Madeline: Sex Can Be a Chore


Madeline: Sex Can Be a Chore | A Practical Wedding

Wait, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. When I say chore, I don’t mean the boring/repetitive/bucket-and-rubber-gloves variety (though to be fair, it depends who you’re with). What I mean is, sex can be scheduled. Monday: Grocery shopping. Wednesday: Laundry. Friday: Slap and tickle. This and other revelations came to me via a one-day group Marriage Success Training seminar, run by Patty and Greg Kuhlman.

How did we come to spend a Saturday at this event? When I start something new, I like to read books and do homework first, so I was game for premarital counseling. Plus, Meg recommends it in her book as part of the “Questions to Ask Before You Get Married” section. Done and done. Brandon, on the other hand, felt more like counseling was something you resort to if things go wrong. But he was open-minded enough to give it a try.

We scouted round the Internet looking for something non-denominational that might suit us. I’d heard of the very religious analyzing vaginal mucus during marriage prep, in order to perfect the rhythm method. We were definitely looking for something non-mucus-based. In this respect, MST, which talks a lot about “science” and “the latest research,” looked pretty good. We signed up.

In retrospect, that was the easy part. As the day approached, we were increasingly anxious about what might be involved. I’d read the part in Blink about the psychologist who can spot a successful marriage based on a few hours of observation. What if the seminar was just like that, revealing the Questions that we Should Have Asked before rushing off to City Hall in December? Would a red warning light start flashing when we entered the room to warn us of impending marital failure? In front of all the other couples?  

Actually, we didn’t trigger any auto-eject mechanisms in the seminar room, and Patty and Greg did a good job of putting us at ease—though at 8:30am on a weekend in Manhattan, keeping us awake was an equal challenge. The day was a mix of group and individual couple discussions or exercises, which I liked, although Brandon struggled a bit sharing private thoughts in such a public space. Everyone was reeling from the amount of information we covered by the end, but I already felt I’d gained some new perspectives.

Most useful was the reminder that what we think of as romance can be unhelpful. Patty and Greg pointed out that “successful” love is not assessed on the basis of Partner A’s ability to guess what Partner B wants as a gift. It may, in fact, be judged by Partner B’s willingness to accept that Partner A is bad at gift-shopping and create a work around—perhaps by asking for something specific.

The challenge about this insight is that when you’re in the gown-and-tux phase, it’s hard to admit things won’t be perfect. Sure, no one would drive a car without lessons just because they couldn’t face the possibility of a crash. But it’s difficult to square marriage, in its fantasy incarnation as a “Happily Ever After” ending, with daily struggles needing hard work and elbow polish. Especially when you’re planning an event involving tulle.

So perhaps this is why reality-checking your romance is helpful early on. TV tells us if we drink this brand of coffee or use that brand of perfume, passionate sex will happen to us spontaneously! If this is not the case for you in your marriage, we learned, it turns out you are not a failure, you have not chosen the wrong partner, and it’s not time to start playing the field. It simply means you prioritize. Scheduling time to do the nasty may seem unromantic, but it helps keep romantic love going.

Ever commit to exercise regularly? Seriously, if getting sweaty on your own is that important, then adding a partner will be easy. Ladies, get your rubber gloves on.

Photo by: Julie Randall Photography

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  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    The seminar you went to sounds like a really interesting way to approach marriage counselling. I’m particularly interested in the fact that it was group based, rather than just the two of you. In some ways that seems more approachable, as it’s not sitting down in an office with just you two and a counsellor of some sort. I think I’d be nervous, though, to share so much in front of people I don’t know.

    I’ve heard the “schedule sex” advice before, and I rather like the idea. We’ve never done it, but I can see where if our lives were busier or it started to become neglected I would definitely give it a try.

    • MDBethann

      The pre-marital counseling we did was a small group class too, though we did it through an organization related to our religious faith – Lutheran Congregational Services. It was 2 different days of about 2-3 hours each session. We had small group discussion but also a chance to break out in couples and talk about some prompts we were given and then, at one point, male & female groups.

      I think the group counseling was useful in that it helped us make sure we had talked about important issues before marriage (many we’d already covered before we bought our house together) but without feeling like we were on the spot. If issues had come up, I think we might have looked to private counseling to address them and we’re definitely planning to heed Meg’s advice from the book “If one person asks for counseling, we both go.”

      As a bit of a tangent, the male/female breakout in our group class showed the difference between what society “expects” us to answer and how we’d REALLY answer the same questions without our peers around. The exercise was to discuss an instructor-provided list of jobs/roles in the family and both the male and female groups were to identify on their own who performs them. Both FH and I decided (unbeknownst to the other) to note our gender group’s answer but also our own (where it differed). When we came back as a full group to share the results, the guys’ results were things like “the wife does the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning, etc” while the gals’ results were more “both shop, cook, clean, etc.” My FH leaned over to me and whispered “Here are MY real answers” and showed me a list that differed greatly from the guys’ list and looked a lot more like the one the gals’ developed, as his personal answers were based on our roles at home where we share the cooking, cleaning, errands, etc. Apparently he was over-ruled by the other guys in the group.

  • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

    “When I say chore, I don’t mean the boring/repetitive/bucket-and-rubber-gloves variety (though to be fair, it depends who you’re with).”

    Ahhahahahahaha! Cracking up so hard at my desk right now.

    Scheduling – definitely a good idea once a baby’s around.

    • http://catoctinmountainmama.blogspot.com/ Catoctin Mountain Mama

      I definitely agree with the Baby + Scheduling Sex = Happier Parents. If you drop your child off a the baby-sitters then Date Night can be at home, which means not having to worry about waking up the kiddo.

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    What’s funny (to me) about this article is that I got married with very few qualms but I am terrified of driving just about anywhere for fear of accidents. And I’m 30.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      I have yo say, I feel you on this one. I’m engaged, and I’m not hugely concerned about getting married, a few concerns, but I am far from scared. However, driving makes me break out in a sweat. *shakes head*

  • Contessa

    Great essay and thanks for the reminder that counseling is not hospice for your marriage.

  • http://weehermione.blogspot.com Hayley

    See, for my husband and me, this is the exact opposite of what works for us! So everyone’s *definitely* different. Making it scheduled saps the fun out for both of us, we’ve discovered through chatting while having to schedule things for baby-makings.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Baby making sex was THE WORST for us. So limiting and scheduled and on the clock. Hopefully it works quickly for you!

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Sometimes the passionate things do take scheduling. Legs don’t just automatically shave themselves. Candles don’t light of their own accord. And despite what the movies say, we don’t all walk around in sexy clothing items “just in case” some spontaneous sex decides to happen.

    Scheduling allows for anticipation to build. Imagine if Christmas suddenly happened after lunch today. You’d totally lose the build up to the event.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      Scheduling sex reminds you to shave your legs. That’s a point I hadn’t considered, and is a good reason to schedule!

      • http://blindirishpirate.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

        Unless you are me, where you just don’t care to shave your legs regularly… and apparently the husband, doesn’t either.

    • meg

      I love this comment. If Christmas happened after lunch today, I’d definitely cry.

      • Sarah

        Especially after the Advent calendar post this morning? I’d be so confused about what happened to Pentecost and Ordinary Time.

        • meg

          Pentecost goes on so long, it basically is Ordinary Time ;)

    • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

      It occurs to me that scheduling sex doesn’t mean that you HAVE to go through with every bit of it. You know, if it turns out you’re not in the mood, then maybe you just cuddle, or whatevs. But as this wise person is sharing, you’re saying, ok, tonight I’m going to bring my A game. Which, when dating, did you not do the anticipatory talking with your partner about “when I see you next I can’t wait to……”?? And shave/dress accordingly? Yes, you did. So maybe this is the older, grown up version of that?? I’m still thinking it through. But I’m liking the idea that discovering sex has fallen down on the priority list doesn’t mean it has to stay there. And that maybe it’s loving to say to your partner, I’m going to make sure to try and spark some love on the regular.

      • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

        Exactly! It’s like dating. Our courtship wasn’t all spontaneous romance. 99% of it was planned out and scheduled. And sometimes it was fireworks and sweet music and sometimes it was borderline inappropriate laughter and sometimes it was sitting quietly just being with each other. That doesn’t change when you get married. “Date night” does not stop being important after the wedding. In some ways, it’s even more important.

      • Another Meg

        I might have scheduled time for cuddles on our Google calendar for each day this week. It WORKS!

    • Chris Bergstrom

      “Imagine if Christmas suddenly happened after lunch today.”

      I’m imagining it, and it is hilarious!

  • http://www.soulwanderings.com One soul

    This is brilliantly hilarious. The idea is sensible. Maybe not for always, but perhaps during times of high stress and time pressure, to make sure sex doesn’t get forgotten totally. There was a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour on this very topic recently, which was a good listen.

  • EAL

    Any other suggestions for premarital counseling sessions like the one mentioned above? Non-Christian-based, progressive, etc. Personal recs are great!

    • http://www.abuttercreamwedding.com Sara C.

      The questions book is great, but I highly recommend some two-on-one time with a therapist :-). We just called googled and called several therapists in our area until we found one that we got a good vibe from and scheduled 4-5 sessions with. I think one thing that helped was we were specific with what we are looking for; i.e. we’re getting married and we’re worried that we can’t communicate because we are always butting heads over X and Y. If that makes sense. Very, very helpful to this day.

      • Contessa

        I definitely recommend couples therapy too. The assumption that you can take 2 people with 2 personal histories and family communication cultures and just assume that they will know how to talk to each other effectively is insane and unfair. My lovely fiance and I are currently getting some lessons which I hope will help us when it’s not as easy to talk.

    • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

      I’ve been looking for someone with experience facilitating conversations around big issues like children, family, religion, money, and end of life care — basically, a secular version of the kind of premarital counseling usually done by rabbis and priests — for months, and have not been able to find anything. Seminars, yes, and couples counseling around big communication issues and life patterns, but secular premarital counseling does. not. exist. I did eventually find a place that advertised premarital counseling for same-sex couples. Perfect! I turned out to be their first caller ever. In four years.

      • Leigh Ann

        My husband and I actually went to premarital counseling about a year and a half before we got engaged. (The problem being that we weren’t engaged; he still had some major roadblocks to making that decision that we couldn’t work out just between the two of us.) I called my insurance company to see if counseling would be covered and surprisingly, it was. We never would have been able to go otherwise. This was with Anthem Blue Cross (I don’t think Kaiser covers it). We just went to the first guy on Anthem’s list who called us back, after making sure that it wasn’t going to be Christian counseling (at my insistence. Owen would have been fine getting married in a church and counseled by a pastor/priest). It was really, really valuable for us. However, if you don’t have a great job or insurance that covers family counseling, it can be cost prohibitive.

      • Dawn

        I actually just made an appointment for couples counseling at the same office where I have done my individual counseling (my therapist just moved far away so we couldn’t just go to my counselor — which sometimes is not the best idea anyway). I think for the most part, if you’re just looking for the standard premarital counseling gig, most counselors/therapists can help you with that. We’re actually not going for premarital (no engagement, just some major issues with communicating — two extreme conflict avoidant introverts in a relationship together = years of not talking about basic stuff that now really needs to get resolved).

        Depending on where you work, if you have an Employee Assistance Program, it should cover couples counseling. I know mine did but the therapist I wanted to go to is not on my EAP list so I’m doing it through my general insurance so it will be a $50 mental health copay. Which I think is totally worth it.

    • Rachel T.

      I’m not sure if this is a nationwide thing or if you’re in the Philadelphia area, but I know Penn started something called the Center for Relationships that has a pre-marital three session package where you take a marital quiz (like the questions) separately and go through your answers with a counselor and address any major discrepancies. Additionally, we chose to continue seeing our counselor after our pre-marital sessions to discuss communication and how to improve on both sides (we both have family issues that make communication tough), so it was a good segue way for us. Even better, if you’re financially strapped like us, it was a grad program where you could choose a “student” counselor for less. It’s been a GREAT choice for us and have made us even stronger.

    • http://catoctinmountainmama.blogspot.com/ Catoctin Mountain Mama

      My husband and I had an amazing experience at a 4 day (28 hour) intensive P.A.I.R.S. workshop. There were 3 other couples in our class – one that had been married for 40 years, one for 25 years, one for 8 years. My husband and I have been married for 1 1/2 years and everyone in class agreed that P.A.I.R.S. would have been incredibly helpful as Pre-marital Counseling.

      There’s not an ounce of religion in the workshops (that was key for me)…it’s all about learning more effective communication skills (something that helps us in ALL aspects of life, you know). The tools seem a little clunky in the beginning, but with practice they start feeling much more natural.

      Here’s one of the communications tools…

      http://catoctinmountainmama.blogspot.com/2012/03/birthinga-closer-partnership-through.html

      If it’s hard to find a workshop in your area (which range in length from 4 hours to 1 weekend for 10 months), talk to a local therapist. Many have been trained in P.A.I.R.S (it’s been around for a while, like longer than my husbands has been alive). The workshop we took actually qualified us to teach P.A.I.R.S. (which is kind of weird but an interesting benefit).

  • Brittany

    This was great! I’ve found marriage prep so helpful, and am really glad it was required, because I don’t know that I’ve had done it otherwise. I know it wasn’t the point of this article, but I just wanted to note that while Fertility Awareness Methods might not be for everyone (or even most) there is a pretty huge difference between FAM and the rhythm method, namely being science. The rhythm method assumes all women opporate on the same calendar and is highly ineffective, whereas FAM is based on a scientific understanding of a woman’s fertility, and when used correctly is as effective as other methods of birth control.

    • lmba

      Yup, FAM is great. Doesn’t usually work well as birth control for women with PCOS (for reasons that are much better discussed on a medical blog than a wedding one), so it wasn’t right for me, but I WISH it was because it is awesome in every other way!

    • Marbella

      I was going to make this same comment – Natural Family Planning is NOT the rhythm method. I really wish I had learned more about how my own body works before spending years on the pill. It took a Catholic marriage prep course for me (a non-Catholic) to fully understand at the age of 26 how my reproductive system works (and ladies, if you haven’t done something like this, you probably don’t really understand either. I am pretty well educated and thought I did).

    • meg

      That’s very true. FAM is actually a really important thing I think all women should learn (call it a feminist issue, learning about your body, which western medicine doesn’t focus on). I think everyone should learn it, whether you want kids or REALLY don’t, or use seven kinds of birth control or none. (Or even if you have PCOS, because it can actually show you that you have PCOS, which doctors usually can’t, sigh.) It teaches you the basics of how your particular body works, and is awesome! I almost edited the post to say something like that, but it’s Madeline’s post and the joke was too good ;)

      But seriously, all women should be taught about mucus at 16, or something.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility to everyone. Probably inappropriately often, but still. Even if you don’t use it, the knowledge is wonderful.

        • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

          I buy it at our local used bookstore to hand out to people.

      • lmba

        Definitely agree – I have PCOS and I chart my cycles according to FAM principles because it gives you SO MUCH INFORMATION about what your body is and is not doing, which is important when you have endocrine issues. However, in the post it seemed to be pointing to checking cervical mucous as a means of birth control, and because PCOS ends up making your body seem like you are about to ovulate A LOT of the time, it is pretty much useless as a sole means of birth control for many PCOS-ers. Unless you want to have sex like, never.

        But even if you aren’t going to practice FAM, the process of learning it makes it so much easier to own your own reproductive health, so I agree with you that every woman should read up on it.

        • meg

          I think I’m more into FAM as just “shit you should know” than birth control. Though obviously it’s helpful with reverse birth control, so to speak, if you don’t have issues like PCOS. ALSO! For those of you thinking “hummm maybe, but I don’t know…” You can just read about it and learn about mucus and your cycles and such. If you’re not using it for birth control or baby creation, you don’t need to go all in with a thermometer or anything, you’ll just learn stuff! The end!

      • Emily Rae

        I just learned about mucus, and we’re using FAM now. I LOVE it! I hated the idea that I’d have! to go on birth control, because I am always in the 2% side-effect group, and it just didn’t seem worth it to me. Had my period for 15 years now, and I JUST learned all this about what’s going on?! I’m for sure teaching all young women I know about it from now on.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      I read the FAM book after we got married and WISHED someone had handed it to me when I hit menstruation back in junior high. I could’ve spent two decades actually understanding my body rather than making guesses. And we might have discovered my extensive endometriosis a lot sooner.

      • meg

        Totally. And you don’t need to read the WHOLE book, it’s full of a ton of crazy hippy mockable crap. But you should buy it and read the KEY parts. At, 16, quite possibly.

        • Cara

          Indeed. Actually, she also wrote a book called Cycle Savvy specifically for teenagers.

      • Sarah

        This is why I should read APW comments more often. I know nothing formal about my mucus. Buying the book now.

        • meg

          Let the formal mucus eduction begin.

          (Feel free to read parts of it out loud and mock her language choice openly ;) I couldn’t get past “Delicious fertile intercourse” myself. But STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW, hippie crap aside.)

          • aine

            You think that’s bad, the catholic version we used has phrases like “sexual lovemaking” and my favorite, our “sexual powers”. Husband and i definitely bonded over giggling at that book. I wonder if that’s what they REALLY mean when they say it brings you closer as a couple.

          • Teffer

            I have to confess, the biggest hesitation I have regarding hormonal birth control is “But my ovulation week! I don’t want to lose my ovulation week!”

            Everything is better when I’m ovulating.

        • Emily Rae

          I’ve also found the website OvaOva to be really helpful. It’s how I’ve learned all I now know about FAM, and there’s pictures! Of mucus! Which may not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it immensely helpful. And the woman who runs it is super-helpful.

  • Caroline

    When I suggested sex because we were both so stressed and tired we were hardly having any, my partner swiftly nixed the idea for the romantic spontaneous reasons often given. What’s funny is, we actually do have scheduled sex. It’s a mitzvah (Jewish religious obligation) to have sex with your spouse (barring a few other reasons you wouldn’t be able to have sex) on the evening of the Sabbath (Friday nights.) So Friday night is sex night. (Even though he isn’t Jewish. Sex night is the type of obligation he’s happy to help me fulfill). It’s great because it means mostly, even in our most tired, exhausted states, we have sex at the minimum once a week (some weeks we’re at it way more, but it helps with stress-induced dry spells). Fridays become sort of an aphrodisiac. We know we’ll have sex, so it makes is both horny.

    So, yes, yay scheduled sex.

    • Karen

      Wow! I had no idea. Just learned something new!

    • meg

      Oh yeah it is.

      (Though I should clarify that in progressive and reform Judaism a Mitzvah is translated as “an invitation.” Basically, an invitation from God, or your culture (if you’re atheist), to fulfill a tenant of Judaism/ do a good deed. Shabbat sex is totally a good deed.)

      • Caroline

        Very true Meg. I grew up understanding a Mitzvah as a good deed, but now view it as a religious obligation. I find it helpful and beneficial. Like last night, I realized that since my lack of sleep has been affecting my mental state, I am religiously required to go to bed early because of the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, to save a life/health. Since I am harming my health by being sleep deprived, I have an obligation to go to sleep even though that has been really hard lately. Not just an invitation, but am commanded to. Super helpful.

        That said, I love that folks have many ways of being Jewish, and frankly, any way you cut it, Shabbos sex rocks.

  • Victwa

    Well, for everyone that does not have kids and wants to have kids at some point, I would just like to say that children and their needs have a way of pushing things that aren’t scheduled into the “well, didn’t get to that today… or this week” category. So yeah. Scheduling sex is actually quite useful. While it may not seem as exciting as unplanned, 4 in the afternoon whoopie, well, when you have a 6 year old running around at 4 in the afternoon, the spontaneity factor is rather inhibited. For couples that have multiple children and still manage to have enough sex for everyone to feel satisfied through spontaneous happenings, well, I salute you.

  • lmba

    Scheduling sex doesn’t mean ONLY having scheduled sex! But it does mean that a baseline level of physical intimacy is maintained, regardless of whatever else is going on in life. Plus, I think it’s generally true that *doing it more* makes you want to do it more. So scheduling yourselves to DO IT MORE will probably make you end up doing it even more than you have planned! ;)

    Spouse and I (going into year 3 of marriage soon) have started scheduling Sex Weeks every month – 7 consecutive days each month that we must “do it on the daily.” And it is NOT always romantic and it is NOT always earth-shattering sex, but it stops us from getting into any serious ruts and is a way that we can both demonstrate we are committed to our intimate life. Plus, it tends to encourage creativity!

    • meg

      TOTALLY. I wanted to make that point too, that scheduled sex does not mean you can’t have surprise sex. In fact, I’d argue that it’s going to make you way more likely to have surprise sex, because you’re all fueled up.

    • Cali

      So… I love the idea of scheduling designated “Sex” weeks. I’m totally going to steal that from you.

    • Teffer

      Apparently, one of my Gentleman’s pastors once suggested to his congregation that all married couples commit to having sex every day for a week, as a helping-marriages exercise.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    “We were definitely looking for something non-mucus-based.”

    I cannot explain to my boss why I am laughing – “No, no, it’s nothing important.” Thanks for sharing, Madeline! I think laughter is the best way to approach a lot of these topics – not mean laughter, just not-being-afraid-to-be-silly laughter. (Which was one of the best pieces of sex advice I ever got, coincidentally: “Never go to bed with someone you can’t laugh with about how ridiculous sex can be.”)

    I sometimes feel like someone should hand out a list of things under a header: “These are totally normal and do not mean your relationship is doomed.” It would be so very helpful!

    • Cali

      Hahaha, we have definitely had at least a handful of sexual encounters where we both just started giggling uncontrollably about something ridiculous that was happening (a weird sound, the cat trying to sit on us, or whatever). Gotta be able to laugh at yourselves, otherwise it makes sex suuuuuper uncomfortable when it’s not perfect/romantic/smoking hot every single time.

  • ANON

    So even though the mucus-referencing was very funny, I just want to put in a small plug for keeping track of your physical cycle as 1) a good way to make sure you’re all healthy-times down there, and 2) for tracking your fertility in a more sciencey way :).

    • meg

      Oh yeah, totally mentioned in comments above. But we’re never going to cut a good joke here at APW. That’s what I live for.

  • Cass

    Now that my husband and I are in marriage counseling, this is DEFINITELY something that comes up in other places! So if you’re uncomfortable with the group setting, try a private counselor.
    And he or she will tell you: schedule sex.

  • Marlo

    I just wanted to put a plug in for scheduling intimacy, rather than SEX per se. My fiance and I have found that if we set up the expectation that we are going to have sex, any non-intercourse intimacy that happens feels like a failure. Sex hasn’t always been easy for us, and it isn’t always what we want. If we plan to make out / make eye contact / see what happens, then whatever way we get close feels like success.

  • eb

    I’m seeking a premarital counselor in NYC right now (same specs as you – non-denominational, open minded, etc…), does anyone have any recommendations for people they’ve tried and liked? Preferably someone who takes insurance?

    • http://www.sarahhoppes.com Sarah

      I 2nd this request verbatim!

    • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

      ooh, should have left my comment here:

      we used a program called Prepare Enrich, and it has a search thing for finding local therapist (or religious folk) who can administer the program. We really enjoyed Prepare Enrich. It is more geared toward looking at our areas of similarities and differences so we can discuss those areas of difference. I’m totally not affiliated, but we enjoyed it, and I want to pass the word along.

      • http://www.sarahhoppes.com Sarah

        Thanks, Leah!

  • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

    I started reading “Blink” about 3 months into wedding planning and had to put it down because it was terrifying and depressing me.
    I kept analyzing every interaction we had looking for contempt and becoming more and more jumpy and defensive every time we disagreed. I feel a bit better now that I’ve stopped reading, but the fear still sneaks in!

    • meg

      Oh, I totally recommend actually reading Guttman’s books to anyone. It’s helpful, and well explained, and you’ll learn a lot about the ways you communicate, what to nip in the bud, and the stuff you thought was bad that’s actually totally fine (YELLING!)

  • Leigh Ann

    My husband and I have never had what you might call a “fiery” sexual relationship. We have been basically having to schedule sex for a loooong time. It used to bother us both quite a bit that we didn’t have more sexual chemistry, and it even kept us from getting engaged for a long time. But now we are fine with it. We don’t exactly “schedule” time but we start talking about it a few days in advance (“We should really make love soon.” “Yeah, definitely.”), then we kind of play it by ear until a more organic situation — ahem — arises.

    Especially being newlyweds (we got married in November), we get a lot of these wink-wink-nudge-nudge comments like we must never get out of bed. And there’s still so much assumption out there that you MUST have intense sexual attraction for anyone you decide to marry. I’m always comforted when I hear that it doesn’t always come naturally for other couples, either.

    • Anon

      My FH is on medication that affects his sexual drive, so honestly, we don’t have sex that often. But we are intimate in other ways – we tease each other good naturedly, we cuddle on the couch or in bed, etc. We have various ways of showing and telling each other that we’re attracted, but it isn’t always sex. A lot of times it just doesn’t happen because we’re tired or we aren’t going to bed at the same time, so maybe scheduling sex is a good idea for us too, at least along the “we are going to have sex on weekend nights” kind of thing. We are planning to start expanding our family right after our wedding next month, so that might increase our frequency, at least for awhile, but for long term, it’s good to know that scheduling is okay and might actually help you get in the mood more than always trying to be spontaneous.

  • http://theatreprojects.blogspot.com Jessamarie

    Just wanted to say quickly, because I was a little scared about being lectured about my use of birth control for two hours going into the required Catholic wedding workshop, but it was actually really great. The group workshop is run by a long married couple, never by priests or clergy, so you tend to get real, practical advice. Also, I know that this will depend greatly on the specific couple running to workshop, but in ours the couple basically said, ‘the next page in the workbook is about the Catholic churches beliefs on natural family planning, we are required to point it out to you, and you should maybe read it at some point,” and then they moved back to talking about communication, compromise, how to talk about money…

    I just wanted to ease the fears of any more progressive brides going into religious counseling. I had no idea what to expect going in, and honestly it was awesome.

    • meg

      Oh, EVERYONE I’ve talked to (including APW staffers who I won’t name unless they want to name themselves) raves about the Catholic Pre-Marital Counseling Workshop. I mean, it comes so highly recommended that I was sort of bummed we couldn’t do it.

      Also, obviously I did religious pre-marital counseling, and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. If you are active enough in the religion, and trust your clergy enough, to be married by them, chances are it’s going to be profoundly helpful. And if faith is something important to both of you (even if you come from different places on it), having in a discussion in that space about values and your future is super valuable.

  • Jen

    Love this post and LOVE the discussion – I learnt about NFP serveral years before we were married and found it very empowering. I do have an issue with the last sentence in the penultimate paragraph though – I don’t like the use of the word ‘nasty’ to describe sex. I worry that it shames people, and particularly women, when we describe a natural, and intimate act in a negative way like this – I’m not intending to criticise, and intertested to hear others’ thoughts…

    • meg

      Our editorial policy at APW is that we work to promote author’s authentic writing voices, along with jokes, and slang, and all sorts of word choices. While we edit for tone occasionally, we don’t strip posts of any word that *might* be offensive, because well, I think you miss a lot of interesting writing that way. And to me, “do the nasty” is a hilarious, fairly early 90′s reference. It was certainly part of the color of my adolescence, and not a joke I’d ever remove, given that it was used with good intentions.

      (Though feel free to discuss if you personally like the phrase or not. I’m rather fond of it, but then, it’s part of my coming up. I also don’t really tend to think of sex in glowing intimate ways all the time, sometimes you know, it’s nice to think of it other ways. Cough. My husband also points out that it’s not gendered. EVERYONE can do the nasty…)

      • Rowany

        I think the goal of not shaming women for sex is honorable, but honestly, I think it’s not the use or non-use of slang terms for sex, but rather the censorship/self-censorship for the sake of PC-ness that perpetuates the stigma around sex and women’s relationship with it. People talking about “doing the nasty” does not mean sex cannot be an intimate act as you describe, but preventing them from talking about it or chastising them promotes the idea that women don’t/shouldn’t have dirty thoughts or don’t like having sex for sex. Sometimes sex is special and intimate, sometimes it’s just fun and meaningless, but either way usually there are bodily fluids involved, so I think the use of “nasty” is just fine. In fact, I think the best way to make women more comfortable with sex is to have a safe, open forum to talk about it (aka APW).

        • meg

          Amen to that.

          I’m kind of on board with the Nasty, for Feminism!

  • Chris B

    Just wanted to say that my now-husband and I also went to the Marriage Success Training seminar (Patty and Greg Kuhlman). I wanted to get our marriage off on the right foot and this seemed like a good way to start. (He wasn’t totally excited about it, but agreed to go because it was important to me and he’s awesome like that.)

    Afterwards we both agreed that it was super-helpful, and even enjoyable. It gave us a bunch of tools for talking, and we brought up a few little things we hadn’t really talked about because they were little, but which we are now glad we’ve started conversations about.

    I’d highly recommend their program to anyone.

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    I know you didn’t ask about marriage counseling, but I thought I’d mention what we did. We also wanted something non-religious but not focused on problems. We ended up going with Prepare Enrich, which can be done by a religious leader or a therapist. Their website had a search method to find people in our area.

  • Rachel T.

    I love this post so much. My fiancé and I struggle with the sexual part of our relationship, not because we aren’t attracted to each other or there’s “something wrong with him” (seriously, our friends have said that… wtf), but because we’re both just not hyper sexual people. We have gone months without having sex, and neither of us feel bothered by it until an external factor makes us feel guilty. Don’t get me wrong (because I’m already feeling anxious about the judgements some may have as they read this… sorry APW), we are extremely affectionate. We sit together all the time, kiss tons, poke and squeeze and fondle as we make dinner, but we just aren’t sex every other day people. Neither one of us has that in us. So, in an attempt to not get SO used to not having sex all together, we have started scheduling. At this point, we only did that once (we arranged a whole President’s Day Weekend around sex… in a hotel room… oh yes), but it was GREAT because it didn’t come with the pressure of “what is he thinking” “what is she thinking” “is he too tired” “do I look okay” that often comes when we “do it” as a result of external pressure. When we arranged it ourselves, it felt so much more natural, ironically. So thank you for this. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Anon

      Rachel, I may have to try scheduling it that way. Thank you!

  • Cali

    There’s an interesting thing I’ve come to realize about sex: At least to a certain extent, it’s habit-based. Not in that it always has to be the same, but that if you’re in the habit of having sex… you’ll have way more sex! If you fall out of the habit (say, you get sick for a while or you’re both tired or busy) then you’ll have less sex. And, at least in my case, when I have sex more often… I want sex more often! It’s kind of a weird catch 22.

    While we don’t literally schedule sex (though I’m giggling at the idea of typing “10:00 p.m. – Do it Doggie Style” into my iPhone), I purposefully make an effort to have sex even when I’m not “in the mood,” per se. I’ve found that, if I’m not horny, fooling around generally MAKES me horny awfully quickly.

    In a way, though, I suppose I do sometimes “schedule” sex. For example, this morning as we were heading out to work, I told my fiance, “Tonight, I’m going to jump your bones.” It’s a plan. Just not literally scheduled on my calendar. Hehe.

    • meg

      “There’s an interesting thing I’ve come to realize about sex: At least to a certain extent, it’s habit-based. Not in that it always has to be the same, but that if you’re in the habit of having sex… you’ll have way more sex! If you fall out of the habit (say, you get sick for a while or you’re both tired or busy) then you’ll have less sex.”

      TRUTH, people.

  • maura

    i’m SUPER late here, but we went to one of their seminars too! and loved them!

    and we use the things they taught us all the time. it’s a great base level to have with each other when talking about our feelings, and how actions make us feel like there is negative emotional overload, NEOing in our house. it helped us with learning how to really listen to each other.

    greg and patty are super sweet people. i highly recommend it.