Transcript below from Marriage Steps Podcast Episode 3 on Cultivating Sexual Fireworks.
Today we're focusing on marriage step number five, which is cultivating sexual fireworks. This step comes at number five because it's going to be optimal if you've already established the previous four steps. These steps are in order for a reason. You can jump around in the steps, but don't expect to have optimal sex unless you've already established steps one through four. Again, step one is establishing a covenant relationship, so there's security. Step two is owning your brokenness so you both have a healthy dose of humility. Step three as learning to share power so you both feel like equals and you have a voice. Step four is developing emotional connection where you've learned how to work through resentments and you're building emotional intimacy. Once these are in place you're ready for step five, cultivating sexual fireworks.
Common Sexual Problems In Marriage
As a marriage counselor myself, I see sexual problems frequently with couples and many marriages are sex starved. One of the top reasons is because of previous sexual trauma. One in three women have had sexual trauma at some point in their life, normally growing up from a sibling or a babysitter or a step parent or a family member, a boyfriend, girlfriend, whoever. One in five men have had some type of sexual trauma at some point in their life too. And when you have sexual trauma, most people go one of two directions, either hyper-sexual or hypo-sexual. The hyper path is someone who becomes hyper-sexual where that's all they want all the time. And the reason is because they want to be in control. They never want to be in a powerless position where it's taken from them again, so they're going to constantly be the initiator so it turns them hyper sexual. The hypo-sexual track is someone who was so disgusted and so turned off from their sexual trauma that they want nothing to do with sexual intimacy and they avoid it like the plague. So that's one common cause of the sexual problems that married couples can struggle with is if one or both have a history of sexual trauma.
Second is emotional disconnection. A lot of people say, I don't feel open to sexual contact because I feel emotionally disconnected. And again, that's why this is step five so you can be building that emotional connection in step four. But a lot of couples report this. I'm just not open to that connection sexually because I feel detached. I feel distant. A third reason for sexual problems in marriage is differences in libido. Most marriages have one spouse who has a high libido and one spouse who has a low libido.On average, the male is the one with the high libido. But sometimes it can be the female. So it varies. Libido is tied to testosterone. Men on average have much higher levels of testosterone than females, but females still have some. But in my practice, I would say around 15 to 20% of the marriages I see, the female is the one with the higher libido.
So because of all these problems, it's important to have tools in your toolbox on how to approach sexual intimacy in a way that's mutually enjoyable and makes us feel closer together and unified as a couple, which is the goal of sexual contact. So I'm going to introduce a model today called the wedding cake model to sexual intimacy.
Stage One To Sexual Intimacy
Some of these ideas are modified from Dr. Jenny's Skylar, who's a sex therapist in Boulder, Colorado. So the bottom tier of this wedding cake, the base of the wedding cake, is daily emotional connection and affection. The emotional connection comes through daily talking where you share your high and your lows, you share what you're feeling, you share what you're thinking, and you carve out daily time to talk. Talking ideally is one of the top habits and hobbies you have as a couple. And if you don't, you need to start cultivating it cause it's the base of this wedding cake model for sexual intimacy. The daily affection can look different based on how you'd like to be touched. Ask your partner, do you like your hair stroked? Do you like your shoulders rubbed? Do you like your hand touched? What kind of touch do you like with all that? You have to learn what kind of affection your spouse likes and then you want to provide it to them on a daily basis. So again, the base tier of the cake is daily emotional connection and affection.
Stage Two to Sexual Intimacy
Once that's in place, you start working on the second tier of the wedding cake, which is two to three times a week of sensual time. And sensual means it's not sexual, it's only sensual. So here's some options during the sensual time, you can do a shower or a bath together, you can do sensual massage or you can have some cuddling time. Now during the shower or the bath, I would recommend wearing your bathing suits because if you're not the higher libido spouse is going to really want it to go further and the lower libido spouse is going to feel pressure that it better go further. So if you have your bathing suits on, it keeps it sensual instead of feeling sexual. Likewise with sensual massage, if you chose that activity, make sure you have your underwear on. Because if you don't, it's going to get blurry and it's going to feel like it's sexual time, but it's not. This is only sensual time. Now after you pick one of these activities, there are several things to keep in mind.
One thing is you want to maximize your five senses. We've been given our five senses to experience the world around us, but a lot of times we don't think about that when it comes to sensually bonding with our partner. Say for example, you're going to take a bath with your partner, what would you like to be looking at? That can be levels of light. What kind of bathing suit would you like your partner to wear? What do you want to be smelling? Maybe you'd like a certain scent or perfume or candle. Next is touch. What do you want to be touching? Maybe that's bubbles. Maybe that's a certain lotion. Maybe it's coconut oil for sensual massage. A lot of couples like coconut oil because it smells good and it feels good on the skin. What about taste? Some couple eat strawberries. Some eat chocolate, some drink their favorite beverage, etc. What would you like to be listening to during the sensual time? Is there certain music that you like? Is there nature sounds? Is there a certain band that you like? Maybe ACDC, I don't know what you like. So whatever it is for you, listen to whatever's pleasant and pleasurable.
Now the next thing to keep in mind during the sensual time is there needs to be a giver and a receiver. The giver is the one giving the sensual touch first. So say you're doing a bath together. The giver would be the one that would lightly stroke your shoulders and your stomach and your legs as they wash your body. That'd be the giver and the other person is receiving. And then after a certain amount of time, I would say no less than 10 minutes, you take turns and now the giver becomes the receiver. You want to take turns being the giver and the receiver. The giver, by the way, would be the one who plans the sensual time and creates the scene for the five senses.
The next thing during this sensual time is you want to practice giving each other fun feedback. So if you're the receiver, you need to communicate what you're feeling. A lot of times we don't say anything or we reprimand and harshly criticize what our partner's trying to do and then it just crushes them. So this fun feedback idea is you have three choices of how to give feedback. One is Naaa, one is Nnnnn, and one is Nice. That's your 3 options for giving feedback. When you're touched, your partner needs to know what you like, what you don't like, and what's just okay. They won't know that unless you communicate. But the way I just recommended is a really nice non-threatening way to communicate when you are the receiver.
The next thing to keep in mind during this sensual time is you need to track your relaxation. Your body will not be able to enjoy the sensual time and respond if you are anxious. And so tracking your breathing is the first step. If your breathing is up in your chest, short and shallow, that means you are not relaxed and you need to practice some deep breathing exercises to get your breathing down into your belly. One of the most effective methods for that is 5 seconds into your nose, 10 seconds out of your mouth, like you're blowing off hot soup, 5 seconds in and 10 seconds out, and you keep practicing deep breathing until your breathing gets down into your belly and you start feeling relaxed again. The other thing to watch out for if you're not feeling relaxed and you notice yourself tensing up is your thoughts. What's going through your mind. If you have sexual trauma, most likely you're going to have some automatic thoughts going through your brain that are not healthy, such as, this is dangerous, they're using me, this is dirty, I'm not safe, etc. Whatever it is, those automatic thoughts going through your mind are going to lock up your body. So you have to write down those thoughts and then you want to counter each thought with truth. Because a lot of times these automatic thoughts are extreme thoughts or they're negative interpretations or they're assumptions and our trauma lies in our automatic thoughts. So you need to capture them and then counter them with truth. And that also will help you get back into a relaxed state so then you can move forward. You don't want to move forward with sensual time unless you're relaxed.
The sensual time should be two to three days a week. And the reason for that is because every time you do it, when you're done with it, then you're going to decide as a couple, if you want to go up to the next tier, the final tier of the wedding cake, which is sexual contact. If you're only doing the sensual time once a week or once every two weeks, it doesn't work as well because then the higher libido spouse is going to be feeling like this better go up to the sexual and the lower libido spouse is going to feel pressure that it better go up to the sexual and now it's obligation and it sabotages it. However, if you're doing it two to three days a week, then you have more freedom because some nights when you do it and you're finished, you may think, I'm not open to going up to the sexual tier and that's okay because you both know you're going to try it again the next day or in two days. So the frequency creates freedom to only go as far as you feel comfortable with.
Stage Three To Sexual Intimacy
So let's say you both complete the sexual time and then you agree you're both open to moving up to the final tier of the wedding cake of sexual contact. Now once you move up there, you have options. Maybe one night you're just open to making out. So first base. Another night, maybe just everything above the waist, second base. Another night, maybe you're open to activity below the waist, third base. And maybe another night you're open to all sexual activity including intercourse. The goal in the sexual tier is that you have options. We need to get away from this mentality that sexual contact is intercourse or nothing at all because the lower libido spouse often will feel like, I'm not up for intercourse so I don't want any of it. However, if they can view sexual activity as more of a buffet where there's options, we can do a salad or we can have an appetizer or we can have an entree or we can have dessert or we're going to have all of it. If they feel like sexual activity can have options, they're more likely to engage and then you're going to get all of them because if the lower libido spouse just gives in and is going through the motions you're going to get their body but not their soul and then you both lose out. So having options within the sexual tier of the wedding cake based on what you're up for creates a more fulfilling connection because all of you will be there.
To summarize, the base tier is daily emotional connection and affection. The next tier up on the wedding cake is sensual time, two to three days a week. That can be a shower or bath, sensual massage or cuddling time. During the sensual time you want to maximize your five senses, take turns being the giver and the receiver, practice giving fun feedback when you're the receiver, and track your relaxation through deep breathing and capturing and countering your thoughts. Then if you're both open to a sexual connection, you move up to the highest level of the wedding cake, which is the sexual tier, and then you have options based on what you both would feel comfortable doing. So I encourage you to try out this model this week and see how it goes for you. My own marriage has struggled in this area because my wife came from a background with a lot of sexual trauma and she turned hypo-sexual. In our early marriage it really wrecked havoc on our dynamic and I didn't respond very well to it. But this model has provided a lot of healing for us. And so it's not only a model I've learned about, it's a model that I live and breathe and I can tell you it can transform your sexual connection.
Click here for the free marriage podcast
What would you add to or take away from the Wedding Cake model and why?