Blowing with the Winds of Change

Surprise! We're changing things up with a brand new Date Night. As the weather cools and the seasons change, we couldn't pass up talking about a critical component of your thriving marriage -- mutually satisfying physical intimacy. This date is designed to encourage the special bond between you and your spouse that often gets lost amidst the demands of work, children and real life.

Without question, mutually satisfying sexual intimacy is one of the traits of a thriving marriage. Because they are joined as "one flesh," husbands and wives must place a healthy emphasis on this physical component of their spiritual union.

It's understandable that for many married couples, sex can become more of a "chore" or a matter of routine. With the demands of careers, church commitments, and child rearing, it can be tough for couples to find time for meaningful physical intimacy. Ideally, though, sex in marriage is about joy, pleasure, and mutual satisfaction. It's a delightful "dance" in which each spouse puts the other's needs and interests ahead of his or her own and explores ways of giving sexually to the other.

The Bible suggests that the sexual act is the nexus of "leaving and cleaving," as described in Genesis: "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This is the very essence of matrimony. Sex is the glue that uniquely unites a husband and wife and places their relationship in a category apart from all other human relationships.

Of course, it's also important to note that there is a great deal more to marriage than just sex. Even the term "physical intimacy" can refer to more than just sexual intercourse in the narrow sense. It includes affection, tenderness, warmth, and physical touch. This point deserves to be stressed because sexual intimacy in marriage is a lifelong process. Different forms of expression may be appropriate at different stages—in youth and old age, in times of stress and times of joy, during pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing, during and after menopause—and so on. Where pain or physical incapacity have ruled out the possibility of certain types of sexual activity, it's worth remembering that there are other forms of physical intimacy. Physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, even intimate conversation can be extremely fulfilling in the absence of other forms of sexual pleasure. Thriving couples approach marital sex with candor, prayerfulness, vulnerability, flexibility and a willingness to communicate at every stage of life.

Remember, always act like you're trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and "woo" our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Date Night

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine. Or, in light of this date's emphasis on physical intimacy, perhaps you can take the kids to a babysitter and then "order in" at home!

Step 2: Connect with your mate physically.

If you decide to go out, pick a fun activity that you both enjoy, such as visiting a museum, going for a walk around the park, or even seeing a movie. Be sure to engage in lots of physical touch during this time—hold hands, kiss, put your arms around each other, and so on. Now, there's obviously a fine line between appropriate public displays of affection and an outright groping, make-out session that causes everyone around you to say, "Get a room!" Don't cross that line.

If you decide to stay at home for this date, spend the evening exploring ways to connect physically—but non-sexually—before rushing right into the "main event." Try giving each other back rubs or a foot massage.

Step 3: Relax and unwind. Ready for a few questions?

  • After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation (this is an important part of the evening even if you opted to stay home!). Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.
  • What was your favorite part of the evening?What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn't know about me before? Talk about your physical relationship. Take turns praising your mate for the physical attributes and personality traits that you most admire about him or her.
  • Ask questions such as, "Are there ways we can be more intentional about connecting physically—but non-sexually—during the week?" "What aspects of our sexual relationship do you find the most pleasurable?" "How can I be more giving toward you during sex?"

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

Whether you left the house or stayed home, spend time planning your next date. Think about additional ways you can enhance your sexual intimacy in the days and weeks ahead. Then, it's up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

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© 2012 Focus on the Family.