car now or it will grind to a stop. Often we go days, weeks, or even years without putting any “gas” into our marriage. Because the intimate relationship can wait, it never comes up as a priority unless we truly make it one.
Addressing the importance of making the sexual relationship a priority, Stormie Omartian writes, “After twenty years of praying with women about their failing, struggling, unfulfilling, or dead marriages, I've observed that frequently the sexual relationship is a low priority. It isn't that the wife cares nothing about that part of her life. It's that there are so many other things screaming for her attention, such as raising children, work, finances, managing a home, emotional stress, exhaustion, sickness, and marital strife. In the wife's juggling of priorities, sex can end up at the bottom of her list. Some women allow week after week, month after month, six months a year to go by without having sexual relations with their husbands for one reason or another. When disaster hits, they are surprised.”
Run Away Together
Couples in Erica and Todd’s place need to take some time away to have fun and focus on each other. Evelyn Davison is known as the "Christian Dr. Ruth" in Austin, Texas where her daily radio program "LoveTalk" airs. She offers this advice: “When the passion flickers low, take a day or weekend off to spend time together without phones or beepers. Do something that was fun when you first got married. Forget the kids at school and the clients at the office. After the physical fun activity (not sexual), separate for at least an hour and write out a “things I have always loved about you” list. Then meet again somewhere with an atmosphere conducive to conversation like a coffee house or a bluff overlooking the city and take turns sharing the list of ‘I love yous.’ This can help move you to compassion for the needs of each other. The surprise comes when the passion returns. It may not be as hot as it was on the honeymoon sexual encounter, but it should be lively!”
If finances or responsibilities dictate that a week in the Caribbean is not feasible, look for other options. Perhaps friends have a cabin in the mountains that can provide the same type of getaway—away from the cares of the world and into the world of each other. If your situation is similar to Erica and Todd, you may need to start with more than a day—a full weekend—together or, better yet, a week.
Fan the Flame
After an extended period of time away from the dailyness of life to reconnect—emotionally, physically, and spiritually—Todd and Erica will need to make specific plans to keep the flame fanned once they are back into their routine back home.
Whether or not they are on a "date," Chuck encourages Erica to leave the business persona at the office. When she comes home, she needs to make a conscious effort to switch into her role of wife and mother. This may involve turning off the cell phone, taking off the "gold jacket," and mentally slowing down. Something as simple as a change of clothing can impact a mental shift.
Dress the Set
While clothing can be important, the rest of our surroundings can be as well. Chuck's undergraduate degree is in motion picture production. From this background he suggests that Todd and Erica "dress the set," meaning to make their bedroom a place conducive to making love. When couples come to Chuck with sexual problems in their marriage, he has learned to ask, "Do you have an ironing board and a basket of laundry in the bedroom?" More often than not, the answer is yes. There may be a computer on a desk next to the bed or other paraphernalia that has nothing to do with what goes on in a bedroom. While household space may cause limitations for some couples, as much as possible prepare the bedroom for a romantic interlude.
I remember hearing my mother speak on the topic of marriage when I was a teenager. She asked the women in her audience, "If your husband was going to have an affair today, while you are here at this conference, would he do it in your bedroom in the condition you left it this morning?" An audible gasp was heard throughout the crowd as most left an unmade bed, baskets of laundry, an ironing board, and more cluttering the bedroom. The point, of course, was not to prepare the bedroom for your husband to have an affair with another woman, but to keep it in a condition where he will want to have one with you!
Stir the Embers
As Erica takes steps to invite Todd to make love, he, too, needs to make Erica feel needed and feminine. Chuck suggests that Todd purchase feminine lingerie and perfume for her. Sweep her off her feet!
As Erica and Todd love each other with extravagance, setting aside what is fair and doing what is right for their marriage, they will find that the fire has not gone completely out. There are embers that can be stirred and brought back to life. Roseanne Elling says, “Couples mistakenly believe that the fire of the honeymoon continues to roar on its own. The truth is that it burns inconsistently, sometimes flaring up, sometimes burning steadily, and sometimes waning into mere embers. It's up to both partners to keep the fire burning, and it takes effort!”
The “if one spouse changes, the marriage changes” principle is true for restoring intimacy as well. If even one partner chooses to be proactive and intentional, renewed physical closeness can lead to a new sense of relational balance.
Be sure to check in for the final installment of “The Fire’s Gone Out,” featuring “The Interactions” -- a “homework assignment,” much like what a counselor would suggest you do as a couple if you are in a similar situation to Todd and Erica.
Be sure to watch for the next installment of Marita's column.
Marita Littauer is a professional speaker with more than twenty-five years experience. She is the author of 17 books Including Personality Puzzle, Communication Plus, The Praying Wives Club, Tailor-Made Marriage—from which this column is derived, and her newest, Wired That Way. Marita is the President of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training and promotion for speakers and authors. Marita and her husband Chuck Noon have been married since 1983. For more information on Marita and/or CLASS, please visit www.classervices.com or call 800/433-6633.
Chuck Noon has worked as a professional counselor--licensed in two states. He holds a BA in Motion Picture Production from Brooks Institute and an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Diego. He has worked with hundreds of families and couples in many varieties of settings. Currently, Chuck is working in mental healthcare management. Chuck and Marita live in the mountains outside of Albuquerque.
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