Sex-cess

couple-kissing

Did the title get your attention? As a marriage coach, sex and money are the two big topics that divide couples in my ministry. They are also the subjects that families rarely talk about. You can’t become knowledgeable, comfortable, and practiced on an issue when you don’t or won’t talk about it? Why do some couples avoid the topic of sex? A sampling of replies to my question: “Why don’t you talk about sex with your spouse?”

  • I’m just not comfortable. Our family never talked about sex.
  • I don’t really have much of a sex drive. If we talk about it, I’m afraid it will hurt my wife’s feelings.
  • I’m not sure. I guess we should talk more about it.
  • My husband is addicted to pornography. I’m angry at him, so why would I want to have sex with him.
  • I don’t want sex. If I avoid talking about it, I’ll feel less pressure to have sex.
  • I’m afraid to tell my husband what I really want because of what he’ll think of me.
  • I’ve faked too many orgasms that I’m afraid to tell my husband the truth. He’ll think I’m a liar, and I don’t want him to feel bad that he didn’t please me. I love my husband though.
  • I was sexually abuse as a child, and it’s too painful to talk about sex.
  • For years, it’s all about him, not me. Why bother?
  • I’m tired of asking, so I’ve just given up.
  • We don’t need to. We have unspoken understandings. For me to get sex, I need to do ….

What would you answer? Differences in individual values, needs, relationship conditioning, and preferences can naturally cause sexual conflict, but if you won’t talk through these differences, nothing will be resolved or managed? If you want to have a fulfilling, aka successful, sex life with your spouse, it starts with you. Becoming sex-cessful in the bedroom is a journey taken at a pace you’re comfortable committing to. You might consider the following steps:

  • Expanding your sexual self-awareness: needs, limitations, boundaries, recognizing underlying influences
  • Getting comfortable talking about sex without pressure to perform
  • Sharing and learning about partner’s needs and wants as well as uncovering the whys and feelings behind both
  • Negotiating, compromising, and developing a sex plan
  • Acting on the plan

You may think that may work for some, but what if my spouse and I have wildly different sexual appetites. That’s where you need to take a hard look at the cause. Is it because of conditioning, taboo stereotypes, performance anxiety, sexual abuse, or just plain skewed hormones? As with most problems, there’s usually more than one contributor. Identifying the main issues will give you a starting point on where to focus. In some cases, you may never fully emotionally or physically enjoy sex, but that doesn’t mean you should withhold sex from your spouse unless he or she is abusive. I know a few couples who have fluctuating and divergent sex drives over the course of their marriages. How do they handle the incompatibility? They give sex gifts?

People routinely give gifts to family and friends whom they love and care about. What better way to love your spouse than to give them the gift of sex? There may be times when you’re both “into it”, and sex is a big theatrical production. Other times, it’s a gift of pleasure. As with any other gift, you don’t expect anything in return. Your spouse will appreciate your gift of sex, even when he or she knows you weren’t in the mood and gave it freely.

Some believe they shouldn’t be pressured into sex when they don’t want to. I agree. I’m not suggesting they do something they don’t want to. I’m suggesting they intentionally give a gift to their life partner.

Note: If you are in sexually abusive marriage or relationship or have untreated sexual trauma in your history, I encourage you to seek help. The effects of sexual trauma are devastating for the individual and their relationships. Seek the healing you need, so you can experience the power of healthy relationships and focus on the purpose God has called you into.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in life, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. Sandra welcomes comments and conversations. You can reach out to her at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Marriage is Like an Iceberg

Sandra Dillon: May 15, 2018


iceberg


I’ve often heard people say, “I wish I had a marriage like so-and-so’s.” What they really mean is that they want what appears to the marriage of the other couple. They fail to realize that marriage is like an iceberg—only 10-20% of it floats above the surface with 80-90% of it living hidden from view. What a married couple shows to the world about their marriage is usually just a small percentage of the relationship, and it’s usually the “good” stuff.

As a marriage coach I’ve seen both—great marriages that are consistent both inside and outside the home and those which appear ideal to the world and are “hot messes” at home. What are the differences between good marriages and ones that need improvement? What needs to reside beneath the surface for a truly successful marriage? In my practice, I find thriving marriages usually have one or both spouses intentionally adopting more of the “successful” attitudes and behaviors and shedding the “struggling” ones.

Successful Marriages Have… Struggling Marriages Have…
Self-sacrifice Selfishness
Optimism Negativity
Gratitude Ungratefulness
Shared core values Opposing core values
Trust Distrust
Vision and mission Lack of vision and purpose
Meeting spouse’s needs Ignoring spouse’s needs
Vulnerable Closed off
Shared goals Competing goals

If you’re married or engaged, I encourage you to review the list of “marriage haves” and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how well you stand today on the “successful” side. Then take one small step by selecting 2 or 3 of these behaviors and attitudes to work on. Get specific on what this change would look like in action, so you can measure improvement.

I hope you won’t be envious of other marriages and focus only on your own. Refrain from comparing your marriage to others, just get to work on yours. You don’t need one more vacation, a new job, or more money to have a better marriage. You only need you, the right attitude, and the right behaviors.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

How to Have a Thriving Marriage

Sandra Dillon: February 6, 2018


Love FamilyAs a coach who leads couples through premarital and marriage coaching, most of the programs are designed around understanding how individual personalities mesh and equipping with tools to navigate a long-term successful relationship. Evans (2012) brings a fresh perspective that starts with God, our relationship with Him, God’s design for marriage, and the adherence to laws that help couples sustain a thriving marriage over time.

Our Deepest Needs

Evans (2012) proposes that people have four basic needs that we consciously or not strive to satisfy.  We feel fulfilled when we have:

  1. Acceptance: feeling that you are needed and loved by others
  2. Identity: knowing that you are special and significant
  3. Security: recognizing you are protected and provided for
  4. Purpose: understanding your reason for living

Non-Christians and many Christians as well look to personal accomplishments, family, friends, possessions, money, jobs, and pastors, to get these four needs met on a consistent basis.  A significant subset put enormous pressure on their spouses and children to fulfill those deepest needs.  The result?  Grave disappointment.  Why? Because no human, not even your spouse, can meet your deepest needs.  With people suffering from some degree of selfishness, imperfection, and limited resources, they will naturally disappoint and at times hurt you.

What Happens When We Turn to God to Satisfy Our Needs

Only God can meet our deepest needs. When a couple releases unrealistic expectations of their spouse to fully meet his or her needs, both are then open to have these needs met by God. Spouses are then free to support the other in their individual Godly purposes as well as live out the mission of their marriage. The chance of divorce is minimized, because neither has the pressure of being the provider of their spouse’s acceptance, identity, security, and purpose.

God’s Four Laws of Marriage

Evans (2012) references 4 laws of marriage that God created.  When we abide by these laws, marriages not only work, they thrive.

  1. Law of Priority: When a husband and wife leave their families and become “one flesh,” they put the other above every other earthly relationship. Their spouse comes before parents and their children. Time, energy, and resources are prioritized and protected for the spouse and the health of the marriage.
  2. Law of Pursuit: Like anything of value, marriage too is hard work. Spouses put forth intentional effort in pleasing their partner and investing in the marriage.
  3. Law of Possession: Because marriage is a complete union, everything is owned and managed jointly. Without this operating agreement, mistrust, jealousy, and reduced intimacy creep into the marriage.
  4. Law of Purity: When a couple is “one flesh,” nothing is withheld from the other. Every aspect of the body, soul, mind, and spirit should be shared without shame or fear. Marriage requires spouses to be totally open and vulnerable with each other.

Breaking any one of these foundational laws will cause turmoil within a marriage. Breaking two or more typically spells doom.  This brokenness may not lead to court, but it may lead to separate bedrooms. Is a marriage held together solely by paper any better than divorce?

Where Do Most First Marriages Get Off Track

In my experience, first marriages unknowingly start to develop their first crack when they violate the Law of Pursuit. In an over-scheduled society and drive for success, couples tend to focus their energy on jobs, careers, and fun activities. This focus intensifies when children come along, and parents want to provide them with the best things and opportunities. Marriage takes a backseat to all the other demands for time, money, and energy, and spouses start to take each other for granted.

Where Do Most Second Marriages Go Wrong

When I coach couples, who are marrying and have biological children from previous relationships, they typically set their second marriage up for trouble prior to even saying their “I dos.”  I find the Law of Possession is the most common struggle from the start, when they decide to keep some money separate and discipline of the child is reserved only by the biological parent. They’ve already designed division into their marriage.

What Should I do Before Saying “I do”

With an average divorce rate in America of ~ 50% and second marriages at ~ 70%, I would encourage everyone who is dating with the intention of marrying to pray, think about, and answer the following questions for themselves:

  1. Am I relying on God to get my deepest human needs met?
  2. Do I have reasonable expectations of my spouse and marriage?
  3. Am I willing to sacrifice and abide by God’s 4 laws of marriage?

If you can honestly live out a “yes” to these three questions, you will likely have a model, not perfect, marriage and find that others seek you out for marriage mentoring.

Reference

Evans, J. (2012). Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: Marriage Today.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs

his need her need 2Having coached premarital and married couples who sit on my couch every week, I am routinely asked, “What do we need to do to ensure we have a happy marriage?”  The answer is relatively simple:  “It’s all about meeting needs.”

Harley (2011) states that couples have 10 emotional needs that operate within their marriage that have to be satisfied in order for them to feel emotionally connected. The importance of each need varies by individual; therefore, husband and wife should seek to understand which ones are most valued by their spouse and try to satisfy those needs. This concept is similar to the five love languages, where Chapman (2015) proposes that people need some level of love through all five languages but prefer to receive love through only 1 or 2 in order to fill their love tank.

What are the emotional needs that operate within all marriages?  Harley (2011) cites these needs as (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration. By focusing attention on their spouse’s top 5 emotional needs, partners can help to affair-proof their marriage from emotional and physical infidelity. Husbands and wives would benefit from force-ranking the importance of each need and sharing this list with their spouse.  Spouses would then be empowered with the knowledge in how to increase the deposits in their partner’s emotional love bank.

Some of the 10 needs have a gender bias which can make it more difficult for some spouses to understand why certain needs are so important to their partner.  Men typically have a strong need for sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship; whereas, women typically favor affection and intimate conversation.  By rating and sharing the importance of each need and how well their spouse is meeting it, couples can determine the significance of the gap. Knowledge is power, and a needs assessment highlights where to focus attention in building the balance in the love bank.

References

Chapman, G. (2015). The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com