"Remedial: giving or intended as a remedy or cure; intended to correct or improve something."
I was married for at least 15 years before I finally started seeing our sex life as remedial rather than a reward. Like so many couples, I spent over a decade holding sex apart from our daily conflicts and fruitlessly waiting for the moments when my husband said just the right thing at just the right time to spark my desire. In truth, as we went from two to three to four kids, desire became a faint memory and we weren’t all that skilled at teasing out real conflict from the annoying minutia of daily living. Looking back on it, I actually believe that the intentional leap we made to plan and prioritize weekly remedial sex actually saved our marriage.
I still remember when the lights went on for me. After a recent move, we had been having a particularly rough go of it. We were short on cash and we were still trying to figure out how to have four kids in a new town with no friends or family. I remember lamenting on the phone to a friend miles away that there just wasn’t enough of either of us left for the other. She said, "Don’t pull away when there isn’t enough, dive in…" Much later that night, I initiated the dive in our bedroom and found myself post-orgasmic release, being heard and listening more deeply than we had in months.
Over the years, it became one of our standing rules; when things aren’t working and we can’t even talk about it, have sex first. The conversation after orgasm is always truer and cuts through all of the stories that are easy distractions. Most of all, we want to be seen, we need to be heard, we long to be felt. Marital conflicts are almost always about the absence of these, although it is easy for them to look like a million other stories of people not showing up for each other at the moment when it seems most important to one or both of them.
Often, when we feel invisible (aka unappreciated) in whatever way that our relationship is not witnessing us, we mistakenly defend ourselves through distancing. Sadly, the hostage that pays most dearly is our sexuality. We believe we can’t enjoy sex unless we are appreciated first, instead of seeing sex as a doorway to finding the appreciation we so long for. Using sex as a means to experiencing attachment instead of expecting that attachment will lead to sex seems like an oxymoron for many, but I can assure you that it works. Here are a few quick and dirty tricks to help you use your sexuality as a remedy for what ails your relationship.
“The conversation after orgasm is always truer and cuts through all of the stories that are easy distractions.”
1. Think about sex the way you do daily hygiene. You wouldn’t give up washing or brushing your teeth because of how you feel in the moment. Treating your sex life this same way disrupts the habitual thinking that limits our intimacy. Having sex regularly, when you are sad, when you are frustrated or annoyed, even when you are angry, all carry different energies into the act making it different and interesting each time.
2. Learn to get your mind and body right. Disassociate desire from your sexual commitments and cultivate the art of arousal by learning what wakes up your arousal mechanism in your brain. Give yourself a more reliable access to desire by focusing on what turns you on. Keep in mind that arousal is biologically connected to the olfactory, so pay attention to scent and use it strategically with intimacy.
3. Expand your definition of make-up sex to include all aspects of relationship conflict. …Don’t wait until after the argument. Employing sexual attachment to diffuse tension works too, and often will get to a whole different form of reconciliation; one that you couldn’t have found without sexual release.
When you start to see sex as a tool instead of a reward for just good behavior, then you’ll surely find how much your relationship can grow out of it.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can follow her on Google+