Obstacles to Intimacy Series
~Exploring God’s Gift of Intimacy~
In the first article in the Obstacles to Intimacy Series, I wrote about Obstacle #1: Sex Addiction. In this article, I want to provide you with some tips and tools to counteract this particular obstacle.
Intimacy Tip #1: The 3 Sex Rules
The first tip is known as the 3 Sex Rules.
- Lights On
- Eyes Open
- Nurturing Conversation
A friend of mine recently Facebook messaged me the following Dear Abby letter and response.
I have been married to “Josh” for seven years. I find him attractive, but when we’re intimate my mind often wanders and Neil becomes “someone else.” There is always a provocative scenario, and he becomes a character. I feel guilty and ashamed. I have tried to visualize only my husband, but it doesn’t have the same effect. I have prayed about it, but I can’t stop. Because of my shame, I have begun to reject him. Is there any hope?
– GUILTY & ASHAMED
Please stop punishing yourself. Sexual fantasies are nothing to be ashamed of — they are normal. Whether in your imagination you’re being made passionate love to by a famous actor or “character”. As long as it happens in your husband’s arms and you’re both enjoying it, you’re fine.
Now, remember our conversation in the last article about the chemical peptin that is released upon orgasm? Peptin is similar to that of a camera which takes a photo of what you are viewing whether real or imagined in your mind. It allows you to glue to that image and creates a neurological pathway in your brain. This Dear Abby response definitely provided some very bad advice. Guilty and Ashamed is NOT fine. Remember, we want to glue to our spouse, so keep the lights on with your eyes open. How long have some of us had intimacy in the dark with our eyes closed or believed what Dear Abby is saying here?
And don’t forget the third rule: nurturing conversation. Women especially need to experience an emotional connection to their husband, so keep the nurturing conversation alive!
Intimacy Tip #2: The Sexual Agreement & Sexual Garden
The next intimacy tip is for those in a marital relationship and is referred to as the Sexual Agreement, when you and your partner mutually agree to specific terms in regard to the frequency of sexual intercourse, who initiates as well as the expected or mutually agreeable sexual behaviors. As a couple, it allows you the flexibility to remain spontaneous, yet have realistic expectations and consistency in your love life. A sexual agreement provides a model for who initiates as well as when, where and how you will be intimate with your partner. Since you know approximately when you will be having sex in the future, it helps eliminate the lack of intimacy partners commonly experience. It also eliminates the intimacy anorexic behavior of not initiating sex. Here are a few suggested guidelines.
- Due to the traumatic effects of sexual addiction, I highly encourage you to only participate in a sexual agreement if you have already maintained emotional intimacy with your partner for at least 2 to 3 months after disclosure and both partners mutually agree.
- Behaviors should never be painful or cause shame to either partner. (For example, it is not recommended to participate in anal sex, as it is known to increase the risk of disease and infection.)
- Both partners must agree on each specific item before it is included in the agreement. (For example, if one agrees to oral sex and the other is not comfortable including it, then it must be removed from the sexual garden.)
- Neither partner is allowed to refuse sex when the partner responsible initiates intimacy. (However, after disclosure, the partner who has experienced betrayal should decide when intimacy is re‑established. Also, if a partner has already initiated once during their scheduled time, it is okay to refuse, as long as you have been intimate at least once during your designated time.)
- Due to medical issues, intimacy can be postponed. (For example, physical illness, surgery, menstrual cycle, etc.)
- It is recommended you remain committed to the sexual agreement you select for at least 30 to 90 days prior to making any changes.
- Finally, it is recommended you consistently maintain the three dailies for 30 to 90 days prior to implementing the sexual agreement. (The 3 Dailies will be discussed in a future blog post.)
Now, let’s discuss areas to consider within a sexual agreement: the frequency, your preferred sexual cycle or system and the sexual garden. After reviewing the information below, take some time to go through the Sexual Agreement & Garden Worksheet and indicate your sexual preferences. Have your partner do likewise. Then, communicate your answers with one another and compromise to create your final agreement. Each of you can vote yes, no or only if I initiate. Once you complete your sexual agreement, it is recommended you both sign and date the final document.
- Frequency: In this field, indicate the number of days you desire to be intimate with your partner. The average couple is intimate 2 to 3 times per week, but you and your partner can agree to have a higher or lower frequency depending on your age and desires.
- Sexual Cycle/System: A sexual cycle or sexual system is when you and your partner agree to specific terms regarding when to be intimate with one another and the preferred rotation. Here are a few examples.
- The 3-Day Block ~ This particular cycle is recommended as a starting point, because it is probably the easiest to implement. One partner is assigned to initiate intimacy once on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of the week. The other partner is assigned to initiate intimacy once on Thursday, Friday or Saturday of the week. Sunday is a free day when either partner can initiate intimacy. Either partner can initiate intimacy on any of the days each has been assigned. You can modify the days of the week into different 3-day blocks. (For example, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday is a free day and Thursday, Friday and Saturday.)
- Weekly ~ In this cycle, one partner initiates intimacy each week the number of times the couple mutually agrees upon. (For example, 2 to 3 times per week.) The first partner initiates the first week of the month. The other partner initiates intimacy the second week of the month. Then, the first partner initiates the third week, and the other partner initiates the fourth week.
- The Tennis Match ~ One partner begins the process. As an example, we will select the first partner is assigned a 3-day block of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week. He decides to initiate intimacy on the second day, Tuesday. It is now her turn. She now has Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to initiate intimacy one time. She initiates on Friday. He now has Saturday, Sunday and Monday to initiate. He initiates the first day, Saturday. The ball is now tossed back onto her court, so on and so forth.
- Sexual Garden: A sexual garden is an agreement couples make to particular positions, sexual acts, locations, as well as any special extras, such as lingerie, lighting requests, lotions, etc.
- Positions ~ Indicate what positions are acceptable for you and your partner during intimacy. Remember, sexual positions should not cause pain or shame to either partner. You both need to agree by marking yes, no or only if I initiate. (Position A, Position B, etc.)
- Touch ~ Communicate the type of touch you prefer.
- Places ~ Communicate the preferred locations inside and outside your home where you both mutually agree to be intimate.
- Time of Day ~ You may work alternating shifts, be a morning person or night person, have small children or may even be trying to conceive. Indicate the time of day you prefer to be intimate.
- Extras ~ Be sure to communicate with one another your preferences regarding lighting, music, oils/lotions, foods and lingerie.
- Consequences ~ It is very important you and your partner set up consequences in the event that you do not initiate sexual intimacy on your assigned days or if you refuse sexual intimacy with your partner when they initiate. This indicates you may be falling back into your acting-in, intimacy anorexic behaviors. Consequences should cause you to eradicate those behaviors. The consequences should be painful enough to cause more pain than simply a rubber band snap, skipping your morning coffee or sweeping the kitchen floor. Select a consequence that is reasonable and will cause you to rethink your behavior the next time the choice presents itself. It is not recommended the punishment or consequence for you or your partner be celibacy, a night out of the house or on the couch, as this oftentimes is not painful for an intimacy anorexic or anyone with a schizoid personality disorder. Withdrawing is a reward, not a consequence.
Excerpt from Ashes to Beauty.
In my next blog article, I’ll be discussing Intimacy Obstacle #2.
Kerry Schortzman is the Director of Operations at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center as well as an author and speaker. She has traveled the road of recovery alongside her husband through the wildfires of intimacy anorexia. She has a heart and passion to see healing and restoration in relationships and marriages as well as to bring public awareness to eliminate sex and human trafficking. Kerry has been married since 1998 and lives in Colorado with her husband and four daughters. She and Cory have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.