It was a 90-minute drive to another three-day conference and the rest of the staff attending with me were women, so I would be in a hotel room by myself. The first day played out as expected with long meetings and professional discussions. I grew smarter about my career, but I missed my wife, Pam.
That evening as I entered my hotel room, I noticed a flickering light and the scent of fresh-baked cookies. My first thought was that the hotel staff had stepped up their game. Standing in the candlelight, however, was Pam, dressed in one of my favorite outfits and surrounded by the smooth sound of jazz music.
I stood in stunned silence as we gazed into each other's eyes. I could have stared all night, but Pam ran into my arms and greeted me with a big hug and a luscious kiss.
"What are you doing here?" I asked in astonishment.
"I had the night off, so I thought I would come see how you are doing."
"What about the kids? Where are they?"
"Shelly agreed to watch them. Since we are going to watch her kids next month, I figured she would be willing to help me out."
Since all the bases were covered, Pam and I decided to cover all the bases with each other. It was intriguing to think that no one else knew we were in our room together. We were sharing a secret rendezvous that was mysterious, magnetic and guilt-free! It was similar to when we were newly married, but it was also more meaningful. The memories we had shared over the years were now intertwined with our expressions of love. It was sweet, and I knew the moment would live in our hearts forever.
Pam and I got married because we were great friends and our hearts found a deep connection. Expressing our love was fun when it was just us. But by the time a few years had passed and all of our kids were in school, we discovered we were a new rendition of us. We were more concerned about our monthly budget and making our mortgage payments. At the same time, we still longed to feel the spark of love that began this ever-maturing journey together.
It became obvious to us, however, that our intimate life would not magically happen simply because we were in love. That unexpected rendezvous in the hotel room so many years ago was an example of our willingness to accept that enjoying intimacy in the parenting season of life would require more planning and a less complicated acceptance of one another's needs.
As a husband, I tend to evaluate the quality of our intimacy by the frequency of our sexual encounters. It isn't that I think intimacy is all about sex; it's just that I feel closer to Pam when she is sensitive to my body's longings to be with her. I don't want to put pressure on her, especially because I realize our kids have made our lives more demanding, but life is better for me when we share mutually satisfying physical intimacy. In the midst of our busy life, I know I run the risk of creating another expectation that she feels she must meet, but I have no idea how not to be physically attracted to her.
Pam tends to evaluate the quality of our intimacy by the strength and sensitivity of our friendship with each other. When I care about her emotionally, respond sensitively to her needs and assist her with tasks that are important to her, she is more interested in me physically.
That rendezvous lingers in our memories because it met both of our needs. I was thrilled because Pam tangibly expressed her desire to be with me physically. Pam was thrilled because the look in my eyes and the tone of my voice expressed that she had a place in my heart that no one else had.
Family life, although satisfying, will cause the stress level in a marriage to rise. Most husbands have a natural rhythm in their bodies that motivates them to be physically intimate every few days. Added stress will cause a husband to think about being with his wife more often and increase his longing for quick sexual encounters that relieve tension.
Wives usually have a natural desire to make life better for each member of the family, which can usher in new expectations with each passing year. Physical intimacy can seem like just another responsibility she must fulfill; if she doesn't, she may conclude she is failing. The longing in her heart is for her husband to interrupt her life with a lingering, unhurried sexual escape. The interlude is best when she knows the kids are taken care of, distractions have been addressed and her needs are given ample attention.
When our kids were young, I made an agreement with three of my friends to take turns watching the others' kids. With all of us on board, I was assured I could be home alone with Pam at least one night per month. On those nights, I would say to her, "We have all night, so this one is for you." The unhurried, uninterrupted time engendered many thank-yous from my wife.
Pam was equally determined to look for opportunities that were more "efficient." We had an office in our home that we used on days we were away from the workplace. Every once in a while, she would walk into the office, interrupt whatever I was working on and say, "I have a minute. This one is for you." The encounter, of course, took longer than a minute, but I was vividly aware that Pam cared about my needs.
The early stages of a marriage relationship are fueled by a powerful mixture of hormones that makes hearts race and palms sweat, that lowers appetites and increases the couple's sense of joy. But over time, the relationship moves from infatuation to true companionship. Love between a husband and wife becomes calmer, and they begin to take a more realistic view of their partnership. At this stage, couples engage in physical intimacy partly because they trust each other's character.
Early in our marriage, I was captivated by Pam because I thought she was beautiful, sexy and fun. As I've watched her mature, I've found myself equally captivated by her because she is honest, diligent, intensely interested in the success of those she loves and sincere in her faith. Our lovemaking now sends powerful messages to my wife's heart: "I accept you," "I admire you for who you are," "I trust who you have become," "I believe you are a great asset in our family" and "My life is better with you in it."
Our experience says it is possible for both husband and wife to enjoy a satisfying sex life. It takes some planning and a deliberate focus on each other's needs to keep passion on the front burner, but the results are well worth it. Your shared expression of love will provide a welcome relief amid the responsibilities of life.
Couples who want to stay intimately connected can now integrate the power of technology into romance. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, four out of 10 young couples (18–29 years old) report they feel closer to one another because they have connected with each other throughout the day with text messages and online communication.
Savvy couples now use digital communication to flirt, share innuendos and express their desire for one another in discreet ways. Yet 42 percent of these same couples say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together. So, social media can enhance the intimacy in your relationship or become an obstacle to it.
Pam and I respect the power of digital tools in cultivating intimacy, so we have created the following strategies:
- Each day, we deliver a message of love to each other.
- We silence our phones during our dates and only respond to obvious emergency calls.
- We check email just before our dates and don't check again until the next morning.
- If we take pictures during a date, we wait until after the date to post them online.
- We thank each other with digital communication the day after a date.
- We take each other — rather than our cellphones — to bed.
Bill Farrel is the author or co-author of several books, including Red-Hot Monogamy and 7 Simple Skills for Every Man.