Married sex can be wrought with problems for couples. One of the top reasons is unhealed previous sexual trauma. One in three women and one in five men have had sexual trauma at some point in their life. When you have sexual trauma, 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 so they are in charge of it. They never want to be in a powerless position where it's taken from them again. The hypo-sexual track is someone who was so disgusted from their sexual trauma they want nothing to do with sexual intimacy and they avoid it like the plague.
Another common cause for sexual problems in marriage is emotional disconnection. A lot of people say, I don't feel open to sexual contact because I feel emotionally disconnected.
A third reason for sexual problems in marriage is differences in libido. Most marriages are comprised of a high and low libido partner. Libido is tied to testosterone and our early conditioning with sex. If one's early experiences with sex were positive it will raise libido and if their early experiences with sex were negative it will lower libido.
Because of all these problems with sex, it's important to have tools in your toolbox on how to approach sexual intimacy in a way that's mutually enjoyable and makes you feel closer together as a unified couple, which is the goal of sexual contact. So, I'm going to introduce a model today called the wedding cake model to married sex.
Married Sex | The Wedding Cake Model
The base tier is working through resentments. You won’t want to have sex with your partner if you resent them and it won’t go well if you try. Having sex is like a beautiful plant so you must begin by digging out the rocks in the soil before planting the seeds. Resentments are rocks in the soil of your relationship. They are clogs in your pipes. They block intimacy on all levels. Therefore, resentments must be tended to and resolved first. To heal resentment you'll need conflict resolution skills. Also, begin a four times a week routine with your partner to focus on your resentments.
The second tier of the cake is friendship. This comes second because it’s hard to develop a friendship with your partner if you resent them. Nurturing your friendship should be a daily focus but especially during your four times a week routine together, which are your mini-dates of quality time. During your four mini marriage dates per week, start doing three things. First, cultivate emotional intimacy so you don't start hating your husband. Second, cultivate affection, such as holding hands and giving hugs. And third, do something recreational together, such as hiking, biking, frisbee, and board games to have fun together. One of the keys to cultivating positive husband and wife sex is to nurture your connection in the relationship.
3-Wooing & sensual tier
The third tier to the wedding cake model of sexual intimacy is wooing and sensuality. This comes third because it’s hard to woo your partner and have sensual activity together if you don’t feel like you’re friends first. High-libido partners are in charge of providing emotional wooing sprinkled throughout the week by giving thoughtful compliments, extra affection, and acts of kindness. Low-libido partners are in charge of providing erotic wooing sprinkled throughout the week by flashing parts of their body while changing, rubbing their body against their partner when passing, and sending suggestive texts.
Emotional wooing for high-libido partners and erotic wooing for low-libido partners can sometimes feel inauthentic. Don’t push yourself to distress to woo your partner, or else it won’t be sustainable. Instead, nudge yourself somewhat out of your comfort zone while starting with the type of wooing that feels most comfortable to you. For example, if sending suggestive texts feels too uncomfortable for a low-libido partner, perhaps begin by flashing some of your naked body while changing. If giving thoughtful compliments feels too uncomfortable for a high-libido partner, perhaps begin by increasing your affection. Your partner wants to be wooed in the top way they experience love. For low-libido partners, it’s usually through emotional connection, and for high-libido partners, it’s usually through sexual connection.
Next is sensual activity. Sex therapist Dr. Jenny Skyler at the Intimacy Institute (2015) says most couples completely neglect sensual activity in their marriage. Some top ideas for sensual activity can include taking a bath or shower together, cuddling, or sensual massage. Whatever activity you choose, I recommend keeping your bathing suits or underwear on because this is not sexual time, it’s sensual. If you’re nude, usually the low-libido partner will feel pressure that things better turn sexual and the high-libido partner will probably get frustrated if they don’t. Therefore, keeping your undergarments on during this time is a nice visual reminder that this is sensual time, not sexual.
There are several things to keep in mind during sensual time. First, you want to maximize your five senses with sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For example, if you picked sensual massage, you could light several candles for sight, play some soft flute music for sound, spray yourself with your best perfume or cologne for smell, have a bowl of dark chocolate nearby for taste, and use coconut oil to rub one another’s bodies for touch. You want to create a full sensory experience. Next, take turns being the giver and receiver. So, partner A begins by being the giver of the sensual massage for ten to fifteen minutes while partner B receives, and then they take turns. Taking turns being the giver and receiver is important because most of us either get so focused on receiving we forget to give, or we get so focused on giving we forget to receive. Therefore, having designated time for each is important. When you’re the receiver, practice giving feedback with nah, nnnn, or nice so your partner learns how to touch your body. Finally, track your thoughts and breathing to see if you start feeling anxious. If you do, pause and relax your breathing then capture and counter your thoughts with the truth table tool.
Sensual activity should be added to your four mini-dates per week, so they would now include emotional intimacy, affection, recreation, and sensual activity. Having sensual activity four days a week is advantageous because frequency creates freedom. The low-libido partner will feel freedom because they’ll feel less pressure that things need to turn sexual since they’ll be trying sensual time again shortly. Likewise, the high-libido partner will feel freedom because they’ll feel less frustrated if things don’t turn sexual since they also know they’ll be trying sensual time again shortly.
No one wants to be in a sexless marriage; however, many couples approach the sexual tier incorrectly. To do it correctly, once you’ve both been the giver and receiver for sensual time, several things can happen. First, neither partner feels any sexual arousal and isn’t open to getting aroused, so you stop there. Second, the high-libido partner feels arousal but not the low-libido partner. When this occurs, the high-libido partner can pleasure themselves manually in front of their partner or in private, or the low-libido partner can pleasure them, manually or orally, depending on what they feel most comfortable with. Third, both partners either feel arousal or are open to getting aroused, so they move into the top sexual tier. Once you’re in the sexual tier, there are options that cater to the low-libido partner. Sometimes the low-libido partner may only be open to making out, so that’s what you do. Other times they may only be open to everything above the waist, so that’s what you do. Other times they may only be open to manual or oral stimulation below the waist, so that’s what you do. Other nights they may be open to everything including intercourse, so that’s what you do.
For heterosexual couples, once they’ve been married for several years, sexual activity often digresses to intercourse or nothing at all. For low-libido partners, they often aren’t up for intercourse so that leads to nothing. Instead, sexual activity needs to be approached like a buffet where you can pick and choose different items (salad, appetizer, drinks, etc.), instead of viewing intercourse as the only option. All too often, low-libido partners lose their voice and feel they must have intercourse out of marital duty, which turns into obligation sex. When obligation sex becomes the norm, the lower-libido partner feels resentment, and their libido drops even lower and the high-libido partner feels dissatisfied because they are getting their partner’s body but not their soul. Therefore, the sexual tier is designed to erase obligation sex by bringing voice and choice back to the low-libido partner, so whatever sexual activity they choose to engage in they are doing so with full consent. This approach also helps high-libido partners because it increases frequency of some type of sexual activity and it ensures their partner is fully engaged during it. Being mindful of the benefits of varying up your sex positions also is important.
So there you have it, the wedding cake model to married sex. Start by resolving resentments, then build your friendship, then add wooing and sensual activity, then add sexual contact.
Leave a comment below on what else you'd recommend to enhance married sex.