Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

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Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

At some point in every couple’s marriage—often in the early years—the question of sexual frequency comes up. They might find themselves wondering how often they “should” be having sex, how to agree on frequency, or whether they’re normal.

Today, we’re tackling three common questions about sexual frequency, and what you and your spouse can do to ensure the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment for your marriage.

MY SPOUSE AND I HAVE VERY DIFFERENT SEXUAL NEEDS. HOW DO WE GET ON THE SAME PAGE?

Finding a healthy compromise between two different sex drives is a delicate, difficult subject for many couples. How do both of you meet each other’s needs and still get your needs met when the two of you are on such different pages?

Getting on the same page about sex requires give and take, and a generous spirit from both of you. It’s easy to fall into a rut of thinking, “I guess this is just the way it is; there’s nothing we can do about it.” There is absolutely something you can do for a more fulfilling sex life: start an ongoing dialogue about what you need from each other.

Don’t just have one conversation about sex and abandon the subject. Keep talking about it as often as you need to in order to meet each other’s needs, and get your own met. Neglecting this critical conversation can lead to one or both of you developing unhealthy sexual behaviors and attitudes surrounding sex.

We know of at least one couple that has a weekly sex talk to check in on their love life. They ask each other questions like, “Where are you at this week? What can we do to make sure sex is the best it can be?”

When you set aside time to talk about this, remember you’re both doing your best. You both have needs that may or may not be getting met at any given time, but it’s important not to make one another feel guilty about how things are going in your love life. This topic is already loaded and heavy; be careful not to add any unnecessary heaviness to the conversation.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or particular solution that settles this issue, but if you keep that open dialogue, you’re much more likely to find fulfillment together. Simply talking to each other about it and being honest about your needs—and being willing to meet needs in your spouse that you may not share—is the key to reaching a happy medium.

WE ONLY HAVE SEX A FEW TIMES A MONTH, BUT IT’S GREAT! ARE WE NORMAL?

We hear this question so often, especially from newlywed couples. No matter how often you have sex, what matters is whether you’re both satisfied and fulfilled. What’s “normal” isn’t the issue—it’s about what works for you!

Studies have shown that sexual frequency in married couples ranged from four times to 45 times per month after two years of marriage. That’s a wide range! And chances are, your frequency is impacted by the season of life you’re in. Do you have a baby or young kids at home? Does one of you work a shift that isn’t conducive to frequent lovemaking? Are you helping to care for elderly parents or in-laws?

One thing we’ve found with many of the couples we’ve worked with over the years is that often, life circumstances may lower the frequency of sex. BUT, even when quantity goes down, the quality goes up. These couples’ emotional intimacy and understanding of one another’s needs leads to a fulfilling sex life despite the lower frequency.

Every couple has their own individual set of intimacy needs. If you’re having sex a frequency that feels low to you, check in with each other. Are you both happy with your sex life? This is a great way to learn whether you’re in sync, and whether you need to work together to make adjustments.

The key is not to reach a certain level of “normalcy;” instead, the key is to be satisfied. That’s a much easier—and more enjoyable!—goal to work toward.

WE USED TO MAKE LOVE ALL THE TIME, BUT LATELY, MY SPOUSE ISN’T AS INTERESTED. WHAT CAN I DO?

It’s true that frequency of sex can be an indicator of how your relationship is doing, especially if your spouse has experienced a sudden drop in interest. And, it’s easy to feel rejected when they don’t show the same level of sexual desire as they did in the past. But desire depends on so many factors, and often, they have more to do with your spouse personally than they have to do with you as a couple.

Sleep deprivation, emotional distress, preoccupation, and underlying health problems are just a few of the issues that can impact your spouse’s desire. To get to the bottom of this, one of the most important things you can do is talk to your spouse. Find a time to talk when you can both feel emotionally safe. In other words, don’t bring up the issue during lovemaking—it’s much too vulnerable of a time to talk about the problems you’ve perceived in your sex life, and it won’t work.

Don’t accuse your spouse or make them feel bad; instead, communicate openly until you get to the bottom of what’s going on, and be honest about what you want—and what you miss in your relationship. Most of all, be patient and let your spouse know you love them and you’re there for them. Remember, like most seasons, this one will most likely run its course, and you’ll move into a healthier season of lovemaking soon.

If you would like help in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

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Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is a loaded issue in most marriages because it represents the ability to get the things we need and want. It tends to become an issue of power, dictating who makes the decisions and whose dreams get fulfilled. Needless to say, discussions about money, bills, and budgeting can generate some powerful emotions.

It’s not always easy to navigate money matters, especially in the early years of your marriage. In today’s post, we’re going to explore some ways you and your spouse can get on the same page about your finances–and stay there.

WHICH ONE OF US SHOULD HANDLE THE FINANCES?

When it comes to handling the finances, the best decision is what works best for you as a couple. This could look like one spouse primarily handling all the finances (which is often the case in many marriages) or you could split responsibilities according to what each of you is most comfortable with handling. The most important thing is to generate positive discussion around the subject and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on each other as you hash it all out.

If you’re going to be handling the finances together, make a checklist of all the financial details that you and your spouse need to manage every month, then decide who handles each item. Create calendar reminders to keep up with payment due dates and be diligent to check in with each other to make sure all the bases are covered.

If just one of you is going to take on the bulk of the money management in your household, make sure you both agree to this arrangement and feel comfortable with it. One spouse taking the reins doesn’t mean he or she is going to be controlling your finances. Rather, the person who handles the majority of the bill-paying should primarily be taking care of recurring monthly payments and keeping an eye on where you stand financially.

However you decide to handle money in your marriage, agree together on the parameters surrounding it. It’s important to set a budget that will give each of you freedom, but also accountability; for example, you might want to decide how much spending money you each get every month that doesn’t require you to report back to each other or share every single receipt.

HOW DO WE PREVENT THE MONTHLY FIGHTS OVER BILLS AND BUDGETS?

If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?

One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you; what items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? As we mentioned above, you might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.

Automating some of your monthly bills can reduce the amount of work you have to do when you sit down with the finances. If one of you hates handling finances and wants to be hands-off, delegate the remaining bill-paying tasks to the other.

We all have different styles when it comes to money, so it’s important to know where you both stand and what’s going on with your money so you can make the best choices possible going forward. Some people like to spend; some like to save. Others are skilled at handling administrative tasks, while others are money-avoiders. Wherever you stand, don’t run from the subject of finances. Both of you really need to know what’s going on, whether one or both of you is ultimately handling the bills.

WHAT IF MY SPOUSE GETS DEFENSIVE EVERY TIME I BRING UP MONEY?

What do you do when you can barely broach the subject of money with your spouse? Does he or she become defensive when you attempt to discuss enacting a budget or reevaluating your finances?

A lot of people equate how much they make with how valuable they are to their spouses and families. It’s an identifiable, results-oriented way of defining themselves. If your spouse is feeling insecure about the amount of money they make, it’s possible that they could be mistakenly reading messages of disapproval from you when you bring up the topic.

It’s important to communicate to your spouse that you’re not evaluating their value as a person or a provider when you bring up financial matters. Tell them you respect them, you love the work they do for your family, and you want to strategize together so that you can both steward your money well.

If your spouse responds in a reactive or defensive way when you talk to them about money, it’s important to work together to find out where it’s coming from. Explore these issues in a natural course of conversation. How did their parents approach finances and make decisions regarding money? What were some differences between their family and yours? Maybe there are some deeply embedded beliefs in their mind that get triggered when you bring up the topic, and talking these things through could help you unravel them.

No matter what, remember that finances are an emotional issue for most couples–but don’t run from the conversation. It’s important to get on the same page with one another to create a shared vision for your future together.

If you would like help communicating about finances with your loved one, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

 

3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

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3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

When our oldest son was born, we learned more about the unbelievable power of human touch than we ever thought possible. He was born 3 months premature and weighed one pound–and our touch was life-sustaining to him.

Over the months we spent with him in the hospital, we began to talk more about what tender touch does for us in our marriage–not the kind of touch that leads to something more in the bedroom, but the kind of touch that connects and reassures.

Not only does touch cultivate deeper intimacy; it helps us communicate with each other on another level. It sustains and strengthens our connection. And it’s an essential part of a healthy, happy marriage.

1. TOUCH HELPS US FEEL SECURE, KNOWN, AND LOVED

Tender touch conveys our love for one another, and creates a level of emotional safety that opens the door for deeper intimacy. It’s this deep kind of emotional security that leads to more physical desire for one another in the long run. Although we all want to experience a healthy sex life with our spouse, it’s critical to build that foundation.

When we feel valued, we’re more likely to show vulnerability to one another. Affectionate touch doesn’t shut us down; instead, it opens us to that intimacy we’re craving from one another–on multiple levels.

To feel seen, heard, and truly known by your spouse is a powerful component in the health of your marriage. Little daily moments and habits that are meaningful build upon each other and lead to something amazing in our marriages. Use touch to show your spouse that you’re watching, listening to, and valuing him or her.

Like our tiny infant son, touch is essential to our well-being in our marriages; without that daily contact, we can’t thrive.

2. TOUCH KEEPS US CONNECTED

Tender touch awakens us and reminds us of why we fell in love in the first place. It’s a way to tell one another, “I’m for you.” It’s a reminder that we’re not enemies–we’re on the same team.

Some ways you can stay connected with tender touch are:

  • A massage after a long day at work
  • Comforting hugs when your spouse is down
  • Touching your spouse when you’re talking or laughing
  • Holding hands in town
  • Putting an arm around your spouse during worship

Tender touch is particularly important when you’re going through a difficult time in your life or marriage. If you’ve been experiencing a lot of conflict, problems with your children or extended family, health issues, etc., stay connected by making physical contact daily–two to three minutes total, at minimum. You’ll be surprised how much you accomplish emotionally by intentionally touching one another every day.

3. TOUCH COMMUNICATES AFFECTION WITHOUT AGENDA

Tender touch isn’t meant to lead directly to the bedroom; instead, it’s meant to convey affection without an agenda attached. It’s meant to be a selfless, supportive act instead of a means to an end.

We touch our spouses because we love them and cherish them; if we only touch them when we have an agenda, they might start to feel resentful of the fact that you only make physical contact when you want something.

Practice tender touch without expecting sex in return. Be playful and affectionate. Passion is an important component of marriage, but it’s not the only form of physical affection you and your spouse need to share.

(As an added bonus, the more physical affection you share without an agenda attached, the more you and your spouse will desire one another in that passionate way! And you’ll find that you inevitably build anticipation for those private moments while you’re showing one another affection.)

If you would like help in the area of intimacy and relationships, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the Gift of Limitations

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Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and the Gift of Limitations

By Russ Ramsey

“At the crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over.” – Iris Murdoch

We live in a world of limits. We all run up against them. We all have them. If you’re like me, you wish this weren’t the case. But limits are a fact of life, part of God’s design. Even our first parent, Adam, looked around and said, “I need help. I need another.”

Eve didn’t solve the problem of Adam’s limitations. God didn’t put the man to sleep and then put into him what he lacked. Instead, God took something out of the man and made a partner to come alongside him—helpful but distinct. The gift of Eve confirmed that this was how things were going to be moving forward—how they were meant to be. We wouldn’t merely help ourselves. We’d be given help—and we would be given to help.

Sometimes the help we’re given requires us to adapt to a new course, especially when a person has a personality that changes the rhythm of how we might work on our own. Perhaps they’re faster than us, or more contemplative. Perhaps they think in concrete terms while we favor the abstract. They bring nuance into our otherwise rigid plans, structure to our hazy vision, or economics to our dream. Sometimes, we inherit the work of others, and it falls to us to carry it across the finish line. Sometimes others inherit our work.

Whatever the situation, our limits and need for others often end up producing results—beautiful, helpful, and unexpected results that none of us would’ve expected on our own. The story behind how Michelangelo’s David came to be helps us see this point.

Michelangelo Wasn’t First

Michelangelo’s David is confounding. He’s simultaneously vulnerable in his nakedness and imposing in his size, standing more than 13 feet tall. One hand grips a sling, ready for action; the other is relaxed, cradling a stone. The warrior is alert but calm, equipped but patient, daring but confident. His posture conveys motion, as though he’s just shifted his weight or taken a step. The sling and stone signal to us that David is looking at Goliath, who is about to die. The look in David’s eye tells us he has no doubt.

The shepherd’s hands, his torso, his battle-ready stare, his posture all seem to animate Michelangelo’s block of marble. David is a living stone. He’s a masterpiece.

Yet Michelangelo wasn’t the first sculptor to take hammer and chisel to this marble. Nor was he the second. In 1464, the city of Florence commissioned Agostino de Duccio to sculpt a statue of David as part of a series of 12 Old Testament figures begun in 1410 by Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi—better known as Donatello. After the city brought in a block of marble masoned from the Alps in northern Tuscany, Duccio began his work. But he only got as far as roughing out the legs before he died in 1466.

Ten years later, another sculptor named Antonio Rossellino was brought in to pick up where Duccio left off, but for reasons unknown he was soon removed from the project, and the work-in-progress sat unfinished for the next 25 years.

Finally, in 1501, a 26-year-old Michelangelo convinced city officials that he should be hired to finish the sculpture Duccio started 11 years before Michelangelo was born. He had to accommodate the work of others whose creative choices determined, at least to a degree, how David stood, which affected everything about the end result.

How different would Michelangelo’s David have been if he began with a virgin stone? What artistic choices would he have made differently? Would that sculpture be as beloved as the one we’ve been given? We’ll never know, because Michelangelo was given a block of stone others had a hand in shaping.

No Untouched Foundations

Isn’t this a metaphor for life? None of us builds on an untouched foundation. Many people and their many decisions—for better or worse—have played a role in determining where our feet are planted. Consequently, we ourselves are in the process of shaping future foundations on which others will one day stand. Lord, have mercy.

We work with what we’re given. We live in a world of limits. Michelangelo chipped away at the stone set before him, improving on the vision of other sculptors. But even before that, he had to accommodate the dimensions handed down by the stonemasons who first hewed the marble from the Tuscan Alps. Further still, he had to accommodate the written word of Scripture.

These limits played a role in the creative decisions Michelangelo had to make in order to sculpt the shepherd he’d read about and imagined. Some of those choices had already been made for him—and had they not been, we wouldn’t have Michelangelo’s David. We’d have something else.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that doesn’t bear the touch of others. I bet you can’t either. Of course we wish some of those chisel marks never happened—the ones that draw from us pleas for mercy and for the renewal of all things. But if we’re honest, many of the marks have been necessary to give us eyes to behold God’s glory, glory we wouldn’t have otherwise known.

Recognizing both our limits and also our need for others is one of the ways we experience beauty we wouldn’t have seen, good work we wouldn’t have chosen, and relationships we wouldn’t have treasured. It’s one of the ways we’re shaped to fit together as living stones into the body of Christ (1 Pet. 2:4–5Eph. 2:22). As much as our strengths are a gift to the church, so are our limitations.

If you would like to talk with someone please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Stuck in a Rut? 3 Ways to Revive the Excitement in Your Marriage

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Stuck in a Rut? 3 Ways to Revive the Excitement in Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

From time to time, every married couple gets stuck in a rut. It can happen for many different reasons, but the results are similar: ruts leave us feeling like life has just become “blah.”

Fortunately, this is totally normal–and you two can work together to break out of your rut if you’re willing to put in the effort. Today, we’ve put together 3 ways to revive the excitement in your marriage.

It’s important that you and your spouse work together to shake things up. Even though you might feel like you’re in a rut, your spouse might not; the important thing here is that you don’t make this personal, because it happens to everyone.

This rut isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; it’s about some routines in your life you’d like to liven up. It’s not necessarily about your spouse, about you, or about your children. Communication is key here, so treat one another with kindness, understanding, and love as you move forward.

1. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR CURRENT ROUTINE.

If you feel like your life is on autopilot, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time stewing over it already. So, hash things out with your spouse. Whether you need to make a list together or just talk it through, get clear on the areas of your life where you’d like to have more variety.

Here are some common areas that can fall into a slump:

  • Date nights
  • Meals
  • Shared activities
  • Outings with friends
  • Sex
  • Daily routines
  • Family time

If the two of you mutually agree that certain parts of your life feel like they’re in a rut, prioritize those areas first and start making changes at whatever pace works best for your family. If you can only take baby steps, that’s fine–but start taking them now.

If you disagree, see if you can find a happy medium that will work for both of you. Is there something you can both compromise on? For example, let’s say your spouse has a cooking routine that he or she follows for meal prep every week and you want to shake it up–but your spouse is resistant. Work together to land on a few meal ideas that could fit into the existing routine instead of changing it completely.

Breaking out of a rut takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. Ready to liven things up?

2. BREAK YOUR ROUTINE…ON PURPOSE.

Once you and your spouse have decided on what areas in your life need a little extra spark, it’s time for action. Here are a few ideas for the areas we listed above:

  • Date nights – Too comfortable going out to the same places over and over? For an entire month, commit to trying out new destinations for your romantic date nights.
  • Meals – Try at least one new meal at home every week. It’ll allow you to hold onto the stability of your existing routine, while throwing something and exciting into the mix.
  • Shared activities – Instead of going to the tennis court for your daily exercise, why not try biking together? Make a list of a few new activities you’d like to try, pick one, and go for it.
  • Outings with friends – If your outings with other married couples have fallen into too predictable of a routine, suggest something new. For example, if your weekly get-together has always involved playing cards, ask if your friends might be up for a different game instead.
  • Sex – It’s not uncommon to let outside responsibilities reduce our sex lives to a predictable pattern. Set aside some extra time alone together and break that routine!
  • Daily routines – If you feel like you’re just going through the motions everyday, find ways to make your routine more pleasant when you’re starting your day. Maybe you’ve got it down to a science, but it just feels boring; why not play some new, upbeat music to make it feel more exciting?
  • Family time – Not feeling very creative when it’s time to go out with the spouse and kids? Ask the kids for ideas!

Once you’ve begun changing your usual pattern around–even if it’s just in a small way–you’ll start to feel reinvigorated and more excited about life.

3. PLAN TO BE MORE SPONTANEOUS.

We know, we know–it sounds crazy. But if you and your spouse plan to be deliberately spontaneous more often, spontaneity will actually happen! (And, it won’t feel contrived.) Set yourself a reminder on your calendar every week to do something out-of-the-blue that will be fun, romantic, or exciting for you and your spouse.

Most of us crave some measure of spontaneity in our marriages, but when it’s not happening, we don’t know how to address it. Even though it can feel strange to set an intention or make plans to be more spontaneous, it’ll pay dividends–we promise!

Life is busy and things can get mundane; sometimes, the only way to combat that is to decide you’re not going to let it stay the same. Don’t wait for one another to liven things up; talk about it, and then take action.

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.