marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Best Possible Sex – Lack of Appreciation

In case you missed the last installments, here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

In communicating with our spouse, definitions are very important. Your definition of a term may be very different from what your spouse’s is. What is appreciation?

Appreciation: a feeling of being grateful for something or someone. An ability to understand the worth, quality or importance of something or someone.[i]

Think of all the things you and your spouse contribute or will contribute in the years to come to your marriage. There are sacrifices of personal time, money, belongings and friends to ensure the life and well-being of your spouse and that they make for yours.

As we each contribute our part, settle into our roles and grow comfortable with each other, it becomes easy to just expect our spouse will just do their part.

Take for granted: fail to properly appreciate (someone or something), especially as a result of overfamiliarity.[ii]

But we’re married! Do we really need to show appreciation to our spouse anymore?  What happens when we stop showing appreciation to our spouse?

Dr. Susan Heitler Ph.D. in her article Does Gratitude Matter in Marriage?[iii] said:

“As marriages move past the honeymoon stage, couples go from appreciating and loving every little detail about each other to taking each other for granted. 

Amie Gordon, a psychologist from U.C. Berkeley, blames this for the downfall of many relationships: ”You get used to having [your spouse] in your life and forget why you chose to be with them.” 

We become deadened to our spouse’s special qualities and instead focus on things that annoy us about them. These doldrums leave couples confused and discouraged: “Maybe the man they married isn’t so great after all…What happened to the spark in our relationship?...What do we do now?”

It’s easy to see how failing to show appreciation can disrupt the best possible sex. Who is going to feel turned on when they feel resentful, taken advantage of or taken for granted?

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comics, said, “I’ve had a number of occasions…to test the power of praise, and I find it an amazing force, especially for adults. Children are accustomed to a continual stream of criticisms and praise, but adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise…you realize that withholding it borders on immoral…”[iv]

Fortunately, it’s never too late to turn this around. Here are some suggestions of things we can do to show appreciation to our spouse.

Dr. Heitler goes on to say
 “a nourishing cycle of encouragement and appreciation provides extra incentive to maintain our relationships. In other words, when we appreciate our [spouse], we develop trust and respect. When we feel appreciated, we feel needed and encouraged.”

To show appreciation, you can:
  • Remember your manners. Say please and thank you – it goes a long way
  • Hold their hand to give reassurance 
  •  Take time to notice what got done around the house or for what they endured at work for you that day – give credit where credit is due.
  •  Let your spouse vent. If they’ve had a hard day and are crumbling inside, be a listening ear. 
  •  If they are about to face a challenge, give encouragement – even if they say they don’t want it. Say something like “I appreciate all you go through for us, you can do this.”
  •  Showing appreciation can be leaving the frustration you feel for the work or people at work outside of the door to your home. Greet your family with a cheerful countenance and vice versa from those at home.
  •  Most important, ask! Ask your spouse what things you could do or say that would make them feel appreciated. Is it bringing flowers home? Is it greeting you with a hot apple pie? Find out! Make it fun.
“Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you. Express that love and gratitude often. That will make life far richer and more pleasant and purposeful. Don’t withhold those natural expressions of love. And it works a lot better if you are holding her close while you tell her.” 
~ Elder Richard G Scott[v]

Join us next time when we discuss how past regrets can dampen the best possible sex.

[iii] Heitler, Susan Ph.D. Does Gratitude Matter in Marriage?, Psychology Today, July, 14,2012
[iv] Adams, Scott. How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big; Kind of the Story of My Life. Portfolio/Penguin. 2013. Pg. 106.
[v] Scott, Richard G., The Eternal Blessing of Marriage, Apr. 2011 General Conference,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Best Possible Sex - Unkind Words or Actions

When it comes to what can turn off a man or turn off a woman and therefore disrupt the formula for the best possible sex, this one may seem obvious.  But for some, what constitutes an unkind word or action isn’t always so obvious.

In the quest for the best possible sex we can enjoy as spouses, another issue that can and does interfere with that quest is our words and actions that are less than Christlike.

How can that be, some may say? It is not like I’m beating my spouse. We just tease each other sometimes. We play around with each other. It is all in good fun. 

Just Playing Around…or Verbal Abuse?
Definitions can help us get our bearings if we’re not sure of how to interpret behavior. To better illustrate, Nancy Darling, a professor of psychology at Oberlin College, gives this example:

“The meaning of teasing depends on how the person being teased responds.  If the teased laughs, it’s a joke.  If they take it seriously, it’s serious.  If they take it as an insult, it is and the next interaction proceeds accordingly.”[i]

So, if our spouse does not receive our teasing well, the key is to adjust until we get the results we’re looking for.

J. Thomas Cerley, the Director of LDS Social Services in the Louisiana area, wrote an article where he defined verbal abuse in much more concrete terms:

“Verbal abuse can include blaming (“If you would [listen to me], I wouldn’t have to yell”),
threatening (“You’d better stop that or else”),
name-calling (“You’re stupid”; “You’re an embarrassment”),
belittling (“Anyone could do better than that”; “You’re so clumsy”),
rejecting (“Leave me alone!”),
shaming (“You’re no good”),
or comparing (“Why can’t you be as smart or attractive as that person?”).
Or a [spouse] may communicate to [spouse] in ways that indicate the [situation] is hopeless (“You never …”; “You always …”).
The home should be a safe, sacred place of refuge for [the family]. But this is not the case when [spouses] are verbally abusive.[ii]

Some other ways to differentiate abuse from miscommunication can be found in my article "What's The Difference? Abuse vs. Miscommunication

Hurtful Actions
As we grow and relax into our marriage, for many of us, the bad manners can also creep in. Bad manners can also lead to a turned off spouse.
Dr. Guy Winch, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article “How To Survive 50 Common Marital Pet Peeves” [iii]said,
“Relationships are fertile breeding grounds for pet peeves to develop. While we learn to tolerate some of our partners’ annoying habits, others can become even more irritating over time. Once pet peeves begin to accumulate, they can be highly damaging to a couples’ emotional bond. In some cases, pet peeves can make one member of the couple feel emotionally allergic to the other, hastening the demise of the entire relationship.”
He lists many common actions that can hurt, but he also offers this advice for countering:
1. Don’t sweat the mildly annoying pet peeves—prioritize the highly annoying ones.
2. Discuss no more than two pet peeves at a time and preferably one.
3. Try to be delicate in how you address the issue. Make sure to frame it as something minor (e.g., “This is not a huge deal but I do want to discuss it”).
4. Discuss only the specific behavior and not their personality or intention (e.g., “I wish you wouldn’t leave empty cups in the bedroom,” as opposed to “You’re lazy”).
5. Use the complaint sandwich to present the problem (see tutorial here).
6. Ask if they are willing to work on the issue, don’t demand they do.
7. Use ‘I’ statements to explain why the issue annoys you (e.g., when I find toenail clippings on the living room table, I feel a little disgusted).
8. Be prepared for them to bring up their own pet peeves about you and be open to addressing them (even if you don’t think they’re as big a deal as the one you brought up).
9. Thank them for listening and for their willingness to make efforts (if they agree to do so).
10. If and when they improve, thank them and let them know you appreciate their efforts.”

No Good Results from It
Angry words and actions meant to wound seldom result in arousal in either party. It also destroys trust.  So the best possible sex isn’t likely to happen under these conditions. On top of that, the hurts sustained can last a long time, and ruin future potential for satisfying sexual encounters with your spouse.

 If your spouse leaves you for consistent abuse, that leads to “no possible sex”.  Keep up the habit, and any future relationships won’t result in the best possible sex either. You can leave your relationship, but you can’t leave yourself.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said,
“Who can calculate the wounds inflicted, their depth and pain, by harsh and mean words spoken in anger? How pitiful a sight is a man [or woman] who is strong in many ways but who loses all control of [themselves] when some little thing, usually of no significant consequence, disturbs [their] equanimity. In every marriage there are, of course, occasional differences. But I find no justification for tempers that explode on the slightest provocation.
Said the writer of Proverbs, “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous” (Proverbs 27:4).
A violent temper is such a terrible, corrosive thing. And the tragedy is that it accomplishes no good; it only feeds evil with resentment and rebellion and pain.”[iv]
Some Quick Tips to Remedy Hurtful Words or Actions Where They Exist
Awareness. Find ways to bring awareness to what you say or what you do. Have your spouse tape-record you when you’re not paying attention, and then play back the recording and discuss what could have been done better in future. This takes a measure of humility, and if it does, then the institution of marriage is doing its job - to make us more Christlike.

Repentance. Remember that repentance is not something evil people have to do; it’s something good people choose to do when they’re heading in the wrong direction.[v]
Assistance. If the problem seems too intractable for you to handle as a couple, get some professional support in making changes. I can help you come up with a plan of action, or recommend a qualified therapist with an LDS perspective if you’re not sure who to contact.

Scriptures. Remember that reading from the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, is a fantastic way to bring a spirit of peace into your home on a regular basis. Don’t discount it because it may seem irrelevant to your issues; the Lord can speak to your mind through the scriptures and instruct you in how to better live as Church members should.  It can also help you be more kind by inviting the Spirit into your life.

Our words can shut sex down entirely, or be a soothing balm and a way to have the best possible sex. The good news is, we choose how we wield them.

Next week, we’ll consider how appreciation creates the best possible sex.

[i] Darling, Nancy, Ph.D. “Teasing and Bullying – Boys and Girls”. Psychology Today. 27 Oct 2010.
[ii] Cerley, J. Thomas. “Stop Using Words That Hurt”. Ensign. March 2006.
[iii] Winch, Guy, PhD., Psychology Today, How To Survive 50 Common Marital Pet Peeves, Feb. 20,2013,
[iv] Hinckley, Gordon B. Eternal Marriage Student Manual. Pg. 21-30;

[v] D&C Sections 19 and 121

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Best Possible Sex – Anger

In case you missed them, here is the link for Part 1 and Part 2

Few people would be surprised to find that anger breaks the pattern to the best possible sex, but for some of us it may not feel “normal” unless anger is involved. Perhaps you take your anger out through sex with your spouse.  If this doesn’t turn your spouse on, the formula for the best possible sex is broken.

Anger creeps into our lives very easily for most of us. We don’t want to be taken advantage of, or we may have struggled through a day filled with an abusive boss.

Our parents may have been angry people, and that is our default emotional setting to any given situation.

Some of us may have obsessive compulsive tendencies, and when things aren’t done just so it irritates every nerve in our body.

Perhaps we’ve been abused before, and fear having someone take advantage of us again.

Anger can be a sign of a lack of trust, but chances are, no one is more on your side than the Lord and your spouse. If we’re deliberately getting angry with our spouse because it gives us habitual pleasure or emotional payoff, then repentance and counseling should be sought for this type of marital sadism.

If you want the best possible sex, that needs to stop today.

Intellectually, we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints well understand the spiritual consequences of anger. Anger even causes the loss of our rights to the priesthood. Gone. Kaput![i] Which, consequently, also results in a loss of the best possible sex. If you lose your priesthood, you lose your right for the Holy Spirit of Promise to seal to your spouse, which could mean the loss of the best possible sex for all eternity.[ii] 

It’s just not worth indulging our anger. The eternal consequences of indulgence are sobering.

What I want to focus on here is, if we struggle with anger, how to come back from that.

Rethinking Anger

Anger is too deep a construct to go into the depth I’d like to here. Some of the causes of anger can be the result of depression, bottled up feelings that explode, or fear of showing emotion or sharing feelings, or even hunger and fatigue.

Be mindful here that just because there’s conflict doesn’t mean there has to be contention and anger. If there’s no conflict in a long-term relationship, there’s no intimacy either, and the couple is interacting only on a very shallow level. Deep intimacy and the best possible sex comes when a couple work toward and overcome a conflict together.

So how do we keep anger and contention out of our conversation when we have a conflict?

For that, I recommend two books for further study – The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John M. Gottman, and The Sex-Starved Marriage, by Michele Weiner-Davis.

The principles and tools there are too big for me to do them justice here, but they both are a very easy read, and very useful.

Join us next time as we address unkind words or actions.

[i] D&C 121
[ii] D&C 132:7; the Holy Spirit of Promise is another name for the Holy Ghost.