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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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]