Focus on the Family

Making Time for Romance and Intimacy

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

We often think of a romantic getaway as a vacation to escape the responsibilities of life and get some rest. In reality, however, couples are wise if they look at all areas of their lives and set aside time to meet the key strategic need of that season.

We are multifaceted human beings, and life occasionally throws in curves of change and roller coasters of rough circumstances. As a result, the kind of getaway you need this year may not be what you’ll need next year. In addition, the couple who establishes a certain type of traditional getaway every year or two will experience more passion than those who wait for their interest to grow spontaneously.

For example, we always try to get away for 24 hours to just recover physically after a book deadline. We always push ourselves and are sleep and fun deprived, so we head to a hotel with room service and nice workout facilities. We take off our watches (and our clothes) and sleep until our bodies wake us. We set no alarms. We eat when we are hungry. We enjoy one another sexually when we want to. The goal is to have absolutely no agenda.

Another consistent getaway we have included is part of our summer vacation. Sometime during our family vacation, most often the second day out because day one is sleeping and resting, I interview Bill about our life. We touch base on our ministry, family, and home goals. Once the year’s plan is in place, I can relax, and that means Bill can relax.

There are many levels upon which a couple needs to build unity and intimacy. It is like looking at a diamond with its many facets. We are more than one dimensional in the way we, as couples in love, relate to one another. We suggest you develop intimacy in these areas:


Social Intimacy

A social getaway might be just the ticket if you are looking for a renewed sense of adventure in your relationship.

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

Have you ever experienced the magic of being alone together in a crowded place? Couples do it all the time: going out to dinner; having a cup of cappuccino at a sidewalk café; attending a movie, sporting event, or play; hitting the mall for some bargain hunting; dancing the night away on a cruise ship or at a wedding; or walking in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The world is filled with people in love!

There are benefits to going to a getaway spot that has a few other folks there than yourselves. The most obvious one is that it allows for choices. When getting away to a city or resort or cruise ship you can, at a moment’s notice, decide between dancing, bowling, windsurfing, shopping, sightseeing, eating, eating, and eating.

This kind of getaway will serve you best when you, as a couple, just need a change of pace or a change of scenery. This isn’t the kind of getaway you take to work out problems in your relationship (it might actually wake up or cause a few). And it isn’t the getaway to do some serious work on your sex life, unless you plan on room service all weekend (so that’s why you are headed to the five-star hotel).

A social getaway might be just the ticket if you are looking for a renewed sense of adventure or a way to expand your horizons or increase the level of interesting things to talk about. For example, for years Bill took missions groups to Mexico and later took our sons on a yearly fishing trip there. Meanwhile, I stayed home and nursed babies or held down the home front for the toddlers. Later, when the boys were older, we journeyed together to Mexico, and I, too, experienced the different culture, food, and ambiance south of the border. This connected Bill and me in a new way. We expanded our borders, and that made for some interesting conversations (and I picked up some pretty sexy sundresses along the way that my husband loves).

Take a moment and talk together about places you’d like to travel, things you’d like to see, and people you’d like to meet. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “What you are today is the result of the books you’ve read and the people you’ve met in the last five years.” As a couple, discuss what kind of people you’d like to become and go do what those people do, see what they see, and read what they read. Go meet them!

Now that you have some idea of the trail ahead, add in the sexual dimension. Have you ever wanted to have sex in a hut, in a high-rise, or on a mountaintop? Each of you make a list of five places you’d like to have sex in or at. We still want to go to one of those secluded island paradises where the palapas have only wispy white curtains for walls and each little casa has its own private pool or spot on a secluded beach …


Financial Intimacy

You don’t have to be rich to have a sensational sex life.

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

Do we have to talk about money? That’s such a mood killer. We are aware of that. The number one topic married couples disagree over is money (or usually the lack of it). Money may not seem at all related to red-hot monogamy, but it is. You’ll be glad you both set aside some time to really plan and prepare in the area of finances when you finally have saved up enough to head to Cancun, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Greece, Europe, or the Far East.

What could you do on a financial getaway that would lead to red-hot monogamy?

Crown Financial Ministries has some wonderful resources that can help you and your mate get on the same page financially. We bought The Debt Diet by Ellie Kay for all of our children. (We are saving a copy for our “still yet to go to college and face the real world” high school son.) In addition, if you are always under the gun every month, struggling to make ends meet or floundering under a mountain of debt, then a trip to a nonprofit agency that can help you negotiate a more effective and doable debt repayment plan will help you breathe again, and thus give you back a little life (as you trade worry for precious time together).

If you are struggling financially, now is not the time to splurge on some fancy getaway. Instead, see if some friends or relatives can take the kids for 24 hours. First, take time to pray together, and then take time to work through one of the financial resources listed above or head to the debt counselor. After that, reward yourselves for creating a new budget or workable financial plan with a nice simple candlelit dinner at home. (Even mac and cheese or spaghetti looks more romantic under candlelight.) Draw up a bubble bath for two, maybe drink a little sparkling cider, turn on some romantic music, and dance your cares away. Sleep in late, have a simple breakfast in bed, and then make love all over again. We promise if you have sex twice in a 24-hour period, even the low checkbook balance won’t suspend your smile.

You don’t have to be rich to have a sensational sex life. Remember, we spent years pastoring a small church, and when we started writing books, it sure helped offset the cost of feeding three athletic sons. We have romance on a shoestring down to a science.

Here are just a few of our favorite ideas:

Absolutely none of the above costs a dime (if you have the sports equipment for badminton sitting around, that is).

We have embraced these verses whenever we think about how to keep our sex life alive on a budget:

Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6, emphasis added).

Just talking about how you can actually live within your means – or if you have plenty, setting a standard of living and then praying about how to invest, share, or give away the plenty – will help bring a sense of calmness to your relationship. If you are not always chasing the almighty dollar, or if you decide you don’t want to keep up with the Joneses, this getaway will be well worth your time.

Kelly and Sam were one young couple that always seemed to be struggling. They were working two jobs each and never having time for one another while they did the tag team approach to parenting their toddlers. After a financial getaway, they decided enough was enough and they set in motion a plan to move from expensive Southern California to the Midwest, where housing prices were a fraction of what they were paying. In the heartland they found their pace and rediscovered the passion that produced their toddlers.

Bruce and Kate are a mature couple who are nearing retirement. After a weekend away, they decided to take the early retirement option at the company for which they both worked. They longed to spend retirement traveling and doing volunteer work while they were still young and healthy enough to enjoy it.


Recreational Intimacy

'Research suggests that people who get regular aerobic exercise have more, better sex …'

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

Year after responsible year, couples can forget how to have fun together. Recently we were reminded of the term “recreational intimacy” on a double date with a pastor and his wife in which we went “tubin’ ” (inner tubing) down the Chattahoochee River. The day was spent floating (and sometimes hanging on for dear life in the rapids). It was flat-out fun. When was the last time you and your spouse:

It is wise to work in a weekly active date into your life. To kick-start a more active love life, you might want to take a more active weekend getaway (or longer) vacation. Endorphins play a huge role in our emotional wellness and happiness. If you are physically active, your body produces more endorphins and, as a result, you will just feel happier and more interested in sex as an activity!

There is a positive correlation between sex and sports according to a BBC article. “[Sex] The night before has no effect on strength or endurance or any of the physical abilities of the athletes,” says physiology expert Dr. Ian Shrirer, a former president of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine.1 Israeli physician Alexander Olshanietzky notes, “We believe that a woman gets better results in sports competition after orgasm…Generally, it’s true of high jumpers and runners. The more orgasms, the more chances of winning a medal.”2

“Research suggests that people who get regular aerobic exercise have more sex, better orgasms…than nonaerobic exercisers, says James White, Ph.D…Possible reasons: Vigorous exercise may increase natural testosterone levels (which might fuel desire in women as well as men), and it helps pump blood down to erogenous zones, like the vagina, increasing sensation. Regular workouts also boost your energy (remember, good sex can be hard work!), improve your confidence in your appearance and confer a sense of general well-being, all of which can give your libido a lift.”3 Seventy-eight sedentary men were studied over nine months as they began to exercise sixty minutes a day, three times a week. Every single man noted increased frequency, performance, and a greater level of satisfaction in his sex life.4

Take out your Palm Pilots and organizers and schedule in a little fun activity this week. (It’s a performance enhancer, after all.) You might also decide a recreational intimacy getaway is just what the doctor ordered. If so, mark off a little vacation time. Get out those travel brochures, and figure out where you want to go play again.


1news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3555734.stm
2Ibid.
3www.sextherapyny.com/fitness.htm
4www.bodybuildingforyou.com/articles-submit/ghf/better-sex-1.htm

Vocational Intimacy

Make time to discuss the business of life as a couple, but don't let it interfere with a romantic interlude.

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

If you thought the financial getaway was off the romance trail, what you’re probably thinking right now is, “How can talking about work help our love life?” It can’t – so just move on.

Just kidding! What happens to many couples is they work so much, they never talk about why they work so hard, what they are working for, or how they will use their little bit of free time when they do have it. Sometimes couples become overly focused on their careers because they have never gotten on the same goal plan sheet. Or maybe there are issues that need addressing in their relationship that feel too complicated, so more work seems easier than dealing with the problems.

Once a year (or at the very least once every 18 months), Bill and I go away to talk about the work/ministry side of our life and family. We have always been very proactive in the area of setting ten-year, seven-year, five-year, three-year, and one-year goals for our individual lives, for our careers, for the ministries we run, and for our family and home. However, it was on a date that we decided this deliberate approach was vital. In the midst of an amazing romantic environment, we watched a couple have an emotional meltdown before our very eyes. They began talking about money issues on this romantic interlude, which soon turned into a dramatic scene, complete with yelling and crying. We prayed for this couple and then looked at each other and said, “Let’s make sure that is never the story of our life!” That night we became even more convinced of the necessity of being on the same page in the area of goal setting. The business of life had stolen this couple’s red-hot monogamy, and we vowed to not let that happen to us.

 

On a goal-setting weekend, to really be clear minded, you will need to begin and end with five things:

  1. Prayer . You need to hear God’s voice leading you louder than anything else.
  2. Rest . Take a nap before you dig in and discuss. Then take a nap as a reward before you go home and face real life again.
  3. Good food . Cook together or eat at a favorite romantic spot when you begin and end this getaway. In our book Why Men and Women Act the Way They Do, we ran across research that said men are happier after they eat. At the same time, the place in a woman’s brain that controls eyesight is stimulated. She becomes more aware of her life, and he is more willing to engage her. So folks, the way to a man’s heart and the way to better interaction really is around the table. If you have a tough topic to discuss with your husband, feed him a great meal, give him super sex, and then share what’s on your heart.
  4. A little activity . Do something simple. A 20-minute walk or swim will clear your brain and replenish you.
  5. Great sex . Set an amount of time for talking about, writing down, and processing your goals and work discussion. Reward yourself with sex by each selecting one of the Red-Hot Romance Ideas to do before you get in the car and head home. (Remember, we said do these things at the beginning and end. At the beginning, reward yourself with sex just for making the effort to go on this kind of goal-oriented getaway.)

Parental Intimacy

Raising kids takes time and energy, but it's worth the effort to keep your romantic life alive and well.

by Bill Farrel, Pam Farrel

After money, the second-leading cause of arguments in marriage is decisions over the kids. This is especially true with the challenge of blended families. We often speak at family camps, where the topics in the adult sessions range from marital issues to how to discipline and motivate children and teens. There are a few vital times we suggest you get away to get on the same parenting page.

Before the birth of your first child. You will want to talk through how you were each raised. What things do you agree with and what things do you want to change? What is your parenting philosophy? Books such as Discipline Them, Love Them, and much of the work of James Dobson, FamilyLife Today, and Kevin Leman can help you define your philosophy of parenting. Philosophy simply means the “how” of raising children. Our philosophy of parenting is found in The 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make and Got Teens? Because we took time early to get on the same page in our parenting philosophy, we rarely disagree in this area.

Before your first child enters school. Life is about ready to change. Children will pick up their own social life, activities, and schedules. Which one of you will manage science fair, math homework, or teaching them to do chores? At what level will you be involved in your church’s children’s ministry or as a volunteer in the community? Will you coach soccer, head up a parent-teacher organization (PTO) board, or help run the Fall Festival on October 31? Talk about how much time and energy you can each donate to your children’s lives and activities. You have a responsibility to give to those groups that are giving to your children, so your biggest question should be, “How much do we do individually, and how much do we commit to together as a couple or as a family?” And how will you keep your romantic life alive? Will you have weekly date nights? Weekends away? Vacations? Who arranges child care for these things?

Before your first child enters their teen years. Now life is really going to change. Your schedule will move into warp speed, especially during the high school years. You must be on the same page in your answers to your teen on how you will deal with dating, discipline, drinking, drugs, dances, and all the other dilemmas that crop up during the teen years. If you took the time to lay a strong foundation, the teen years can be a delight as you see your teen blossom into an incredible and grounded young adult.

The biggest challenge to your red-hot monogamy at this stage of life is privacy. Your bedtime is probably before your kids’. How do you have sex if in the next room more than 15 teens are eating pizza? You will need to create some private space in your home and private time in your schedule. Take advantage of those Friday and Saturday nights when the kids are all out at a movie. (Just be sure you get the movie time accurately from your teens so they don’t walk back in the house with their six friends and catch you with your pants down (literally). They are now old enough to arrange to stay with friends when you go out of town. Take advantage of this. Don’t be afraid to tell your teens that you are going away for romance. They will probably be embarrassed, but inwardly they will be proud of you.

Before your first child leaves home for college or career. This is the launching pad. Your empty nest emotions may surprise you. There are many areas of potential disagreement too. In the teen years there were allowances, decisions about who pays for what when they start driving, etc., but now the stakes are upped There are college bills, rent, and weddings. Be sure to talk issues through privately before you meet with your adult child. As the last one flies from the nest, you might look at each other and ask, “Now what? We’ve been spending all our time with the kids. What do we do with this free time?” Or you might ask, “Who are you?” The responsibilities of life will change us, so you may need some extended time together to become reacquainted. Some helpful books at this stage of life are The Second Half of Marriage, Fighting for Your Empty Nest Marriage, The Act of Marriage After Forty, and Why Men and Women Act the Way They Do. Words like “Viagra,” “K-Y Jelly,” and “hot flashes” might become part of your vocabulary as the sex act changes with age. The upside is you can go on adventures because no on is waiting for you at home. Those trips to your kid’s college weekends can also be mini second honeymoons.

Before your first grandchild. Along with the joys of being a grandparent are a few challenges. How will it impact you emotionally to be called “Grandma” and “Grandpa”? Short skirts are long gone, so what clothes are “sexy” now? How much time will you devote to your grandchildren? If they live away from you, how often will you visit and how often will they visit you? This is also when the reality of your mortality hits. Are your affairs in order for your mate should your health fail? Are you financially ready for retirement?

This is also a time when love is the sweetest and most poignant. In the movie The Notebook, we see a husband fighting to stay emotionally connected to his wife, who has Alzheimer’s. He daily reads to her their love story out of a notebook. Sometimes her mind clicks back into reality and she responds. Those few brief moments make all the hours of reading worthwhile.

What’s the next natural life transition on the road ahead? Is it time to plan a getaway to better prepare for this life stage?


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