For most of our marriage, sex was a source of conflict. Which one of us would win—the one who wanted sex, or the one who didn’t? No matter how it was resolved, one of us would be unhappy; the marriage felt divided rather than unified.
I would read about people feeling a sense of sexual unity and a one-flesh-ness to their marriages. I never really believed it. With all the sexual conflict and division in our marriage, I simply couldn’t imagine what this meant.
Sex was a war. Whichever of us “won” a particular sex battle wasn’t really happy. My husband would get sex, but he wouldn’t have the emotional intimacy that he craved as much as he did the physical release. Or I would be off the hook, as I saw it, but I was deprived of the emotional intimacy that I craved because my husband was so grouchy and physically uncomfortable. Even during the rare encounters that were mutually desired and enjoyed, there was an underlying tension, with each of us knowing that it was a fluke, that this wasn’t the way our sex life really was. Sex was a reminder of what we didn’t have in our marriage. It was a war, and neither of us ever won. Our marriage certainly didn’t.
Three years ago, I took a step of changing my sexual interactions with my husband. It was mostly something of an experiment, just to see if it actually changed anything. At best, I figured it might make my husband less depressed because he’d be having more orgasms and he wouldn’t have to go to battle to get them.
I didn’t expect the overall improvement in our marriage that I’ve seen. Despite my emotional slump of the last two weeks, our marriage is stronger and better than it’s ever been. I’m not surprised. Working on our sex life didn’t magically make anything better, but it removed a major source of tension between us. Without an overlay of sexual discord on everything, we were able to work on our relationship in increasingly healthy ways. We each felt encouraged and supported by each other since we were no longer in a constant sexual battle. We developed a sense of facing the world together rather than facing off against each other. Working on sex changed our marriage.
I didn’t realize that working on sex would change sex as well.
Yesterday, my husband and I sent flirty texts to each other throughout the day. He made dinner reservations so we could have a date. We had a lovely steak dinner seated next to the fireplace in the restaurant. We came home. We went upstairs.
In my husband’s arms last night, I realized that it isn’t just our marriage that has changed; sex itself feels different. As we worked on sex, our communication, love, and sense of unity improved—and these things, in turn, gave us a new version of sex.
The frequency, involvement, and nature of our sexual activity are different, but it’s more than that. Our relationship itself has changed, so sex simply means something different than it used to. Sex is richer, imbued with a deeper texture. Even a romp that seems more about an orgasm than about romance happens over a foundation of love, care, and communication that never used to be there. It isn’t just about the spark of sex; it’s also about the embers that keep the heart alive.
Sex is now a comfort. It is a healing balm. It is a unifier. It is a reminder of what we are and what we have built.
Sex itself transformed into something completely different than I had ever imagined it could be.
Sex isn’t what it used to be.
It’s even better.