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Keep the Spark Alive

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There's something fleeting about the excitement of a new relationship. But regardless of how much the flames have died down, couples can revitalize their sexual relationship and build deeper passion.

“The passion is gone. We might as well be roommates.” We’ve heard disappointed couples make similar statements countless times during our careers as sex therapists. And the statement is not without some truth. There’s something fleeting about the excitement and passion of a new relationship. Before long, the daily pressures of life nudge out those giddy emotions, and the surge of “newness” brain chemicals slows to a trickle. Some couples are so busy raising children and dealing with stressful jobs that physical intimacy has simply slipped in their priorities — or at least in one of the spouses’ priorities. Regardless of how much the flames have died down, couples can learn to revitalize their sexual relationship and build deeper passion over their lifetime.

The learning curve of the early years

Those couples who clarify their expectations and learn to talk openly about sex are better able to make the transition from the newness of their sexual relationship to more intimate, enduring passion.

We all come to marriage with expectations about sex. Newly married couples often have different ideas about how often a couple will have sex, who will initiate and which sexual activities between a husband and wife are OK.

Differing sexual expectations can cause confusion and conflict, but when the couple respectfully talks through those differences, they can create a plan that works for both of them, so each will have deepened love for the other.

What if one spouse wants to do something that makes the other uncomfortable? What are acceptable sexual behaviors between a husband and a wife? We offer some guiding principles:

  • The acceptable activity is an expression of love for the other, rather than self-serving.
  • It is mutual — as good for one as it is for the other. We love the paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 found in The Message: “The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality — the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to ‘stand up for your rights.’ Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.”
  • Use the comfort level of the most conservative spouse as the threshold, but be willing to grow one small step at a time.
  • It is important that the activity draws spouses closer together; that it builds intimacy and oneness.
  • It does not interfere with either spouse’s relationship with God or with biblical teaching.
As you and your spouse talk, you may notice that you have different levels of comfort with the sex topic. To help couples talk more freely, we encourage them to share their likes and dislikes, as well as acknowledge their apprehensions and discomforts. (It’s not a good idea, however, to share complaints before, during or after sex.) Find time away from the bedroom to talk about and design the best conditions for sex for both spouses. The best conversations are those that are specific and work out any differences.

Building fulfillment during the middle years

The time between the first five years of marriage until the physical and hormonal changes of aging set in can be considered the “middle years.” These are often hectic years with children in the home, job pressures and many other activities that drain a couple’s energy supply, including energy for sexual desire and responsiveness. This is a time to determine priorities.

To keep passion alive during this time, it’s vital that couples are intentional about staying connected and planning for intimate times together. This may be the stage of your marriage when scheduling becomes necessary. Couples who grow in passion during these years are those who make mutual decisions regarding their sexual times together rather than have sex by duty or demand. Demand, whether subtle or overt, stifles sexual desire. “Duty sex” kills passion for both spouses over time.

To keep passion alive through all stages of marriage, we encourage couples to practice our “Formula for Intimacy” (see below). Whether couples are in the early adjustment years of marriage or in those challenging middle years, the passion of a relationship can be savored or rekindled. Couples will be able to keep the spark alive by taking time for each other — time to talk, to have fun and to kiss. Daily passionate kissing keeps the pilot light on so the flames can easily be turned up. If you take time and make the commitment to work toward building deeper passion based on true intimacy, your marriage will grow and glow with greater vibrancy over your lifetime.


Formula for Intimacy

Connect 15 minutes a day

Emotionally: Look into each other’s eyes; share a positive thought, feeling or affirmation of the other.
Spiritually: Share an inspirational reading and prayer.
Physically: Hug for 20 seconds; kiss passionately for 5 to 30 seconds without leading to sex.

One evening a week

Walk, date, caress with no demands.

One day a quarter

Make time for special fun and playing together without distractions; lead and teach enjoyable touch.

One weekend a year

Spend time alone together away or at home with no distractions.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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