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How to Pursue Intimacy in Marriage as Our Sex Lives (Inevitably) Change

In Articles, Family, Life Issues, Marriage, Sex by Ron and Ann Mainse

To everything there is a season.

In the 1960s there was a popular song recorded by The Byrds that riffed on a famous passage from Ecclesiastes. The song proclaimed, “To everything there is a season” and went on to quote the wisdom of the Biblical book by pointing out that life and love are cyclical. We all experience the highs and lows of life over time… and this is especially true in marriage.

Young or new love is intense. Gary Chapman’s famous book, The Five Love Languages, describes this initial phase of the love relationship as a kind of insanity — we are consumed and obsessed with the object of our passion, and we can’t imagine anything ever changing. We’re in love. Newlywed couples revel in the wonder and fun of their sexual relationship and can’t get enough of each other. They’re in a season of intense physical and emotional pleasure.

However, every couple who has passed at least the 10-year mark in their marriage can attest to the fact that things change over time, and the sexual side of the relationship is part of that change. The hot passion of early marriage mellows into something much different as time passes. The intensity wanes; the frequency diminishes, and you may be tempted to sing a few bars from the song, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. But has the love diminished, or is something else going on?

Psychologists point out that human beings consistently seek out the new and the novel in life — we’re hardwired to get bored, it seems. It’s one of the ways we learn as children, always looking for adventures and new ways to have fun. And that doesn’t change as we age. In essence, we get bored easily when we’re kids, and we get bored just as easily when we’re adults. If our natural inclination is to turn away from the boring, it stands to reason that the sexual part of the marriage relationship might eventually suffer from the same problem. However, it doesn’t have to. As we learn how to navigate it effectively, mature sex can be the source of a deeper emotional connection and greater physical satisfaction than we ever thought possible.

Another factor to consider in the seasons of sex in marriage would be our physical changes over the years. When a couple welcomes a baby into their marriage, it may have serious effects on the physical side of their relationship. Mom is exhausted, and sex may be far from her mind; Dad may be perplexed about what to do in this new role. His needs and desires haven’t likely changed; hers have. It can be confusing and frustrating for both spouses. If they are wise enough to handle this change with patience, understanding, and love, they can successfully navigate it. Eventually, they settle into this new routine, this new normal, and find a way to accommodate their physical desires with the demands of parenting.

However, once the kids have grown and are ready to fly the nest, Mom and Dad may be looking at each other with renewed interest… it’s “a time to love.” Their house may be empty but their sex life may benefit from a freedom and a fullness they thought was lost forever.

During this new season of sexual fulfillment, it’s important to acknowledge that sexual urges and abilities diminish and change with time. Where once in our 20s we were ready, willing and able at a moment’s notice, with age we may need more advance notice, some time to do the “groundwork” as it were. We all know the phrase, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” It can be an apt description in this case.

Throughout all of the seasons of marriage, God’s intended blueprint stands. Found in Genesis 2:24, we are instructed that, “a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” While much can be said about that verse, there is one word we need to fully embrace through the lifetime of our marriage… the word “cleave.” In the original Hebrew language it is “dabaq,” and it means “to passionately pursue with great energy.”

As guys, we love the challenge of the pursuit. Whether in business or sports, or even in the “next thrill,” we are created to rise to the challenge of the moment. In his book, Wild at Heart, author John Eldredge said, “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” To passionately pursue is part of our emotional DNA. And to keep our marriage fresh, it’s exactly what our wives need to see.

Let her know you’re passionate about pursuing her, that she is the most important person to you. Show her that it’s a priority for you to win her heart… over and over again. Flirt with her. Do the unexpected. Put your hand on her cheek, look deeply into her eyes, and tell her you’re so glad she’s yours. Even in mature marriages, this kind of “passionate pursuit” can rekindle romance and stoke the fires of barely glowing embers. Whether you’ve been married 4 years or 40 years, your wife needs to know that she is still the one who turns your head.

Bill and Pam Farrel’s book, Red Hot Monogamy, is a great resource for couples who want to keep the sexual side of marriage vibrant. One idea they give is to make dating each other a priority, regardless of the length of your marriage. They say that regular dates (which don’t have to be expensive) can help revive the passion of a marriage that may have cooled. Send the kids to Grandma and make a special dinner at home. Get dressed up, light the candles, treat each other like you did when you were dating. Help your mate to “warm up” to you outside the bedroom, and you may find things heat up more readily inside!

Yes, to everything there is a season… including sex in marriage. But as we embrace the seasons… acknowledge the changes… and stay true to our covenant of love before God, He will give us the wisdom and patience we need to enjoy every aspect of our marriage. And through it all, we will make love last a lifetime.

Ron and Ann Mainse
Ron and Ann Mainse lead Heart to Heart Marriage and Family Ministries and host a weekly TV show on YES-TV called A Better Us, focused on strengthening marriages.
Ron and Ann Mainse
Ron and Ann Mainse lead Heart to Heart Marriage and Family Ministries and host a weekly TV show on YES-TV called A Better Us, focused on strengthening marriages.