Recording Ourselves?

Also: "His daughter's killing our intimacy", "He looks at other women"

by Michael Sytsma and Debra Taylor

Our sex life has gotten stale. What do you think of my wife and me recording ourselves having sex, so we can watch later as part of our foreplay?

Michael: While there may not be anything intrinsically wrong with your idea, there are potential dangers. What if your child were accidentally to discover the video? Also, you'll eventually be satiated by the recording. The next step would be watching videos of someone else having sex as part of foreplay. This is clearly wrong as you're inviting someone else into your marriage bed.

I could list a half-dozen other potential dangers, but there's a more important issue. The apostle Paul warns us, "There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact" (1 Corinthians 6:16, The Message). You're working to enhance the physical part of lovemaking with your technique. Are you also attending to the spiritual part?

What about trying techniques that help you have more powerful emotional and sensual intimacy? Take long walks together filled with talk of your dreams as a couple, give each other a bath with sensual soap, join in relational prayer together. These techniques enrich the heart of sexuality. If sex is just about the buzz, it will definitely get stale. Enrich the heart, and the passion can grow.

Debra: You don't mention whether you and your wife have talked about your sex life being "stale." What is it that feels "stale" to you? To her? Often couples may feel this, but don't bring it up for fear of hurting, offending, or arguing with their partner. Great lovemaking at some point(s) requires good talking.

Our bodies change as we age and what "worked" before sometimes stops "working." That's the nature of growth. With a partnership, that requires talking together, exploring what's interesting, acceptable, adventuresome for one or both, and then trying options.

His daughter's killing our intimacy
Six months ago, my husband's daughter came to live with us. Now my husband has stopped being affectionate and doesn't initiate sex. What can I do?

Michael: Perception is a funny thing. The truth of what happened is important, but it's what we think happened that we react to. This perception about the increasing distance—right or wrong—must be discussed between you and your husband. Go for a walk, take him to coffee, go golfing with him, or find some other way to connect. Tell him your concerns and ask him to hear you out, even if he doesn't think you're right.

Keep an open mind to his perspective, but gently push him to discuss your fear with you.

Debra: The only person you can change is you. So examine how you're looking at this. Are you unhappy with your stepdaughter coming to live with you, and therefore you're looking for negative differences? Is he truly less affectionate, or since there are now two ladies in the house, is his affection more divided? Do you and your stepdaughter argue and make him choose between you? Are you and your husband arguing about how she's to be guided or disciplined?

Your husband may feel self-conscious around his daughter or feel that affection should not be displayed around her.

Not in a spirit of scorekeeping, but in a spirit of discovery, observe how frequently you do have sex over the next month or two. If he isn't initiating, what happens when you initiate? Then set up a time to talk with your husband, alone and undisturbed; try to explain calmly what you've observed. Be prepared for him to become defensive; don't become "infected" and defensive yourself. Don't attack; pray and listen to his perspective.

Whenever frequency becomes an issue between couples, I encourage the higher desire spouse to keep a "gentle pressure" on the topic. Don't have one discussion and then not bring it up again. Sex is an important part of your unity and should be cherished and encouraged. At the same time, don't let your sexual relationship become a painful battleground that leads to harsh words, judgments, and fighting. How you talk about sex with each other can be life-giving or death-dealing.

He looks at other women
When my husband looks at women in skimpy outfits, later that night he wants to have sex! I've told him I don't want to make love while he's thinking of those women. He says I'm over-reacting. Am I?

Michael: There's a store in the mall that sells chocolate chip cookies. Walking by you catch the rich aroma of warm cookies. Your mouth waters and your stomach growls each time you get a whiff. Just because your mind turns there and you're hungry for chocolate chip cookies doesn't mean you buy from that store. Their cookies are expensive and overcooked to your liking. But the desire is now sparked in your mind.

God designed our brains to trigger patterns of thoughts with different sensual stimulation. For men, the visual stimulation of seeing an attractive female triggers a series of chemical reactions in our brain. The outcome is that our hunger for sex is sparked. This isn't wrong or perverted, it's the way God made us. What is sinful is if we allow that desire to be directed anywhere except our wives.

Rejoice that your husband is directing his sexual desire toward you. Even if we make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1) not to look at another woman, we live in a sexually saturated culture where he'll be triggered. Shutting her out of his mind and directing the hunger to you is appropriate.

Talk with him about whether he's thinking of you or some other woman. If he's thinking of another woman when he's making love to you, it's sin on his part. He needs to confess this to God, an accountability partner, and possibly you, and get help in stopping. Most husbands are truly thinking about their wives during lovemaking. Although the smell of the bakery might have sparked the hunger, he's enjoying the taste and texture of the homemade cookies with no thought of the inferior ones at the mall.

I'd encourage you to work on enriching your emotional connecting during lovemaking so you know he is with you.

Debra: Men are visual. If there are sex scenes, sexual innuendos, or skin displayed, they'll usually notice. But there's looking, and there is l-o-o-k-i-n-g. If he's turned on by what he sees, and he turns that into energy he brings to intimacy with you, that's healthy.

Often a man gets in touch with his feelings of love and connection with his wife during lovemaking. If he's focused on you while having sex with you, you're building a connection. Be careful that your own insecurities aren't creating a problem or distance between you when in actuality he's doing the appropriate thing when exposed to stimulating situations—bringing his sexuality to you and connecting with you.

Michael Sytsma, Ph.D., is a minister and founder of Building Intimate Marriages (www.intimatemarriage.org). Debra Taylor, MFT, is co-author of Secrets of Eve (Thomas Nelson). Both are certified Christian sex therapists and co-founders of Sexual Wholeness, Inc. (www.sexualwholeness.com).