Monday, 30 December 2013

Marriage Resolutions

New Year's for me is more than just celebrating a change in the calendar.  It's a time I look back and evaluate the past year and make preparations and plans for the future.  I don't exactly make resolutions but I do make a point of picking one or two things I will focus on improving.  Long lists of resolutions with specific targets is (for me) trying to take on too much at once and then nothing much happens with any of them.

The two biggest priorities in life (in order) are your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse.  Those should also be the first areas to evaluate and work on.  Our relationship with God is relativly simple to manage.  Repent of your sins, pray, read the scriptures, worship God in your heart and also by attending church.  You can count on God to do his part perfectly in that relationship.

Our relationship with our spouse is often a far more complex thing, since both you and your spouse are imperfect people, each with your own set of needs, beliefs, expectations, weaknesses, inhibitions, fears and prejudices.  We can all probably make long lists of things that our spouse could do to make our marriage better, but we need to focus on ourselves.

What are you going to do to make your marriage better this year?  What change can you make that will strengthen your emotional connection, improve your mutual sexual fulfillment, reduce conflict, and increase both of your happiness?  Consider making a commitment to improve in one of these areas:

Forgiveness
You can't achieve real emotional intimacy in a marriage without also having real emotional vulnerability.  That also opens the door for some deep hurts to happen, either through carelessness or personal weakness. Chances are nobody in life will hurt you as deeply as your spouse does at some point, and forgiveness is a must for any lasting marriage.

If there is some hurt you are still holding against your spouse, resolve to get rid of it.  It is a choice to let go of anger and any desire to get them back or make them pay for what they did.  Sometimes that can be hard to do, especially if they do not show a repentant spirit about it.  Remember that Christ already paid for what they did, and his atonement was not just so we can be forgiven of sins, but also so that our hearts can be healed from the pain caused by sin.

Repentance
The other side of the coin from what I said above is that at some point you have probably hurt your spouse more deeply than any other person they know.  While forgiveness is something that should be freely given, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.  To reconcile a relationship harmed by wrongdoing requires the offender to follow the steps of repentance.

Are you aware of how you have hurt your spouse, do you recognize that what you did was wrong?  Does your regret match the magnitude of the hurt you caused?  Is  your spouse aware of your regret and have you made a full confession to them and asked for their forgiveness?  What have you done to make restitution for it or to heal the hurt you caused?

Service
Little acts of service can mean a lot.  Something as simple as bringing them a cold drink when working out in the yard or garden, or going the extra mile for their comfort, pleasure or convenience.  You can only do this by taking your eyes off yourself and focusing on your spouse so you can anticipate their wants and needs and act on that before they can, or before they ask.

Personal Improvement
How can you change to improve your marriage?  Can you get better at speaking your spouse's Love Language?  Is there something you could change to provide greater sexual fulfillment for your spouse, like overcoming an inhibition, or adding more variety and fun into that area of your relationship?  Is there selfishness, pride or other personality traits that keeps your marriage from being all it could be?  Are there things you could do to improve your health or spirituality?

Gratitude
Stop and think of all the things your spouse has done and is doing for you. Have you expressed your gratitude to them for any of that so they feel appreciated?  Gratitude can be expressed in a variety of ways: verbally, written, by an act of service, or even in sexual ways.

Wouldn't it be great to look back a year from now and see that your marriage has become even better?  The path to that starts today with a decision from you on what you will focus on improving.  Make a decision, and make it real by posting below what you intend to work on for 2014.

Have a happy New Year's and all the best for 2014.

Friday, 13 December 2013

What do you REALLY want for Christmas?

I love combining my intimate life with holidays, and Christmas is the pinnacle of all holidays.  Christmas is also about giving, which should be a hallmark of our intimate lives too, so it seems a natural pairing to me.

The last few years I've made a Christmas Wish list that is for my wife's eyes only.  If you don't ask, they may not know you want it.  It's been wonderful to actually be given things off that list too.

I encourage you to make a sexy wish list for your spouse, and ask for them to make one for you.  If you don't have a list from your spouse, here are some ideas on what to give them, or what to put on your own list.

A Love Letter
When was the last time you wrote your spouse a love letter?  If you can't think of it, it has been too long.  Grab some paper and a pen and pour your heart out to them.

You can make it romantic and tell them what you appreciate about them, what they mean to you, praise them, express your love for them, really open your heart.   Or you can make it passionate and  tell them what your fantasies are, what things you most enjoy doing together in private, remind them of great times in the past, tell them how being intimate with them makes you feel and how eager you are for it. Or you can do both in the same letter.

Handwritten is probably better but not required.  It costs next to nothing, just some time, paper, pen, and the willingness to open yourself up and show your feelings.  If you want, you can go to a card shop and write the letter inside a touching, risque or funny holiday card.

An Erotic Short Story
Instead of a letter, you can write a short story for them staring the the two of you.  It's a great way to let your spouse into your head so they can see your fantasy through your eyes.  There are no limits to the setting or situation.  It can be passionate and erotic or light and funny.  You can even just be yourselves in your own lives living out your desires.

Do something new
If there is something you know your spouse would love you to do in the bedroom but you haven't had the nerve to go for it, perhaps make it a Christmas gift.  Push aside your inhibitions for one night and give it a shot.  You can be their Christmas miracle. Or take something you already do up to the next level.

A key turning point in our marriage came one Christmas when my wife decided that her gift to me would be that she would make love with me every day for a week.  This was at a time when she was just starting to enjoy sex after years of not allowing herself to.  Three times a week was a bit of a stretch for her but she decided to do this as a gift she knew I would love and as an experiment to see if she could, and if she could enjoy it.  That week turned the spark of her sexual awakening into a flame that is still spreading. 

Make love by the Christmas tree
It may be hard to arrange things so you have sufficient privacy from your kids or house guests, but it will be worth it.  There is something wonderfully magical about a room where the only lights are from the Christmas tree.  You could even do yourself up as a present and let them unwrap you, just a little paper and ribbon in the right places and gift tag saying you are for them.

Intimate wear
Lingerie, silk boxers, short bathrobes, sexy consumes, fishnet stockings, or just a gift card so they can pick something like that out themselves (although it is fun to shop for it together).

Coupon Book
There are places online you can buy books of intimate coupons, but I think it is better to make it yourself.

You could have coupons for showering together, making out, 60 second kisses, long hugs, special positions, taking intimate photos, oral sex, 30 minutes of caressing with no sex, even being their sex slave for the evening.  You can be as wild or tame as you are comfortable with. 

A 'Couples Only' Game
There are a number of games on the market intended for loving couples to combine both intimacy and fun.  Some are board games, some are card games, some are for playing on your smartphone as a way of keeping in touch while apart. I'm not going to make any recommendations, but it may be good to pick a game that can be customized.

You can also create your own game.  Just add some new rules to a game you already enjoy.  Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, be creative.  You can also create a game from scratch. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Make the Bedroom a nicer place to be naughty
Nice bed sheets, romantic lighting, mood music or just spend some time decluttering and organizing things in the bedroom.  The nicer the room, the easier it is to relax and enjoy each other there, and the less distractions there are.

Daring accessories
If you are both up for it, handcuffs, blindfolds, soft braided rope and other aids for the adventurous. Don't do this unless you know they are OK with using those things.  You don't want this to backfire on you.

A Weekend Away at a Hotel
A weekend away from everything, with most of it being just the two of you and a Do Not Disturb sign on the door is something that should happen at least once a year if at all possible. Usually we start it off by going to the temple, and after that it's just us.  Sometimes we've just gone out exploring places we've never been and had some wonderful romantic times.
--

Even if you don't do any of the above, do make sure that you and your spouse use the holiday season to strengthen the bond between you.  Be each others best gift.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Two things women need to know about foreplay.

Women are usually considered the experts on foreplay, and seeing as each woman is in a position to  know her body better than anyone else, we men should look to our wives to be our guides and teachers in this area.  All the same, there are some things a woman may need to be told herself. 

It's for more than just getting aroused.
There is a mistaken idea that foreplay is just a warm up for intercourse, and intercourse is where the real pleasure (and orgasms) are found.  Hollywood movies promote this myth nearly every chance they get.  In many cases a woman's sexual pleasure comes more from foreplay than from intercourse and it is estimated that 70% of women can't achieve orgasm from intercourse alone yet nearly all can from sufficient foreplay.  The primary source of female pleasure comes from clitoral stimulation, and most of the time intercourse does little to provide enough action there to bring a woman to climax.

If a woman feels shame over her sexuality, has a case of the 'good girl syndrome', or finds sex unpleasant or painful in some other way, she may move the love making from foreplay to intercourse as soon as she is aroused to speed things up, making it much less likely that she will have an orgasm.  After a while her frustration may lead her to be critical of her spouse, or conclude that there is something 'broken' about her sexual response, when the truth is she is working against herself.  Trying to get it over quickly doesn't 'get it over'.  Likewise if the husband sees her arousal as the only objective of foreplay he may unintentionally deprive her of the pleasure she should receive from him.

Instead, prolong foreplay past the point of arousal.  The wife should give the husband the direction and feedback he needs to make it effective, and encourage him to keep providing the stimulation she enjoys until she is as fully satisfied as possible.  Find what new levels of pleasure can be reached through foreplay and count it as a great success if she climaxes before intercourse takes place.  In some cases an orgasm during foreplay opens the possibility of an orgasm during intercourse as well, or at least a greater level of pleasure.

Men need foreplay too.
It's common to assume that men do not require any foreplay.  They are ready to go at a moment's notice and don't want anything to delay getting to 'the good stuff'. 

Not all men fit that stereotype, especially once they hit middle age.  Once past 40 testosterone levels usually start to fall and it is not uncommon for them to start needing their wife to participate in foreplay for the sake of his arousal rather than only recieveing his attention.

Men need foreplay even when that is not the case though.  While they may not need any foreplay at all to get fully aroused, they do need it to feel wanted, desired, appreciated and loved by their spouse.  They want affirmation that their wife has sexual feeling for him, that she enjoys making love with him, and that she is giving herself to him with enthusiasm. 

A wife will have to learn about her husbands foreplay  needs the same as he needs to learn hers.  There must be open communication and even experimentation.  It may be seeing his wife in lingerie, hearing her express her intimate thoughts to him, kissing, touching, dancing for him or other things.  Investing the time and effort in making sure that foreplay meets both her needs for physical stimulation and his needs for emotional stimulation will have a huge return in terms of your bond with each other.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Tricks and Treats


You all know what tomorrow is right?  It is the day to start getting all kinds of costumes really cheap.  I'm not talking about costumes for the kids to wear on Halloween, I'm talking about costumes for you.  Things you can use to spice things up in the bedroom by adding a little fantasy role playing.  Certainly a nice way to end this holiday, but it works just as well any night of the year.

A sense of fun and playfulness in your sex life is a wonderful thing to have.  Laughing together is as much a bonding moment as any hug if not more, and going the extra mile to make yourself visually appealing to your spouse tells them that they are important to you, as well as perhaps allowing them the chance to find the fulfillment of some of their fantasies in your arms.

And trust me ladies, we men fantasize.  We are not just stirred by things actually seen, but also by the mental pictures we create.  We look at our wives and picture her in a French maid outfit, or as a cheerleader, a princess, and more.  Nothing wrong with that when it is your spouse you are fantasizing about.  And guys, don't think she hasn't pictured you as her cowboy, fireman, knight in shining armor, or something like that. 

It actually takes a higher level of intimacy to put on a sexy costume for your spouse than to strip naked.  You can fully undress your body and keep your heart walled up tight, but to put on a costume do a little fantasy role playing requires a level of emotional nakedness.  You have to shed your adult mask at least partially and allow yourself the emotional freedom and vulnerability of a child. 

It is also a way of showing your spouse that their sexual fulfillment is important to you, and that you are comfortable with seeing yourself as a sexual being.  Naturally if seeing yourself that way is a challenge for you, or if you have good reason to fear that emotional vulnerability will lead to a painful rejection, it may be something for you to work towards in your relationship.  It doesn't have to be a surprise to your spouse, go ahead and ask them what kind of sexy costume they would like to see you in, what fantasies they would like to role play with you in the bedroom.  You can also work up to it slowly.  Instead of a full blown costume, a masquerade mask can add a lot of allure all by itself.

 I know some people have concerns about role playing out fantasies that include what in reality would be violations of the law of chastity.  I think there is a big difference between acting something out for fun and preparing to do something for real.  As kids we play all kind of make believe, but we don't worry that playing coyboy's and indians will make a kid grow up to commit murder, or that playing cops and robbers will lead somebody to life of crime, or playing house will cause teen pregnancy.  Rational adults can play act their fantasies within the bounds of their marriage and the result should be a stronger bond between them as they each strive to meet their spouses needs.

So take advantage of the sales to add some tricks to your repertoire, then give your spouse a treat.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Let us oft speak kind words...

What was the last thing your spouse said to you before you started reading this?  Can you remember it?  What was the last thing you said to your spouse?

For most couples, husbands and wives spend some time apart from each other most every day.  There is work, church meetings, going off to buy groceries and taking care of other chores. One thing I try to always remember is to never part from my wife without an expression of love.  Even at 5:50am as I quietly exit the bedroom to drive my daughter to seminary I softly whisper an 'I love you' to to her.  She might hear it, it might just sink into her dream in some way, or go totally unnoticed, but I say it.  If she is awake when I'm going somewhere I'll be sure to give her a kiss on my way out.

Part of it is just having an excuse to hold her in my arms for a bit and indulge in some osculation which is always a pleasure, but another part of it is that I want to be on her mind a bit when I'm not around.  I want her to always remember that I love her, that she means the world to me and it is easier to part from her is I share an intimate moment with her first.  Not to be morbid or overly dramatic, but should something happen to make it our last parting in mortality, I want her last memory of me (or mine of her) to be something loving.

Affection should not be saved for parting however.  Compliments, appreciation, affection, praise, and admiration should not be given out sparingly or grudgingly.  If you have only been saying 'I love you' to your spouse in response to them saying it first, then perhaps it is time to step up and show them that you think things like that without having to be prompted first. 

The more specific a compliment is, the more powerful it is.  I knew somebody who would frequently say 'You're the greatest!' to people he worked with, but it was so general and so over used that it came to mean very little to those he said it too.  If you are going to pay a compliment or give praise then name a specific quality of theirs, cite a specific thing they did or accomplished.

Even if you have to think long and hard to come up with an honest compliment for your spouse (and they must be honest) it is well worth the effort to do so.  The power of a kind word at the right time can be miraculous.  James said:
James 3: 4-5
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.
James was giving warning to the Saints of the strife that can result from poisonous words, but the principle works the other way around also.  The tongue has as much power to heal as it does to destroy.  Or in other words:
Let us oft speak kind words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heather,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love. 
Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.
       -- Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words, Hymn 232
Have you given your spouse a compliment today?  Have you told them you love them?  Have you praised anything about them or anything they've done lately?  If not, perhaps it is time to stop reading and go do it.  If you have, why not go do it again right now? 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Facing the need to change.

One of the things I love about my relationship with my wife is that she welcomes it when I follow my manly impulses.  It doesn't matter if it is a discrete but daring display of physical affection when out in public, a risque text message, wanting to hold the remote control, letting my inner 10 year old out to play, cooking up a pot of super spicy chili, or whatever.  She is fine with me being me and enjoys it when I express my feelings for her in my own way.  She is my partner in all parts of my life, joining me in watching mindless action movies, target shooting (actually I think I was joining her for that) or even going to ComicCon (in cosplay even).  She doesn't try to retrain me, change my interests, mould how I express myself or otherwise reshape me into something I'm not for her comfort.  She will reign me in if I start to go too far but that's a good thing too.

Likewise I don't quash her unique character.  When her fearless optimism sweeps her into starting projects I would never dare to dream of, she knows I won't be one of the obstacles she will face.  I'll watch chick flicks or even play board games with her.  We have expanded each other's horizons many times.  I would have never seen Casablanca were it not for her.

The one area where this did not go so smoothly was in the bedroom.  When we got serious about creating a mutually satisfying marriage we ran head first into the fact that how we act as a lover stems from our sexual identity, and changing our behavior and attitudes about intimacy can't happen without changing something basic about ourselves.  It took a lot more than tagging along to a movie you wouldn't normally choose to watch.

It doesn't work very well if you passively sit back and cheer on your spouse in their pursuit of a better marriage with you, it's your relationship too.  If you don't share a common vision of what your marriage should look like,  what changes would improve it, or if one of you is unwilling to work towards that vision, then that may be the first thing to work on changing.

Sometimes when we are trying to change our marriages for the better it can wind up with one spouse feeling like they are being rejected or not loved for who they are.  It is important to be clear that there is no emotional blackmail going on and your love is not conditional on getting your own way.  The objective is to create a closer bond and stronger attachment that will bring greater happiness to you both, not gratification of your own desires at the expense of your partner's feelings.


Often the 'you want to change who I am' accusation is followed by the the 'why don't you change instead?' question.  And it is a valid question.  It is also a complex question as each situation is unique, and often change is required on both sides.

I would say a good rule of thumb to follow is that change should be in the direction of moving towards each other AND moving towards what God wants marriage to be.  One spouse changing to accommodate the selfishness or other unChristlike characteristics in their spouse is not a good change. Likewise, good change does not create an imbalance so the happiness of one spouse comes at the expense of the other.  If your spouse is challenging you to rise to a higher level of oneness where intimacy with each other and with God is increased, accept the challenge, find a way to rise to meet it, and enjoy the blessings that come as a result.

There are times when serious issues (past abuse, health situations etc.) can make positive change very hard to achieve, or ever make some changes impossible for a time or for all of mortality.  If however the couple is committed to a common vision of what it should be like without such obstacles, then there can be unity in the relationship as they work around them as best they can and look forward to the day when those limits are gone.

Both my wife and I have had to make changes of course.  We have each felt the temptation to push back and try to get our spouse to change so we wouldn't have to improve ourselves, but by ignoring that and making changes for the better we have found a closeness we never would have otherwise.

The Book of Mormon teaches:
Ether 12:27 
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I believe that this applies to our marriages as well.  If emotional intimacy is a weak area, together you can make it strong, likewise with sexual intimacy or any other part of your relationship. What is required is the humility and faith from both of you to work at it with the trust that God will keep his promise and help make it a strength.

Do you and your spouse share a common vision for your marriage?  If you each made a list of what things you would like to see change, are there any things that would be on both of your lists?  Does your spouse know what would be on your list and do you know what would be on theirs?  Change can be scary, but either you pursue it, or you stay where you are until other forces change things for you.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Magical Thinking

At dinner a few nights ago I asked daughter #3 to say the blessing.  She glumly asked 'Do I have to?'.  Before I could answer, daughter #4 spoke up saying brightly 'Do it!  You'll get boyfriend points!'  at which daughter #3 brightened up and said the blessing.

I asked them what they meant by 'boyfriend points' since I hadn't heard the term before and they explained that by doing good things you get 'boyfriend points' and the more points you get the better a boyfriend you will have.  I made sure they understood that was a game and things didn't really work that way.

What they were doing was an example of 'magical thinking'.  Magical thinking is when you come to believe that certain actions will result in something that is in reality completely unrelated to the that action.  While I'm glad she agreed to say the blessing and will be blessed for it in some way, it doesn't guarantee anything about any future boyfriend.

As it says in the scriptures:
D&C 130


20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

Unfortunately, we all tend to fall into the trap of magical thinking now and then, especially when we suffer wrongs we don't deserve.  We can even become angry with the church or with God when our personal righteousness doesn't shield us from trials.

In marriage, magical thinking can be a source of hurt, disappointment, and bewilderment.  It can blind us to dangers, preventing us from seeing warning signs until it is too late.  If you think 'that won't happen in my marriage' then ask yourself why you think it won't.  If you think your marriage is on solid ground because you are aware of what you need to do obtain those blessings and are doing it, then you are probably on the right track.  If it is because you go to church and pay tithing and serve faithfully in your calling then you are probably applying magical thinking.  Doing all those things is good and will bring you blessings, but you can do all that and still fail to obey the laws that will lead to blessings in your marriage.

One common example of magical thinking is the belief that by living the law of chastity faithfully before marriage and being married in the temple, we are sure to have a good marriage and a faithful spouse.  Not so.  Living the law of chastity means you come into marriage without the emotional scars and baggage of sexual sins.  That is a wonderful blessing to be free of that and it creates an environment where it is easier to create a celestial marriage after the wedding, but where the marriage goes after the wedding depends on what the couple does in the days, months and years to come.

A spouse who neglects the needs of their companion or conducts themselves in a selfish or unChristlike manner will provoke unhappiness in the home.  A person who was raised with a very negative view of sex will not suddenly become a passionate uninhibited lover just because they are a virgin on their wedding night.

Another common case of magical thinking is that if a man does more housework, his wife will make love to him more often.  It might happen, if it is the housework burden that is holding his wife back from getting intimate more often.  It won't resolve issue unrelated to housework though.  I'm not trying to discourage husbands from helping out as best they can, it is the right thing to do, but don't do it expecting a sexual payoff.  Do it for her, not for you.

We also shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that we can control everything in our lives through obedience to God's laws.  Other people still have their free agency and get to make their own choices, and at time we are called to go through the refiners fire, individually or as a couple. We do have the promise however that God will keep his word, and while blessings may be delayed, they are never denied to those who follow in faith. Miracles can and do happen as well, but we need to recognize those miracles for the gift from God that they are and not credit ourselves.  Then we can feel the joy of His love.

I hope my daughters do find good boyfriends someday down the road.  If they've listened to what I've taught them about dating and what to look for in a guy they will.   I hope they will still bless supper too, even though they know 'boyfriend points' aren't real.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Fear, the intimacy killer

Intimacy and vulnerability seem to go hand in hand.  Physical intimacy requires making ourselves physically vulnerable to our partner, trusting that they will seek our pleasure.  Likewise with emotional intimacy, it requires we make ourselves emotionally vulnerable.  For some reason emotional hurts go much deeper and last much longer than the physical kind.  They are also much easier to cause, unintentionally or not.  This can create fear that will limit our closeness and fear is the intimacy killer.

I confess that have given in to that fear a lot.  There were things my wife did that hurt or bothered me and I never discussed them with her in order to avoid conflict.  Because I stayed silent, she didn't know she had hurt me and had no reason to change her behavior.  There were things I wanted to try in the bedroom that I was afraid to ask for in case she thought less of me for wanting them, or in case asking would make her feel inadequate or think that I was ungrateful for what she was already doing.  My wife has done the same thing too.  She happens to love hard rock music but she hid that from me for many years fearing I would disapprove and look down on her for it.

Giving into that fear makes bottle up feelings and desires and personality.  We hide who we are and start playing a role rather than being ourselves. Secret hurts are never resolved, secret desires are never fulfilled, secret interests are never fully explored, and you can`t get to really know somebody who is not being genuine.  Those secrets create a barrier to intimacy, and they can also make us vulnerable to temptation when we encounter somebody who accepts the parts of us we are afraid to show our spouse.

Years ago my wife and I were in the process of working out longstanding issues in our marriage and just starting to really open up to each other.  At the start of that journey I though the only thing that needed to change was our sex life, but soon found that I needed to change and stop letting fear shut me down and isolate me from her.

On our anniversary that year we wound up going places we never went before, doing things we never did before, trying foods we never tried before.  Nothing wild or crazy, we just crossed off a few easy bucket list items.  It became a night of firsts.  When we got home to conclude our celebration, I mustered the courage to ask for something I've always wanted to do with her.  I was prepared for the worst, but to my joy and amazement she was perfectly happy to go ahead and it became the perfect end to the night and a new entry on our intimacy menu.  I now kick myself for waiting so many years to ask.

On the other end of the scale, learning I needed to open up to my wife also meant letting her know about some deep wounds inflicted long ago that had not healed.  That was the start of a painful emotional process of reconciliation.  Tearful conversations late at night behind closed doors, struggles to turn feelings into words, questions that were hard to ask and harder to answer.  None of it was fun but opening up and facing it together has deepened our attachment and cleared the air on things that hung around unsaid for far too long.

It is also important that we do not give our spouse good reason to fear being open with us.  If we have a habit of reacting in judgmental and critical ways it discourages our spouse from letting us see who they really are.  Likewise if your spouse can`t be trusted to handle your heart with care, focus on resolving that.

Empathy and charity for our spouse will invite them to be open with us.  They create a warm loving atmosphere where it feels safe to let down the defenses and expose our true, weak self.  Opening up to ours spouse is something else that can encourage them to respond in kind. 

There is nothing so wonderful and so powerful as to know that your spouse really knows who you are, warts and all, and still loves you deeply.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Moving towards sexual fulfillment - Part 2

[Click here for Part 1]

So, you know what your spouse needs to be sexually fulfilled, and you know what you need, and you've communicated that to your spouse.  You've fostered empathy for your spouse so you understand that their needs are real and valid.  What next?

Submission
Submission is not a popular word in our culture, especially with respect to relationships between husbands and wives.  It brings to mind images of an oppressed housewife from decades past, quietly enduring their husband treating them like doormats or worse.  That isn't what I'm talking about.

Submission in marriage should be mutual (as most everything in marriage should be).  Paul taught the saints at Corinth that husbands and wives both should "render due benevolence" to each other (1Cor 7:3).

Benevolence is a desire to do good, charitableness.  In other words, both husband and wife should serve each other.  While we tend to readily understand this in terms of our actions outside the bedroom, Paul goes on to link it directly with each spouse having claim on the very body of their spouse in a sexual context.

Sexual benevolence looks outward with love toward meeting our spouse's needs, not inward to our own selfish satisfaction.  It demands more than just a good intentions or lip service, it requires us to act, even to expand our horizons.  It goes beyond doing the bare minimum and instead glories in going the extra mile.

It is not submitting to the will of your spouse but submitting to your divine role and calling of husband or wife. In doing that you are submitting to God's will and honoring honor temple covenants.

Pride and fear are obstacles to all righteous submission, and submission in marriage requires so much emotional vulnerability that it may take time to learn to let the walls down, but it will be worth it.

Unity
One of the purposes of the sexual relationship in marriage is to create unity and oneness between the husband and wife.  It makes no sense then to pursue sexual fulfillment in a manner that harms that unity.   Every couple will have differences between between their needs that have the potential to become points of contention in the relationship


If trying to reach sexual fulfillment is creating friction in the relationship, something is out of balance.  By nature we resist change and it is easy to say "Why should I be the one to change, you should change instead."  Before saying that, ask yourself what change would bring the marriage closer to mutual fulfillment and which seeks for self fulfillment?  Which one requires somebody to grow and expand their horizons and which one requires somebody to live with an unmet need? What change reflects empathy and submission for the spouse and which reflect defensiveness and self-centered control?  Which change is being requested out of a desire for greater joy, and which our of pride or fear?

Hopefully those questions will lead to you having a common direction with your spouse.  After that it mostly a matter of finding creative ways you can both happily move in that direction.

Pressure is caused by resistance to a force, and stress is caused by forces acting in differing directions.  No spouse should ever feel pushed into doing something they do not want to do.  Voluntarily pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, overcoming your own internal resistance to better meet your spouses needs, is an act of love and charity that leads to growth.  Pushing your spouse is unrighteous dominion and selfishness that will harm the relationship.

Vigilance 
Don't you wish your spouse was so in tune with you that they always gave you the attention and affection you wanted from them as if they could read your mind?  Do you realize they wish the same thing from you?

We can't read minds, but we can pay attention to our spouse for signs of unmet needs.  We can ask them from time to time how we can better meet their needs, and we can pay attention to our own efforts and do our best to proactively provide for their needs.

To maintain sexual fulfillment long term there must be ongoing introspection and communication so that each spouse is up to date on the other.  Needs change over time.  Men who were ready to go at the drop of a hat in their 20's may find that they need foreplay as much (or more) than their wife when they hit middle age.   Other biological changes and health issues may likewise alter a spouse's needs.

We also change emotionally and may experiences times where our intimacy needs also change.  This can manifest itself in any of our needs, increasing or decreasing their importance.  Or we may develop new needs, and something that was once a need may not be important any longer.

Sexual fulfillment is not a one time achievement, it is a constant quest.  There may be dragons to slay, traps to avoid, and wildernesses to cross, but there are treasures beyond compare as well.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Moving towards sexual fulfillment - Part 1

It's all well and good to say that sexual fulfillment is important in a marriage, but that doesn't really help much if there isn't agreement on what that means.  Conflict and frustration are usually close at hand when each spouse has a different picture in their mind of what fulfillment looks like.  If they have conflicting views it can become a big problem in the relationship if left unaddressed.


Sexual fulfillment is achieved over time, sometimes a long time.  It is the result of each spouse doing their best to provide their mate with the a satisfying intimate physical relationship, and helping their spouse do the same for them.  The focus needs to be on serving your spouse, fulfillment is a gift you can only give, not take.

It is important to realize that the objective here is mutual fulfillment. Neither spouse should be left feeling neglected, used, taken for granted, unsatisfied or unappreciated.  In an ideal marriage, fulfilling your spouse sexually is a big part of your own sexual fulfillment.

Over the next few posts I'll go over what I've found to be some key steps that will help in achieving mutual sexual fulfillment in marriage. I don't suggest this the be-all-end-all on the subject, but I hope they will be helpful at least.

Knowledge
What would the perfect sexual relationship look like to you, what would it look like to your spouse?  My wife and I didn't really talk about that at all before or marriage, or after it for many years.  Big mistake. It is really hard to meet the needs of a person when you do not know what their needs are.  It is really hard to tell your spouse what your needs if you don't know what they are yourself.  The clearer you can make the picture in your spouse's mind of what fulfillment means for you, the easier it will be to make that picture a reality. 

Each spouse ought to look inside themselves and determine as clearly as possible what they need to feel satisfied sexually.  What do you need in terms of frequency, enthusiasm, variety, order, adventure, playfulness, fantasy, flirting, safety, risk, foreplay, affection outside the bedroom, pillow talk,  respect, control, submission, privacy, spontaneity, aggressiveness etc. to feel satisfied?  How important are each of these needs, which are vitally important, which ones are desirable but less important? 

Once you have a firm grasp on what your own needs are, then you need to share them with your spouse.  It would be wonderful if we could all read each other mind's and know what to do when to make our spouses feel loved and happy, but it doesn't work that way.  We need to teach our spouse about the person they married.  Tell your spouse what your needs are, perhaps in a letter or email that they can refer back to.  Discuss them together to ensure they are correctly understood. Get the same information from your spouse and become a student of their heart.

Also be aware that a person's needs can change over time, and it is our responsibility to update our spouse as needed.

Empathy
Making your needs known to your spouse can be frightening, it requires making ourselves emotionally vulnerable like nothing else does, and with vulnerability comes an intense fear of rejection.  This is what kept me silent for many years, the fear that if I requested *that*, she may think less of me for it, push me away and desire me less.

It is very important when your spouse is sharing something like this, they are trying to help you both find greater sexual fulfillment.  Do not react by judging them, making them feel ashamed, invalidating their feelings or rejecting them in some other way.  Do that and you will find it very hard to get them to open up to you like that again and instead of drawing closer you'll create a wall.

Shared needs are easy to deal with but the chances are pretty good that your spouse will also have some need that will take you outside your comfort zone.  Likewise you will probably have to stretch yourself to meet their needs.  I'm not talking about things that would harm somebody's worthiness before God, risk landing somebody in jail, or cause physical or emotional trauma, I'm talking about things that are common in healthy sexual relationships but one spouse gets nothing out of, or even feels deeply uncomfortable with doing for other reasons.

It is tempting to try and get your spouse to alter their needs so things are easier for you, but is that how you would like them to behave when it comes to your needs?  No. Also, there is no mutual fulfillment in one spouse engaging something (or doing without something) out of a feeling of duty or obligation.  What is called for is empathy.

Empathy is a form of compassion that enables you to relate to how another feels about something even if you yourself do not feel that way about the same thing,.  It is not pity or sympathy, those are feeling for somebody, empathy is feeling with somebody.

Having empathy for your spouse allows you to draw on your love for them expand your comfort zone so you can meet their needs joyfully, with no resentment. Understanding why that need exists (if possible), or what meaning your spouse attaches to having that need met can help develop that empathy.

Empathy is also a two way street in a situation like this.  One spouse needs to cultivate empathy for the need held by the other, and the other must cultivate empathy for their spouse's inhibition. Then you can take a step back and start taking a deeper look at both the desire and the inhibition.

What about it makes it desirable or undesirable?  Is there a way it could me made more desirable?  How important is fulfilling that desire?  How deep does the inhibition run?  What experiences have contributed to these feelings?  Is it need really just a means of meeting some deeper need?  Is there some other way of meeting that need, a win-win solution? 

It may wind up with somebody growing sexually, overcoming an inhibition and expanding their comfort zone.  It may wind up with somebody having enough empathy for their spouse that their own need is eclipsed by their compassion for their spouse's challenge.  It may be something in between, or move from one to the other.  What is important is that both spouses know that their mate understands and accepts their needs, has empathy for them, and will do the best they can to fulfill those needs.

[Click Here for Part 2]

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Is sex really that important?

Obviously, a blog about marriage is going to wind up talking about the sexual dimension of marriage.  Some people might have a hard time with that.  While we proclaim marriage to be a divine and eternal institution, all too often we feel fear, embarrassment or guilt discussing sexual intimacy, even with our own spouse.  I'm sure some people will find this blog and pass by never to return again as soon as the encounter a sexual topic.  If you are tempted to do that now, please stay a bit and let me plead my case to you.

The sexual dimension of marriage is what sets marriage apart from all other relationships.  Every other aspect of a marriage is something you can have in a relationship with a friend, or sibling, or parent.  Sex then is the defining characteristic of marriage.  When God married Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the fall had not yet taken.  They were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, to become 'one flesh', to cleave unto each other, all before sin entered the world.  The idea of sex being some 'dirty necessity' because of the fall is false.  Married sex was part and parcel of Paradise as God intended it.

Furthermore, The Proclamation on the Family states "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."  We were male and female in the beginning, and will remain so in the resurection as well.  Those who are faithful will have the opportunity to continue their marriage in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.  With sex the defining characteristic of marriage, and gender part of our eternal identity and purpose, the reasonable conclusion is that the sexual relationship between a husband and wife will also continue in the Celestial Kingdom for those couples in the highest degree.

Our mortal life is a probationary period, and everything we have in mortality is a stewardship.  For example, parents have a stewardship over their children, not ownership.  We have a stewardship over our time, talents, our body, our life, and our possessions.  If we are good stewards, then the parable of the talents works in our favor.  Having been faithful with few things, we are given much.

The sexual relationship of a marriage is also a stewardship, and the parable of the talents applies to this area of your life.  Those who abuse their sexuality, either by engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, or by neglecting and starving the sexual relationship they should have with their spouse, will have taken from them even that which they have, and find themselves consigned to state of eternal celibacy if they do not repent.  Those who make better choices shall have eternal lives, and continue to expand their family for all eternity together with their spouse.

There is a cost in mortality to neglecting this stewardship.  A marriage that lacks mutual sexual fulfillment, or any progress towards it, is a source of emotional pain and distress for at least one spouse.  Rather than enjoying the strength and peace that comes from mutual sexual fulfillment in a marriage, they often find themselves in a state that leaves them vulnerable to temptation, depression, anger.  Rather than feeling the closeness of being 'one flesh' there is a gulf of rejection between them.  Left unaddressed, resentments can build up, turn into hostility, rebellion or coldness, and poison even the best relationship to death. 

It's important to note in the parable that not everybody starts off with the same stewardship, and so it is with our sexual stewardship.  Some couples may find their way to mutual sexual fulfillment with relative speed and ease, while another may go through many painful years, even decades, to learn and change so they can get to that same place.  In the end what is important is the direction of the relationship.

So yes, sexual intimacy is important.  Both for the happiness of both spouses during life, and for determining their place in the eternities.  Seeking to get to the point of mutual sexual fulfillment is not just a righteous goal, it is part of your eternal progression.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bedding down

Our bed gets a lot of use.  There is the sleeping of course, and the times where we put out the 'Do Not Disturb' sign and lock the door.  But it is also where we gather for family prayer and family scripture reading.  It was where my wife would nurse our babies, where young children would come for comfort after a nightmare or when feeling ill.  It is where my wife relaxes with a good book or draws up plans for her garden or designs a new home.  It is where my wife and I have had some of our deepest joys and our hardest battles.  Where we have struggled with our hurts, where painful moments have slowly blossomed into new understanding and greater appreciation for each other.  Where Christmas presents have been wrapped and hidden. 

In our time we have gone through a few beds.  As newlyweds we went right from our honeymoon into the married student housing for the university I was attending.  It came furnished, but the bed was an old double mattress over a frame that had no box spring or platform.  The mattress was supported by springs that went side to side across the frame.  When we lay down it felt like we were the meat in a very large soft taco.  That night the frame was removed and the mattress put on the floor. 

We began a quest to find a bed of our own as soon as possible.  I've come to think that having the right bed is important to the intimate life of the marriage.  Here are my observations on the different types of beds we've had:


The Waterbed
Waterbeds are not a very popular choice these days, and if you want one you may have to do some looking for it.  If you are going to get one, get the very best motion reduction you can afford, and don't even think of getting a mattress with no motion reduction.

We had a king sized waterbed for many years. It was nice, especially in winter, to climb into a bed that was already warm, but it also was that much harder to climb out of it in the morning.  You had to get yourself up and over the side of the box holding the mattress.  That was one more reason to hit the snooze button.

There is some maintenance involved, including adding chemicals inside the mattress to help keep the vinyl in good shape, and finding and sealing the occasional small leak (then changing the damp bedsheets).  Any air bubbles in the mattress were a noisy nuisance and getting them out was a two person job.

Moving a waterbed is a big job of disassembling the frame after draining the mattress then moving all the pieces to the new home, putting the frame together and filling the mattress.  By the next day it would be warm enough sleep on.  A cold waterbed mattress is no fun at all.

As far as intimacy went, if you like variety, this is not the bed for you.  It was fine for the missionary position, but other positions were more awkward or even unworkable.  I have no idea if it was coincidence or if the magnetic field of the waterbed heater did something, but every child we conceived in that bed turned out to be a girl.

As we both added on a few pounds we reached a point where our combined weight when together would have us sink to the bottom which was not comfortable, and so decided it was time for a new bed. The mattress of a king sized waterbed is not the same dimensions as a king sized coil spring mattress so we got rid of the entire thing.

Coil Spring
Our next bed was a regular coil spring mattress, still king sized, but not exactly top of the line.  The frame was a metal platform frame so there was no box spring, just the mattress.  The platform part itself was a heavy gauge wire mesh but that had too much flex it in, so I got some 3/8 plywood sheets cut to the right size to drop into the frame and the mattress rested on that.  Problem solved.

Since I expect most of you have experienced coil spring mattress I won't go into detail on that, but the bed frame was very noisy during those intimate moments.  We were not bothered by that too much, but as the kids got older and realized what that noise meant they certainly complained, which gave us a chance to teach them a bit about the importance and rightness of intimacy in marriage.  They complained about that too.

Our mattress began to show a lot of uneven wear, creating a surface with high and low points resembling a map of Middle Earth.  I was getting a sore back from sleeping on it and it was time again to make a change.

Memory Foam
A few months ago we replaced our coil spring mattress with a new memory foam mattress.  The soft and medium mattresses were wonderful to lay on in the showroom, but to roll over felt like rolling uphill due to how deep we sank into the foam. Neither one of us spends the whole night in the same position so we went with a much firmer mattress.  We also made sure that the edges of the mattress held up,  we didn't want to roll over to be near the edge only to sink in to the point where we wind up getting dumped off the bed in our sleep.

We kept the metal frame but because motion is so well absorbed by the mattress, the frame makes practically no noise at all now even when we are at our most energetic.  That also means my light sleeping wife is not disturbed when I roll over or come to bed after she is already asleep.

In most cases there is no significant difference between a coil mattress and a firm memory foam mattress when being intimate, except that it is far more comfortable to kneel on.  The mattress change also added a couple inches of height to our bed, and that has proven advantageous as well but a thicker coil mattress would have given us that too.

In terms of moving, our memory foam mattress is much heavier than our coil spring mattress was, and not as flexible bending around corners as it was brought inside.  I expect softer memory foam mattresses would be more flexible than ours.



The next time you find yourself shopping for a bed, be sure to take into account how you and your spouse sleep.  Do you spoon through the night or each keep to your own side?  Do you stay in one position all through the night or do you move around a bit?  Are either of you prone to be woken up easily if the other rolls over?  But also take into account the impact the bed will have on your sexual relationship.  Does it open up new possibilities or close some off you would like to keep open?

Since you can't test all those things in the showroom, be sure the return policy will allow you to change your mind and be aware of how long you have that option before you make your purchase. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Soul mates, by choice.

There is a popular romantic notion that each person has a 'soul mate', some special one and only person with whom they can have a perfect, life long romance.  Find and marry this person and you will live happily ever after, marry somebody else and it will end badly.  It helps create drama in romantic comedies, but as a guiding principle of relationships here in the real world it can be a hindrance, or even a destructive force.

There are 7 billion people in the world, the vast majority of them you will never ever meet.  Most of those you do meet will be in fleeting, short term encounters.  The person driving your bus, that stranger that asked for directions.  Only a tiny percentage of humanity will ever establish some kind of relationship with you, so from a statistical view, if there were soul mates almost nobody would run into them let alone marry them.

Of course you could take the view that an all knowing Heavenly Father will arrange things so soul mates do meet.  Fine, what happens then if this person dumps you, or is hit by a drunk driver and killed?  How do you cope with failing your one and only shot at bliss?  You could take Heavenly Father's intervention even further, claiming that He would set things up so you are sure to not fail or be thwarted, but that takes you into the territory of mimicking Satan's plan,  restricting everybody's freedom to choose so that specific outcomes are achieved.

The danger lies in the fact that there is no objective way of determining if somebody is your soul mate or not, it's purely emotional.  It can be amusing when some teenaged girl makes monthly announcements of finding her new soul mate, but more than one marriage has ended because one spouse came to believe that the person they married was not actually their 'soul mate' and somebody else was.  That opens the door to having an affair, and even feeling justified in doing so. 

The Church actively discourages the idea of soul mates as well.  President Kimball stated: "‘Soul mates’ are a fiction and an illusion" and Elder Boyd K. Packer said: "I do not believe in predestined love... You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else and waiting for you."

At the same time however, many married couples, both in and out of the church, have experienced being directed toward marrying a specific person.  I've experienced this myself.

I met my wife at a Youth Conference dance when we were both teenagers.  Neither one of us knew many people there so she was trying to meet as many guys as she could, and I was trying to dance with as many pretty girls as I could.  I hadn't noticed her at any of the events before the dance, but the second I laid eyes on her that still small voice told me very clearly that I should go and meet her, which I gladly did.  There was an instant connection and we hung out with each other for the rest of the dance and talked about everything. By the end of that dance we were in love.

As I watched her leave, that still, small voice interupted my thoughts again and told me "She is the one".  I really liked the idea of things turning out like that, but I didn't want the pressure of knowing she was 'the one', especially since she lived a hundred miles from my home in another Stake.  Not ideal conditions for a long term relationship.

I had to be told she was the one three times that night to get past that fear. My fear of failure made me refuse to take it as guaranteed that we would marry, instead I took that revelation as an obligation to do all I could to pursue that outcome, which I did.  After years of dealing with the obstacles of a long distance relationship I popped the question soon after I returned home from my mission nearly 25 years ago.

So, how is it that I can be told she was 'the one' when there is no such thing as soul mates?

The answer is in the difference between predestination and foreordination.  I have no doubt that my wife and I are continuing a relationship that began before the world was, but if I had chosen to jump off the straight and narrow, or if she had, then she would not have been the one for me and I would not have been the one for her.  Instead we would both have been 'the one' for somebody else.  Both of us had our agency, but we both chose paths that made her the one for me and me the one for her.  We are soul mates by choice, not by destiny or fate.

The same can be true of any couple that strive for that kind of relationship in their marriage.  Nobody is a victim or pawn of fate, we are all agents in our marriage.  The choices we made resulted in the marriage we are in, and the choices we make will shape that relationship for good or ill.  While this gives each spouse the power to harm the marriage, it also gives each spouse the power to make the marriage better.  If the feeling that your spouse is 'the one' has been absent lately, perhaps it is time to make some new choices and bring that back.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Intimacy lessons from a jar of peanut butter





A couple of nights ago I felt a bit peckish so I went to make myself a PB&J.  As I reached for the peanut butter, I noticed it was a jar from the grocery store.  Normally we buy 20lb pails of all-natural peanut butter and divide it up into smaller jars we keep in the freezer.  I knew we just finished a jar of that, but I didn't know that it was the last one.  I didn't write peanut butter on the shopping list or say anything to my wife about it when she went out to the store earlier that day.

I am the one who is the primary consumer of peanut butter in the family by far, and my wife rarely eats it, so I was very touched that she noticed we were out and took care of it even before I was aware of the need.

In many ways, I think this is a good metaphor for how intimacy in marriage should be handled.  Each spouse has relationship needs and desires that are personal and individual, and usually they must rely on their partner to fulfill those needs. What one spouse needs may be of no interest to their partner just as food preferences are personal, but marriage works best when each spouse is happily committed to ensuring their spouse's needs are well met.

Does your husband like it when you wear lingerie for him?  Does your wife want you to just hold her close and assure her of what she means to you?  Then do it often enough that they never feel the need to ask for it.  Is there some fantasy or intimate act that would blow their mind to receive?  Plan on blowing their mind when they least expect it.  It means a lot more to your spouse when you show them you know them that well and care enough to act without prompting.

But what about when the desires of one spouse collide with the inhibitions or fears of the other?  This is a situation that can lead to conflict, but if handled well it can lead to personal growth and a much stronger bond between husband and wife.  Certainly there are lines that should never be crossed, anything that would land you in jail, endanger your health or make you unworthy of a temple recommend should never be an option, but when not dealing with such extremes there should at least be a willingness to make an honest effort to meet your spouse's needs.

By needs, I'm not talking about the bare bones minimum needed to maintain the existence of the relationship, I'm talking about anything that moves the relationship closer to the complete mutual fulfillment and 'oneness'. There are differing levels of need as well.  Something may be a wish, a curiosity that wants to be satisfied, a fantasy,  while other things may be fundamental requirements to their feeling accepted, desired, appreciated, and loved.  The greater the level of need for something is, the greater the effort that should be made to meet it. 

Some tips for meeting your spouses needs:

1.  Get to really know each other
Do you know what your spouses needs are, and which ones are most important to their happiness?  Have you told your spouse what yours are? 
What would they like to change in the relationship, what would you like to change? 
As much as I would love for my wife to be able to read my mind, she can't.  The responsibility then falls to me to teach her about me, to make sure that she knows me that well.  Needs can change over time, and the level of need for something can fluctuate with circumstances so communication should be ongoing in this area.

You may encounter situations where you and your spouse have conflicting needs.  It is unhealthy in a marriage for one spouse's fulfillment to come at the expense of the other's.  Clarifying needs will help in finding ways to achieve mutual fulfillment.   Sometimes we think we need something when really what we need is what we expect to get from that thing.  For example: saying we need a 1/4 inch drill bit when in reality what we need is a 1/4 inch hole. 

2.  Be accepting and understanding
You can not decide what your spouse's needs are, or how important they are to them.  If they desire something that falls outside the range of what you are comfortable with, do not condemn or judge them or the thing they want.  You might get them to suppress it and let you 'off the hook' that way, but only at the cost having them feel rejected judged, ensuring they won't easily open up their heart to you again.  Instead of increased intimacy you will have a wall of fear and shame.  If you already have built that wall, start to dismantle it with a sincere apology.

A better path would be to accept your spouse in full, including their desires, without judgement or shame, and perhaps try and understand where the need comes from.  Often there are painful events in the past that create deep emotional needs that last our whole life long.  Sometimes needs are biologically driven.  Men typically desire sexual intimacy far more frequently than women do.  A woman who doesn't understand that her husband's need for frequent sex has a large biological component may misjudge his motives as selfish lust and not appreciate the compliment he give her by focusing his desire on only her, and fail to see his pursuit of sexual intimacy with her as evidence of his devotion and love for her.

3.  Be unselfish
Dedicate yourself to meeting the intimacy needs of your spouse rather than focus on making them meet yours.  Intimacy can't be taken by force, only given willingly and marriage is a promise to give yourself to your spouse.  


1 Corinthians 7
Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.


It is easier to do this of course if your spouse is already doing that, but if that isn't the case somebody has to go first and you are the one reading this, so you just volunteered.  If there are unresolved conflicts or festering resentments that leave you unable to focus on their needs, start by overcoming those barriers.
 
Don't shy away from the battle of overcoming personal inhibitions or fears.  If you encounter obstacles of that nature, ask yourself if they serve a righteous purpose.  Do those limits make your marriage better?  Are they restrictions that God has set out for mankind, and if not where did you get them from?  What would be so bad about being free of them?  What would be good about being free of them?  If they are rooted in some trauma from the past, they may require professional help to overcome, but making that journey to freedom will be a blessing to you, your spouse and your family.

4.  Take action
After you feel you have a handle on knowing what your spouse's needs are, commit yourself to action.  You don't have to do everything and you don't have to do it all right away, but pick a reasonable starting point and begin your journey.  Take baby steps for those things that are extra challenging and slowly expand your comfort zone.  There may be creative ways of meeting that need that are easier for you to handle.  Find helpful resources and learn more if needed.

Also let your spouse know that you are making this effort.  They should be your partner in this as in all things, and it can be a source of concern if a spouse makes a sudden change for no apparent reason, even if it is a change for the better.  You don't have to promise them any particular outcome, but if you let them know what you are trying to accomplish, why you are doing it, and ask for their help and patience and suggestions, that by itself will be a bonding moment.

5.  Express gratitude
Express your appreciation to your spouse for everything they do to meet your needs, and do it in a whatever way is meaning for them.  Praise, flowers, a card, whatever.  Don't take it for granted or act like it is your right to expect such royal treatment.  Gratitude will encourage them to continue on that path, and it will help you to reciprocate as well.  

Don't forget to thank God for your spouse and whatever growth happens in your marriage.  Nothing wrong with asking God for His help either.

6.  Don't make a martyr of yourself

I want it clear that I am not talking about becoming a doormat and submitting to unrighteous dominion and suppressing your own needs for the sake of your spouse's.   I'm talking about an internal desire to serve your spouse as commanded in scripture (see Ephesians 5).  

If you start feeling resentment, or anger, or feeling used, degraded or repressed, then something is out of alignment and should be repaired.  Perhaps you need to slow down and take more time to overcome an inhibition, perhaps you and your spouse need to explore other options for how to meet each others needs.   If you feel joy, peace, freedom, and a stronger bond with your spouse, then you are getting it right.

While I've discussed this mainly in terms of sexual intimacy, it is certainly not limited to that.  The same principles apply equally for emotional and spiritual intimacy.  That can require just as much personal growth to accomplish, and provide just as much joy when achieved.