I've got good news for old, boring, middle-aged married people, a subset of our population that makes up the bulk of the INFO for Families readership.
Married couples are having sex more frequently and more pleasurably than ever before.
It turns out that the stereotype that the young and single are getting it on more often is just plain wrong. I stumbled across this in an article called "Love and Lust" in the August 2014 issue of Psychology Today. To be honest, I didn't stumble across it. When I saw the cover, I was compelled to buy it. It was more like entrapment.
Author Virginia Rutter writes, "Contrary to conventional wisdom, married couples have more sex than the nonmarried. In the prime years, ages 25 to 59, married individuals were five times more likely to have sex two to three times a week (25%) than singles (5%)."
She goes on: "Studies also show that long-term couples get better at sex and get more pleasure out of it." This proves what I have long held to be true: singles experiencing one-night stands or short term relationships lack the necessary longevity required for true intimacy. The (secular) article mentioned two obvious reasons for this but zoomed in on a third that was both surprising and quite simple.
The first obvious reason that long term couples experience better sex is that practice makes perfect. Simply put, it takes a long time to learn how to effectively meet another person's needs.
Secondly, sexual satisfaction is best found within the security of a covenant marriage, particularly one marked by high levels of trust. Relationship expert John Gottman puts it this way: "Sexual imagination has one necessary ingredient: the freedom to play. Play requires a feeling of safety." That happens best when both partners are "all in" for the long-haul, something found in most of our middle-aged (and occasionally hum-drum) marriages. While that feeling of familiarity can feel like a bad thing, it can actually be a plus.
A third finding from the research highlighted in the article was the correlation between sexual activity and the frequency that a husband did housework. This is the component that jumped out at me the most. And one that wives would do well to point out to their husbands.
Research shows that husbands who frequently do housework get more sex than men who don't.
After extensive research Gottman concluded that "where men contribute to housework and childcare, their partners see them as sexy, and indeed they have more sex than couples in which the men are chore-free."
This reminds me of that season life when Jenifer and I had three kids aged four and under. As Jenifer recalls, she was plenty exhausted by the end of the day. However, when I came home I would try to help tidy the house, clean up the kitchen after dinner and manage the kids' bedtime routine. She remembers me doing those simple domestic tasks as the best foreplay in the world. It showed her that I honored her enough to come alongside her and carry her burdens. The result was that it sparked her interest in connecting in a physical way. (I got bonus points if I gave the counter tops a wipe down more thorough than I would do on my own.)
I think most women would agree with Jen's experience. In fact, it is clearly reflected in a funny picture book we found years ago called something like "P@RN for Stay at Home Moms." It had photos of hunky guys holding babies and doing housework, saying things like, "Why don't you go take a warm bath while I mop the kitchen." Ask any mom in the throes of raising kids and they will tell you the same thing: husbands who do go the extra mile to pitch in around the house are a turn on.
Note that the housework isn't the thing. The relationship is.
One of the most tangible ways a husband can show he is committed to the partnership is to serve his wife in everyday things. This is the most simple interpretation of Ephesians 5:25 I can think of. Paul writes: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Every guy imagines throwing Himself in front of a bus to lay down his life for his wife. However, most guys aren't quite as quick to lay down the remote control to pick up a broom. In actuality, love is usually better seen in the small stuff than in the big stuff.
Quoting Virginia Butler in the Psychology Today article: "For John Gottman, desire hinges primarily on how couples relate in the routines of everyday life. In his (housework study that examined husbands who frequently contribute), what sustained the sexual connection was that the wife felt respected and understood." Nothing does this more effectively than when a husband serves and helps his wife.
So fellas, get a clue. There's a connection here. It's not a magic formula, but you can't argue with the research. You cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing a toilet, or making the bed may be the turn on your wife needs. It doesn't mean you have to become a domestic servant, but it doesn't hurt to help share the load if you aren't already.
Sociologist Constance Gager summed it up beautifully: "Time spent on important and worthwhile shared activities can enrich couples and energize them to have more sex." It builds a sense of "shared purpose" in the relationship. It's not that housework is sexy (it's not), but it does provide a daily proving ground to show that you and your spouse are in it together.
*We invite you to check out my new book: The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It has been developed to assist parents as they help their kids navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it provides practical help to help your kids to make wise choices in a messed-up world. It is on sale at Amazon for $11.99.
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