The Same-Old-Sex Syndrome

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After about ten years of marriage, I noticed that intimacy with my husband had become . . . well . . . boring. In fact, I was so bored with the “same old sex” that I calculated in my mind approximately how many times my husband and I had probably done the same thing. The next thought I had was: Something’s gotta change. My bedroom ceiling just isn’t that fascinating!

That little mental exercise was a wake-up call. I wanted sexual intimacy in my marriage to be fun, new, and creative. If sex seemed dull after 10 years of marriage, how would I feel after 30?
I’ve wrestled with the question of how to make sex exciting while also maintaining a sense of reverence for God’s standards. You might be surprised at how much freedom we have to pursue adventurous sex in marriage. Consider the fact that the Song of Solomon includes things like the bride planning a sexual rendezvous in a vineyard!

God created sex to be fulfilling for both men and women on many different levels. Scientific research shows us that exciting, adventurous sex serves a different purpose in marriage than the “normal” episodes of sexual intimacy between a husband and wife. The truth is, both are important to building a strong marriage.

A Chemistry Lesson

To understand the importance of both “normal” sex and adventurous sex, you need to understand the impact each has on your body and brain. When a couple in a committed relationship has sex, their bodies release endorphins and oxytocin. These two chemicals lead to feelings of closeness, bonding, and a general sense of well-being. Oxytocin and endorphins reduce stress, promote sound sleep and pain relief, and even may help slow the aging process. Frequent “normal” intercourse in marriage actually helps a husband and wife feel closely connected as they weather the storms of life together.

On the other hand, when a couple has a new, exciting sexual experience, their bodies release different chemicals, including phenylethylamine (PEA) and adrenaline. The combination of these two is powerful – much stronger than the steady impact of oxytocin and endorphins. In fact, PEA and adrenaline impact the brain in a way similar to crack cocaine. A person becomes intoxicated with sexual pleasure. God designed this as a wonderful treasure for young lovers to experience on their honeymoon as they venture into sexuality together and for lovers who find delight in exploring new things.

Two Potential Dangers

Some couples err on the side of never trying anything new. Sex becomes as routine as brushing your teeth or driving to work – just part of regular life. When sex becomes merely humdrum, couples aren’t receiving the fullness of God’s good gift of intimacy.

I believe God gave us the incredible experience of renewed sexual pleasure so married couples can experience what it means to feel like “the finest fruits are at our door, new delights as well as old, which I have saved for you, my lover” (Song of Solomon 7:13). In Proverbs 5:19, a young man is told to be “intoxicated” with sexual love for his wife. For this to be true, a couple needs to work on having fun, trying new things, and – yes – being adventurous!

On the other side of the spectrum is the couple who always seeks new, adventurous sex, to constantly push the envelope and achieve a euphoric sexual high. This mindset isn’t healthy either. The chemicals that cause great sexual excitement are subject to the impact of tolerance. In other words, what was arousing last week won’t be enough to achieve that same high today. This can lead a couple to become desperate to find the next high. Often this attitude can also lead to harmful sexual practices outside of God’s plan, such as bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (BDSM), or pornography. The quest for a constant sexual high eventually replaces the emotional and spiritual intimacy sex was meant to express. Loving each other ends up getting lost in the quest for physical euphoria.

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What’s for Dinner?

So how do you find the balance between staring at your bedroom ceiling and feeding a sexual addiction? The best illustration I’ve heard compares sex to cooking. In your sexual relationship, there will sometimes be “fast food,” sometimes “home-cooked meals,” and sometimes “holiday feasts.”

Fast-food sex is all about meeting an immediate need. When you’re exhausted and your husband desperately wants to be intimate, sometimes you just have sex to satisfy his immediate need (or vice versa). It may not be super pleasurable or fulfilling for you, but that’s okay – it serves a purpose. This kind of sex is sort of like stopping at McDonald’s on a busy day. It fills your stomach temporarily, but you certainly don’t want to make a habit of it.

Home-cooked sex is the basic standby. Usually it requires some thinking and planning ahead. You and your husband take time to enjoy each other physically, even though there’s no 12-piece orchestra playing or fireworks display in the background. But you both are fulfilled sexually and emotionally, and the interaction helps you feel connected and close.
A holiday feast happens every so often. The table is filled with rich new foods to try. Like on Thanksgiving or Christmas, you splurge for your celebration of each other. This type of sex is important, even if it isn’t frequent. It’s for that weekend getaway or anniversary celebration. You and your husband put thought and planning into it, setting aside a significant amount of time simply to explore and enjoy each other.

Trying new things in the bedroom isn’t simply a matter of being adventurous. In fact, it’s just as likely to lead to laughter as it is to sexual pleasure. There have been times I’ve felt quite ridiculous trying something new. However, my desire to grow as a lover to my husband and to continue to enjoy the beautiful gift of intimacy motivates me to take Dr. Lewis Smedes’s advice in his book Sex for Christians: “The Christian word on trying out a sexual practice that is not prohibited in Scripture is, ‘Try it. If you like it, it is morally good for you. And it may well be that in providing new delight to each other, you will be adventuring into deeper experiences of love.'”

Used with permission. Dr. Juli Slattery is clinical psychologist, speaker, and author whose books include Finding the Hero in Your Husband, No More Headaches, Beyond the Masquerade, and Guilt Free Motherhood. For more from Juli, check out www.authenticintimacy.com.

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About Juli Slattery

Juli SlatteryDr. Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She’s the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. She hosts Java With Juli on Moody Radio, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. Juli’s books include Passion Pursuit, Finding the Hero in Your Husband, No More Headaches, and Guilt-Free Motherhood. She and her husband, Mike, have been married since 1994 and have three children.  Read more at authenticintimacy.com.

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