I need some advice. My husband and I have been married for over 20 years, we are in our 40s, and we have been completely faithful to each other. From my perspective, our sex life has always been very satisfying. I have never had any complaints. Of course, over the years we have experienced the ups and downs every long-term relationship experiences. We have kids who are now teenagers, which makes things in the bedroom a little more tricky. Teenagers also add a new level of stress to our lives. As you know, parenting teens can be an exhausting task. Sometimes I feel as though they sap the energy right out of me. My husband and I both work full-time and our jobs can be very stressful at times. On top of all that, I have an auto-immune disorder that causes fatigue and severe joint pain. Attacks are brought on by stress, weather, and who knows what else, so I feel that I am in a never-ending vicious circle.

My first question is how do you do it? If I remember from your past blogs, you guys have kids, jobs, and the typical stresses of everyday family life. By the way, I’m so glad that 2013 seems to be off to a great start for you both! I am happy for you. You both are inspiring! Where do you find the time and energy?Second, is my own personal problem that I have to deal with, but I need help. For most of our lives together, I have been more of the sexually adventurous one, nothing too wild. I have always had a strong sex drive. My husband has always been more than willing to accommodate. He’s a great man and a great lover. Last year, he took the initiative to do some research (a lot of research) and began buying us lots of fun toys! A great big thanks to you and Jane, by the way. I think you helped him a lot! We had so much fun last year. He made me very happy! My problem is that lately I don’t feel very sexy. In fact, sometimes I feel foolish. I’m not sure why. I know I’m not in the best shape, definitely not anything like the pictures people post on your site. I’m about 25-30 lbs overweight. My husband has never complained about my weight and he’s always been supportive. That’s why I know the problem is me. I try to exercise but I’m not one of those people who crave exercise. I wish I were! I set goals, but I fail. I feel like I’m in an awful rut! I fix the kids breakfast and send them to school praying they make it in one piece (all three drive. Yikes!). Sometimes my husband and I make use of the time after they leave the house. These are the mornings I like, but I am not much of a morning person and I take some, okay, maybe a lot of coaxing. Then we work all day. We come home and before we hit the door the kids have already started hitting us up with their plans for the day, week, or weekend. Remember, we were just born yesterday so some of these conversations or requests turn into unpleasant arguments ending with at least one child stomping away and slamming a door. I go to bed usually feeling exhausted and sometimes defeated. My husband doesn’t have much energy at the end of the day either. He really wants me to be a morning person. In the last two months our sex life has not seen as much action as usual and it is mostly me. So to sum it up, I feel unsexy, like I am not much of a wife, lover, or mom, and I’m tired. I really hope you have some advice to get me out of my rut.

Lastly, I am a person who needs intimacy outside of sex. I like to be held even if we don’t plan to have sex, although I don’t mind if it leads to sex. I seem to have a hard time getting my husband to understand. The last time I tried, I think I ended up hurting his feelings, which was not my intent and I felt horrible. I must be using the wrong words or my timing sucks or both. Any suggestions?

Desperately needing help,

Deb

Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson
Profile | Website

We’re sorry about the challenges you are facing. Stress can take an enormous toll, and it can often lead to a kind of emotional dogpiling. Your email raises multiple issues, some of which are outside the scope of our knowledge.Given all the problems you are currently facing, we’d strongly encourage you to find a counselor or therapist (one who is sensitive to your particular situation) to help you deal with some of these issues. In addition, finding a form of meditation that you can and will do on a regular basis can be very helpful for managing stress and also coping with the fatigue and pain you suffer. Here’s a link that should help you find some resources for using meditation to manage chronic illness:http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.phpGuided meditation can be a great way to relieve stress, and we have developed a technique we call Ananda Nidra®. It’s inspired by a traditional Tantric practice, but it has a specifically sensual focus. It’s likely to leave you feeling refreshed and more erotically charged. All you have to do is lie down (sitting is okay too) and follow the instructions. We have a 45-minute version available for purchase in CD or MP3 format, but you (and other readers) can download the fifteen minute version here for free:

http://tantrapm.bandcamp.com/album/ananda-nidra-beyond-the-power-nap

Give it a try and see if it helps.

You may also find that both meditation and therapy will provide you with tools for de-escalating the conflicts you are having with your children. They may help you feel more relaxed and open to being sexual.

Remember that you and your husband recently had a great year of sexual experimentation, so you have built up a lot of goodwill. As a way to get back in the groove, we suggest that you schedule dates with your husband at times that work for both of you and that you do your best to keep those dates and make love, even if you’re not feeling sexy. Some people are reluctant to do this because they think sex should be spontaneous and that desire is paramount. The truth is that people can get turned on whether they’re feeling desire or not, and once arousal sets in the question of “being in the mood” is moot. Since your kids are all able to drive, you can simply tell them that you need some private time and would like to have the house to yourselves when you’ve scheduled your dates. This may feel a little awkward, but chances are they won’t ask, and all you have to do is set the boundary; there’s no need for you to tell.

Since we weren’t present when you asked your husband for more affection outside of a sexual context, we can’t say for sure why the conversation went awry. Stress levels were quite likely a contributing factor; it also seems possible that you asked in a way that made it difficult or impossible for him to hear you or to absorb what you were saying; he may have taken what you said as a criticism or a rejection; it’s even possible that he misunderstood you and thought you were saying you are interested in affection but not sex. We always encourage people to begin their their requests by sharing a minimum of three things you love about your sex-life and relationship, so if you were to frame it along the lines of – “I love making love with you, and I’m so grateful that you’v been adventurous lately. The experimenting we’ve been doing and the sex toys have brought me a lot of pleasure. I want to keep on exploring. I also love to cuddle with you, even when sex isn’t involved. Sometimes, I’m tired, stressed out, or in pain. That can make it very hard to feel sexy, but I love it when you touch me or hug me even if it’s not going to lead to a sexual encounter.”

Hope this is helpful

Jane of Dick-n-Jane.com
(degreed Nursing professional)

Hello Deb,Thanks for contacting us and trusting us with your intimate feelings. First, let me just tell you that I can definitely identify with you on many levels. We too are in our 40’s, have been married for almost 20 years and have teenagers. We have faced the ups and downs of marriage as well and let me tell you, it’s not always easy. Marriage takes work and sexual intimacy takes work, even without the added stress of; full time jobs, teenagers, and health issues. I will address your questions as I see them and as best I can.How do we do it? There are many factors involved in maintaining a fulfilling sex life when married with children and jobs, finding the time and energy being one of the most challenging aspects. As I stated in our recent blog post Thirteen Is Our Get Lucky Number, I found through the 30 day challenge that it wasn’t really all that hard to find the time and energy for a sexual connection every day. I actually found that at the end of a long day intimate sexual connection didn’t really require much energy at all, was refreshing, and even relaxing. I totally get the teenager thing. We have a 13 year old daughter who’s turn on a dime mood swings can cast a cloud over the entire household, zapping any and all sexual energy from me. But I have learned that the connection to Dick at the end of the day actually makes me feel better. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of intimate connection on some level. Which I think kind of makes the rest just fall into place. In their book Great Sex Made Simple, Mark and Patricia outline some wonderful ideas for connecting with your partner (yes, the same Mark and Patrica who also responded to your question above). For us, it began with what we affectionately call the “naked hug”. Every single night when we get into bed one of us crawls over naked on top of the other for a skin on skin embrace. That contact does wonders for a person. No matter what kind of day you’ve had. Invariably the genitals find each other and the arousal builds from there. Try it! We also keep connected to each other during the day by sending sexy, suggestive, flirty texts or emails to each other as well as sexy images and gifs found on Tumblr which keeps the sexual “battery” charged.Intimacy outside of sex is something I believe we all need and, according to the following article, it is the key to a successful long term relationship: Lots of Nonsexual Touching Is the Key to a Successful Long-Term Relationship. Dick has some things to say on this topic, see his answer below.

Self image issues can zap sexual energy for sure. It’s hard to be sexy when you don’t feel sexy. I personally went through a “body transformation” 10 years ago (Dick wrote about it here). I was 40 lbs overweight and started having health issues because of it. I have 2 pieces of advice to offer here.

– First, losing weight and getting healthy requires a life change, not a fad diet or tons of vigorous exercise. It takes making a decision to change. I have done extensive research on nutrition in the last 10 years and have come to the conclusion that sugar and grains are the key to what makes us fat. You said you have an auto-immune disease that causes severe joint pain and fatigue. Have you ever tried a gluten-free diet? Often times people with one auto immune disease have other auto immune issues such as Celiac Disease or even simple gluten intolerance. I think you will find if you ditch gluten and limit sugar and carbohydrates you will see both weight loss and, quite possibly, an improvement in your other symptoms as well.

– Second, as far as exercise goes, when I decided to change myself 10 years ago I started a 6 day per week exercise program that was sustainable. I am not one, as you said, who craves exercise either but I have learned over the years that long drawn out cardio sessions are actually counter productive. You don’t need to run on a treadmill for an hour to get the benefits of exercise. Do something you enjoy and start simple. Try yoga or walking. When you start to lose weight and start to feel better, you’ll be able to do more. At this point I do sprints three times a week, simple weight lifting 2 days a week and a nice long walk the other day. I totally understand that finding time to exercise is just something else to add to your day, but I’m a firm believer that taking care of yourself first, helps you to deal better with everything else in your life. Feeling good about yourself goes a long way! Remember, when setting your goals for weight loss and exercise, make sure they are realistic and very specific. Write them down, keep a journal, and check in with yourself on a daily basis.

Dick of Dick-n-Jane.com
(layman with a website)

There’s no time, you’re just too busy. It’s late and you are tired. Stress and distraction chase away every drop of desire. All this sound familiar? It’s not that Jane and I can empathize by imagining your situation, rather that we have been stuck dead center in that same mess before, for extended periods of time! Who knows, we might get stuck there again someday but we’re learning some tools along the way which will help us a great deal in our next downturn. Maybe some of our simple techniques can get you moving in the right direction again today. My recent struggle with anorgasmia forced a change in my perspective and helped me better understand my own desire. You and your husband might try a mutual agreement to abstain from sex for two weeks while at the same time ramping up your shared physical intimacy, as described below. Physical touch is an essential nutrient to personal health and happiness (interesting related article, Human Connections Start With a Friendly Touch). Sometimes busy married types only get the touch they need from sex, so sex itself begins to seem like the essential thing they need. But sex has its own set of requirements; sufficient time, energy, and clean up, among others and this (often undesirable) overhead can thwart efforts to get the simple touch we need. Because we associate intimate touch with an expectation for sex, we can end up withholding affection for fear of initiating something we don’t want to finish.

Change the rules, remove the expectation for sex and ramp up the physical affection. These days Jane and I make a conscious effort to touch each other as often as we can. Skin on skin is the most effective and something as simple as holding hands works well. There is no reason teenagers in the house would be disruptive to this… and you can even do it when you’re dead tired and not feeling well. In fact, you might find it helps you feel better.

To maximize the skin on skin effect, we recently agreed to a fully naked hug at least once a day. It started out as a standing hug during our morning routines but shifted quickly to bedtime. At this point it often involves a sexual position and sometimes leads to sex… even when we’re both feeling beat up from a tough day. The goal is not the sex, it is the physical intimacy.

I’m not suggesting an emphasis on touch is a cure-all, but it’s such a simple and easy tool that trying it is not an overwhelming effort. The benefits are mutual, can lead to feeling more desired by you partner which can, in turn, boost self image. You can even extend a focus on touch to other relationships in your life to include your kids, parents, and even your pets. Sans the sex, of course. ;o)

Your husband seems willing to experiment in the bedroom and he is already familiar with who we are… tell him Dick and Jane have an idea to spice up your marriage that he should consider.

Good luck Deb!