If you’re some creepy dude reading this to try to extract more pleasure from your wife – go away. This is not about exploitation.
But, if you’re a husband or wife who wants more physical intimacy, and you’re committed to the growth and overall health of your marriage, then you’re in the right spot. This is more about what what you’re not giving, than what you’re not getting!
First we’ll start with three short term strategies about what you can do differently today, then we’ll move into three longer term strategies that are more strategic and more about marriage building.
We might stereotype a bit here as typically men have a higher desire than women. If your relationship is the opposite, that’s fine – just switch genders throughout this blog post!
Three Ways to Initiate Sex Today (Short Term Strategies)
A recent study looked at what factors had an impact on the sexual desire of women in long term relationships. Out of all the factors that they listed, two are particularly relevant “partner characteristics” that relate to things an individual can do to increase sexual desire in his spouse.[i]
Display Attentiveness To Your Spouse
When the women from this study observed their spouses putting effort into the relationship, it made them more likely to want to engage in sexual activity.[ii]
This is a great starting point! If your heart isn’t in the marriage, Mr. Husband, why do you expect your wife to have her heart in the sex? We shouldn’t have to say things this obvious but sometimes we need to really wake up and be confronted with the truth. Caleb has literally had wives tell him in the counselling office that they just feel “like he needs me in the kitchen and in the bedroom.” That is not a good feeling!
What these researchers noted is that this care for the marriage relationship was demonstrated through romantic or thoughtful gestures that happened OUTSIDE of a sexual setting.
When you extend romantic gestures outside of a sexual context and do so without any expectation of sexual activity, that tells your spouse you appreciate them as a person – not just as a sexual possibility. If you only warm up the romance when you’re trying to get her sexual engine going, you’re basically just objectifying your wife.
This study had some great quotes from the women they spoke to. Men, listen closely. Women – can you relate?
“When it comes down to it, when you’re hopping into bed at night and there has been no romance through the day, for me, I’m like “Back off, you can’t just expect that right away.” (Jill, 28)[iii]
Another woman suggested that if her spouse took her out to dinner this would increase her desire afterwards, instead of just proposing sexual activity when they were in bed together. “It just shows that he’s planned something or that he put thought into what’s going on instead of rolling over in bed and saying, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ Like, it just feels like it’s more thought being put into it and I think that’s what I appreciate more.” (Carly, 21)[iv]
Murray and Milhausen, the researchers, conclude that sexual scripts are effective – setting the stage helps both spouses understand where things are headed. It makes things predictable.
The other point here that is critical is the idea of being invested in the relationship for the sake of the relationship; not just for the sake of sex. That’s why people use prostitution – they want sex without a relationship, but it doesn’t fulfill the deeper more important need of whole-person connection (i.e., relationship). That’s what makes marriage sex the best is that you’re building intimacy with the whole person!
Engage in Intimate Communication With Your Spouse
Going back to the same study we’ve been looking at, “most women indicated that having an intimate, emotionally revealing conversation” with their spouse brought them closer. One woman explained that being emotionally close with her spouse through conversations “made her want to get closer to him physically as well.”[v]
Here are a quote from the study to illustrate this:
“Yeah often, I think it’s just, like, I get so ecstatic that we’re on the same level. Like, I guess in my life I never imagined that I would have such a deep meaningful connection with someone. So like, when it comes out in sort of those deep meaningful conversations, I just feel so connected and so excited and I feel an urge to be intimate with him.” (Lily, 26)
The women in the study indicated that intimate communication helped them feel sexual desire whereas ineffective communication decreased desire.[vi] Really taking the time to talk about what is important to both of you is vital. You have that incredible emotional connection and it’s like you just to want to seal that or affirm that with the physical.
Make A Fair Contribution To Housework
We had a chuckle at this study as we talk about this so often!
A study from 2016 looked at over 1300 couples to find associations between “male partner contributions to housework and couple sexual satisfaction and frequency.” The results showed that when “male partners reported making a fair contribution to housework, the couple experienced more frequent sexual encounters, and each partner reported higher sexual satisfaction 1 year later.[vii]
This relates to the first point of showing attentiveness to your spouse. You’re showing you’re invested in the relationship, in just doing caring things, and you’re not just objectifying your wife as your maid with benefits.
Let’s look at longer term strategies now. We’ve had three things you can put into practice today: be attentive, and have an intimate, emotionally revealing conversation while doing the dishes. If you do those three things, there’s a good chance you’ll be heading to bed a little early…
What about longer term?
Change Your Relationship Approach To Improve Your Sex Life (Long-Term Strategies)
At this point, we want you to think about how you drive your relationship forward. If we strip away all the trimming, we really just usually have one of two things we’re trying to do, called approach or avoidance goals.
Approach goals are about pursuing good things together for fun, growth and development.
Avoidance goals are about avoiding negative interactions or encounters and avoiding negative feelings such as conflict and rejection.
Let’s look at a series of three studies, each one completed by the same researchers, that unpacked how using approach goals (positive) worked far better for promoting sexual desire than avoidance goals.[viii]
Setting Positive Relationship Goals Increases Sexual Desire
What these researchers found is that if couples owned and acknowledged positive goals (approach goals) for their relationship, they did better. Here are some examples of approach and avoidance relationship goals:
- I will be trying to deepen my relationship with my spouse.
- I will be trying to move toward growth and development in my marriage.
- I will be trying to avoid disagreements and conflicts with my spouse.
- I will be trying to make sure nothing bad happens in my marriage.
In this first study, it was found that “couples who identified approach goals over avoidance goals had greater sexual desire at the beginning of the study” and “having strong approach relationship goals buffered against declines in sexual desire over a 6-month period.”[ix]
This association was stronger for women than for men, pointing to the fact that goals focused on obtaining positive outcomes in romantic relationships enhanced the women’s sexual desire.
So, husbands, if you’re not getting as much sex as you want in your marriage, one area to really pause and look into is whether your attitude towards your marriage is one of building up or if it’s just one of avoiding problems.
That makes a lot of sense: if you’re avoiding problems, you’re probably avoiding each other at some level – probably the emotional level. And if you’re not connected there, of course the amount of sexual desire between you is not going to be as high.
Couples Who Set Positive Relationship Goals Also Set Positive Sexual Goals
In their second study, these same researchers tried to determine why approach relationship goals lead to an increase in sexual desire. They found that approach sexual goals mediate the relationship between approach relationship goals and sexual desire. If a couple is generally oriented toward promoting positive experienced in their relationships, they are more likely to also engage in sex to pursue positive outcomes.[x]
At the beginning of study two, couples were asked to identify their goals during sex. Here are some examples:
Approach sexual goals:
- To pursue my own sexual pleasure
- To feel good about myself
- To please my partner
- To promote intimacy
- To express love
Avoidance sexual goals:
- To avoid conflict in my relationship
- To prevent my partner from becoming upset
- To prevent my partner from getting angry at me
- To prevent my partner from losing interest in me.
It was concluded that positive sexual goals matter as well as positive relationship goals – again, especially for woman. Their sexual desire is more closely tied to relationship dynmaics than men’s sexual desire.
It’s like the old saying: Men want sex to feel connected, women want connection to feel sexual.
So, think about your sexual goals: are you driven by duty? Or are you having sex just to keep him happy, or to keep him interested? Or are you really vested in approach goals that bring positivity into the sexual intimacy you have?
Days With More Positive Events Lead To More Sex
In their third study, the researchers looked at the impact of positive and negative relationship events on levels of sexual desire.
This is good as, even though these are long term strategies, it helps pull it into the here and now and reminds us that we need to kindle the love and keep throwing wood on the fire.
Here are some examples of positive and negative relationship events.
Positive relationship events:
- S/he told me that s/he loves me
- We participated in an activity that I really enjoy
- During a discussion, I felt understood and appreciated
- He did something that made me feel wanted
- She did something special for me
- We did something fun
- He complimented me
- She made me laugh
Negative relationship events:
- We had a minor disagreement
- He was inattentive and unresponsive to me
- She tried to control what I did
- We had a major disagreement
- His behaviour made me question his commitment
- She criticized me
- He gave me the silent treatment
- She went out with friends instead of spending time with me.
The results of study 3 showed that “people with strong approach goals experienced even greater sexual desire on days that they reported many positive events.”[xi] This makes so much sense! If you’re trying to do well with your relationship and you enjoy the day, you’re just going to want to consummate that. It’s a positive cycle in your intimacy.
There’s another great part here to though: Individuals with these strong approach (positive) goals had LESS of a decrease in desire on days when they had many negative events than individuals with weak approach goals. There is a buffer effect going on too!
If you’re invested in your relationship and making your intimacy a positive experience, even on days when life goes south on you, or you both get your ugly on, you can still often recover and reconnect, much more so than if you don’t have this serious commitment to approach goals.
Increase Sexual Desire
This may not be something that you post on the fridge if you have kids, but it WILL give you 9 Ways to Increase Sexual Desire Through Positivity. Increase sex just by being positive? Yes please!
So there you have it. Three things you can do today to increase your sex life, and three things to work on in the long term that will have a huge impact.
[i] Sarah Murray and Robin Milhausen, “Factors Impacting Women’s Sexual Desire: Examining Long-Term Relationships in Emerging Adulthood,” The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 21, no. 2 (2012): 101–15.
[vii] Matthew D. Johnson, Nancy L. Galambos, and Jared R. Anderson, “Skip the Dishes? Not so Fast! Sex and Housework Revisited,” Journal of Family Psychology 30, no. 2 (March 2016): 203.
[viii] Emily A. Impett et al., “Maintaining Sexual Desire in Intimate Relationships: The Importance of Approach Goals,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 94, no. 5 (May 2008): 808.