A recent study has found that American adults aren’t having sex as often as in the past. The causes are many, though they’re not all equally demonstrable: the hook-up culture, busy work lives, social media, pornography, and marrying later in life.
A sociology professor at the University of Washington believes the decline is due to the growing number of two-income families. “I would say the No. 1 cause for lack of sex is fatigue,” Pepper Schwartz said. “You have many more women and men working to create a two-income family to stay middle class or above. … People’s minds are occupied with things other than the physical connection, and that has increased in modern life, and especially from the ’80s and ’90s and forward.”
This translates into emotional fatigue more than physical—let’s face it, people worked harder physically in the past than they do now. But we’re busier. Busy being busy and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Our minds our crowded. We’re distracted by a million different gadgets with all their pings, rings, trickles, and swipes. It’s exhausting.
How do we have healthy, exciting sex lives when our hearts and minds are running full steam all day and then puttering home on fumes? Here’s some advice to shift gears and get revved up in the bedroom.
1. Make Sex a Priority
Think of all the things you do during the day. You work, eat, care for your family, shop, and spend a whole lotta time looking at screens—10 hours and 39 minutes every day, to be exact. It’s time to reprioritize. Sex is more important than anything you’re watching on the computer screen. And if you’re watching sex on the screen, you’re robbing your real-life, flesh-and-blood lover of precious time and energy that could be spent with him (or her).
Make sex a priority in your relationship. I’m not suggesting you plug a sex date into the calendar—unless you both are the super-organized type and that helps. But you do need to get your mind wrapped around the notion that sex is important. A healthy sex life helps create a healthy relationship. If you’re vulnerable, honest, trusting, playful, fun, and thoughtful in the bedroom, you will be that way in real life.
Too many couples treat sex as a mere afterthought. Women are especially guilty of this. They too often think of it as an indulgence for the man rather than an intimate act that infuses life into their marriage. Sometimes this isn’t their fault. More often than not, women lose interest in sex because it has become rote. After too many wham-bam-thank-you ma’am’s, women just aren’t into it anymore. It’s boring because there’s no real excitement, no real intimacy, and most of the time they’re not even getting their cookies.
2. Be Marriage-Centric
If your child or work is at the center of your life, you need to make some adjustments. We all have responsibilities. We can’t just ditch those. But we can make changes to prioritize our marriage.
Too many people have children-centric homes. Everything about the kids comes first instead of the marriage relationship—and sex is dead last. Some couples don’t even kiss each other when they come home. They’re too busy giving the kids attention. But the little sweeties can wait until mom and dad have their moment for reconnection, then they can come rushing in.
If you regroup and make the decision to put your marriage first, you will find your time at home less exhausting. You’ll see that little Johnny really doesn’t need you to read him “Cat in the Hat” for the third time. Ashley doesn’t need her favorite pajamas washed today. It can wait till tomorrow. That email from your boss or co-worker really can wait until you’ve spent some time with your spouse. Many things you think need to be done really don’t. Slow down. Stop putting your marriage on the back burner. Move it to the front and fire it up.
3. Wake Up To Each Other
Whatever time you need to get up in the morning, set the alarm for 5 or 10 minutes earlier. Use this time to snuggle before the day begins. Do this even if you don’t need to wake up at the same time. You can always roll over and go back to sleep when your spouse leaves.
Caress each other’s skin and hair. Feel your bodies close, hold each other, breathe as one, entwine your legs until you feel every part of each other. Begin the day with your focus where it needs to be—on your marriage. Don’t let the coffee cup be the first thing that touches your lips. Let it be your lover’s kiss.
With this simple moment of bonding, you are creating an attitude toward one another that will stay with you throughout the day. Add a little flirting through texting, email, or the occasional phone call, and you’ve set in motion all the groundwork you need to have sex. You might be tired when you get home, but foreplay has been happening since you woke up in each other’s arms.
The boss might have been on your case, or the baby might have spit up all over you, but you feel that swelling deep inside and your spouse is your only release—because he’s the one who lit the flame before the sun even crested the horizon.
4. Check Your Expectations
Film, TV shows, erotica, porn, glossy sex magazines, even advertisements—they’ve done a number on us. They also tell us how our bodies should look, move, and respond. They send constant messages that sex should be explosive. Amazing. Toe-curling. And if it’s not, you’re doing something wrong.
Wrong. Like anything else in a relationship, the couple defines what is best, good, and satisfying, not the culture. Sex in marriage is not always going to be like the early days of romance when fireworks burst and you were hungry to claw into your lover’s skin. Sometimes it’s like that, but most of the time it’s a lot more relaxed. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.
Sometimes things aren’t working like they used to. Your body has changed (hello, women who’ve had babies or men who’ve passed the 50 mark). Getting geared up for sex takes longer. Don’t let this inhibit you from having sex, just manage your expectations. Think of sex not as a performance, but as communication—a time to connect with the person you love. If fireworks light up the sky, great. If you just breathe a sigh, folding into your spouse’s arms, then that’s great too.
5. Why So Serious?
If you think of sex as drudgery, as a duty to perform, you won’t want to do it. But if you lighten up and think of sex as a time to relax, play, and laugh, you’ll be more willing to do it, even if you’re tired. Instead of coming home and turning on the television for relaxation and entertainment, turn on your spouse.
If you’re a wife (or husband) who stays home all day with the kids, think of your spouse as a release valve, not just one more duty to tend to. Remember, you LOVE this person. You’re married to him. Enjoy each other. Have fun in the bedroom, laugh and smile, and the weariness will fall away.
6. It’s Not All About the O
Too many people hop into bed with one intention: have an orgasm and be done with it. Men, that’s especially true for you, and you know it. Whether you want to admit it or not, that can be a little stressful, especially if you’re older. From the first kiss, you’re intent on reaching that climatic moment. Your wife is merely along for the ride, and she’s as determined as you to get done with it. If that involves pulling a Meg Ryan performance from “When Harry Met Sally,” then so be it.
This is not good. Not good at all. If this is your approach to sex, you won’t be heading to the bedroom when you’re already exhausted. You’ll flip on the baseball game or pour yourself another bourbon.
Instead, make love for the sake of being close and feeling connected. Be fully present in the moment instead of anticipating what’s to come. One of the most important sex organs that people ignore (besides the brain) is the skin. Touch it, caress it, massage it, kiss it, breathe on it. Spend time relaxing, feeling each other’s heartbeat and looking into one another’s eyes.
If you fall asleep because you’re so tired, that’s okay. Sex doesn’t have to be only about the O. You can always wake up later, give your spouse that sexy middle-of-the-night nudge, and finish what you started earlier in the evening.
Remove the pressure to achieve orgasm, and sex will become more relaxing. To your surprise, when that glorious moment does come, it will be even better.
7. Spice It Up With Spontaneity
So you’re busy, running here and there. You don’t have a lot of time, even with making your marriage the number one priority. That’s life. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have sex. I’ve already described the more relaxing moments, but that’s not all there is. You can steal moments during the day—during a lunch break, while the kids are watching a television show or reading, just before you leave for work, whenever. Be spontaneous.
If your husband gets that seductive look in his eye, pull him into the bathroom and have sex. Grab the moment. This is when you don’t need to worry about taking a lot of time. It’s about being open to the sudden bursts of feeling we all get. This doesn’t need to end in climax, either. Maybe you’ll just make out in the utility room for five minutes, getting each other hot and bothered and saving it for later.
One of you might not really feel like it. Dinner is in the oven, the kids need to be washed, you’re stressed from a blow-up at work. Doesn’t matter. It’s all about the moment with your lover. Steal it. Enjoy it. Then slip back into the kitchen, living room, or study as if nothing happened. Only the glow on your cheeks will give you away.
8. Let Your Face Time Be Real
I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. A lot of people say they’re too busy for sex or intimacy. Yet they come home and flick on the television or the computer. They can tell you all about the latest Netflix show or what team is trading which players or whose fighting in the media, but they can’t tell you what their spouse has been thinking about during the day. This has got to stop.
First, turn off the television and computer. It numbs you. It encourages you to be inactive and adds to your lethargy. Second, if you do want to watch something, watch it with your spouse. Use that time to snuggle, touch one another, share thoughts. Let your leisure time be spent together. But eventually turn off the screen and get back to real face time.
Marriage is about being one. That oneness includes your whole person, body, mind, and spirit. Your marriage isn’t just about raising children together or sharing space in a house like roommates. Marriage is about being one flesh. This union is as much a physical one as it is spiritual and emotional. Sex is integral to the health and well-being of your marriage. If that part is neglected, the whole suffers.
Bringing sex back into focus in your marriage is as important as any other aspect of your relationship. Don’t let the busy-ness of work, children, or entertainment stop you from nurturing that union. You chose this person to love for the rest of your life—not just their minds, but their bodies. Don’t let the precious moments that you share only between the two of you slip away. Don’t lose the gift of sex. Treasure it. Hold it close. Most of all, rest in it.