Sexual health is often neglected because some spouses view sex as a fringe benefit more than an integral part of overall well-being. Its place on the marital priority list tends to slip downward as years pass.
Sex is more than a tool for procreation and lustful pleasure. A healthy human body thrives from the physical, emotional and psychological phenomena that take place during and after sex. From the first hint of adrenaline, the body releases a potent arsenal of hormones—endorphins, oxytocin, testosterone and more--that have beneficial effects including improved cardiovascular health, better sleep, pain relief, and mood elevation. Studies also show that regular sex reduces stress and the risk of stroke or developing certain cancers, including prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
Within marriage, sexual intercourse is a bonding experience. Not only does the close physical contact and intimacy enhance the relationship but upon orgasm, the body produces oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘cuddle’ or ‘bonding’ hormone. Oxytocin works on the wiring in the human brain and increases feelings of love, nurturing and closeness. In a way, it is similar to how freshly hatched ducklings imprint on the first image they see which is usually mother. When a young woman offers her virginity to her lover, it is no insignificant act. Her first experience with this bonding emotion is hard to forget.
As society allowed for sexual promiscuity, humans learned to override this feeling of imprinting or bonding during sex. Many people now can experience orgasm and a short-lived “afterglow,” then skip out the door to their next sexual conquest. But nature didn’t intend for human mating to be this way. Sex is a bonding ritual between partners, and this is yet one more reason why I advocate for marital fidelity.
Frequency is important
The “use it or lose it” line is true for sexual activity. The longer a person goes without sex, after an initial brief phase of yearning passes, sexual desire decreases steadily as the body becomes accustomed to the zero demand for semen and vaginal fluid production.
Sexual frequency plays a part in sexual quality, too, and it appears that extremes in frequency diminish the intensity of orgasms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that too many or too little (the actual numbers of which, admittedly, are subjective) results in climaxes with lower peaks of pleasure. It is up to the individual to discover his or her optimal rate of frequency in order to achieve the highest satisfaction.
However, one of the most common issues regarding dissatisfaction with sexual frequency in marriage occurs because spouses have mismatched sexual requirements. Finding a balance or compromise can be difficult. Most often, one partner wants sex more frequently than the other. Here are some ideas to consider:
*Be considerate of the other person’s needs. Unfulfilled sexual desire is unpleasant and consuming. Try at all possible not to leave your spouse in this position. On the other hand, there are times when being sexually open is just not an option due to illness or extreme fatigue.
*Try being sexually available even if you aren’t “in the mood.” Sexual desire may be kick-started into revving up again by simply engaging in sex. It can be hard to “switch gears” and slip from mommy or business owner roles into the sex goddess role. Just going through the motions, however, gets hormones surging and reminds your mind and body what it feels like to enjoy sex again.
*Get regular medical check ups. Lagging libidos have various causes that may be remedied with medication and/or therapy.
*Exercise works both to elevate and temper sexual desire. Working out in a gym is known to increase a woman’s sexual appetite because 1) she feels better about her body image and 2) increased blood circulation awakens dormant physical and mental processes. If sexual outlets are not available, working out helps to release pent up sexual energy.
Making time for sex
While it is important to make time for sex, it’s best not to attach too many rules. Some couples schedule their sex sessions on the calendar. If this works for you, by all means continue. But for me, this seriously impedes spontaneity. And I thrive on the unexpected. Not penciling it on a calendar actually results in more sex instead of limiting it to specific sex “appointments.”
One husband I know finds his wife’s weekly Saturday night only sex rule just as libido inhibiting. Instead of viewing the date as a sure thing in the sack, he is reduced to law enforcement. “She set the rule and often finds reasons to break that rule herself,” he complained. “I’m in the position of having to enforce the rule, and it just takes away any of the fun and intimacy that’s supposed to be a part of sex. When she gives in, it just feels like an obligation.”
Sex is not just a physical indulgence. Sex plays a vital role in a strong marital relationship and in overall personal well-being. Even if both partners might agree not to place a high priority on sexual activity, I encourage at least an occasional sexual tryst to enjoy the physical, emotional and psychological benefits that come from making demands on hormone production. And don’t forget: it feels good, too.