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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

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