Smart Family Podcast: Secrets of Sex and Marriage

Dr. Sytsma was a return guest on the February 8, 2023 episode of the Smart Family Podcast. Hosted by Toni Nieuwhof (lawyer/pharmacist) and Rob Meeder (pediatrician), the Smart Family Podcast is a wealth of great family information. Dr. Sytsma was the guest on Episode #3 – Keeping Your Sex Life Strong When Your Kids Are Young; Honest Communication Helps Couples With Babies Stay Intimately Connected and on Episode #47 – Separating Truth From Myth On Sex In Marriage. He was honored to be invited back for Episode #79 – Secrets Of Sex And Marriage With Dr. Michael Sytsma; How To Overcome Mismatches In Desire; Great Sex And Communicating Well Are Linked.

Toni and Rob interviewed Dr. Sytsma about the new book, Secrets of Sex and Marriage. After talking about Dr. Sytsma’s background in research and the draw to do this project, we launched into a discussion on saying “no” in marriage. This led to a question about one of Dr. Sytsma’s soap-boxes – is sex a “need”.

Couple’s number one error in their sexual relationship, the importance of being curious, and different types of desire, and the value of establishing a vision for their sex life.

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You can also listen to other podcasts where Dr. Mike is the guest on our website.

Show Excerpt:

Toni Nieuwhof: Just a follow up to, you know, we looked at what is the myth? What about the number one mistake that couples tend to make in regard to their sex lives?

Michael Sytsma: Um, again, I think there could be a few different things here. But if I would pick on one, it would probably couples not learning to talk openly about sex as a couple. I don’t think it is normal for couples to talk openly about sex, you know, it is the sacred subject. It’s something that we just intuitively have some fears around. And, you know, will I be accepted if I’m open and, but a, but couples really need to learn how to talk about sex in an open, healthy, respectful honoring manner. That was one of the things we looked at in the study. And we found some pretty amazing shifts in couples that talk well, and couples that don’t.

So we divided them into three groups, those that kind of have normal communication about sex, those that are particularly poor in their talking with each other about sex, and those that are one standard deviation above, or they’re particularly good at talking about sex within their relationship. And those who are great communicators – 38% of those couples had sex more than twice a week, while over 50% of those who are poor communicators were sexless, had sex less than once a month. So we see this massive difference. And couple and frequency satisfaction was similar over 95% (95% for husbands and 98% for wives) who are great communicators said that they were satisfied with their sex life, versus only 50% of those that were poor communicators. It’s good that 50% of them are, but for those that were great communicators, it moved up to 95-98%. So talking about it, learning how to be open and sharing with each other is, is huge. Couples that don’t do that, I would say that that’s probably the number one mistake.

Toni Nieuwhof: So one of your messages is that you need an encouraging vision for your marriage. And I’m curious about how that would help somebody who’s maybe not really satisfied with their sex life right now. To set it on a better path.

Michael Sytsma: I know, a lot of times we spend time looking at the problems looking at what’s not working and looking at how we’re dissatisfied, pointing out how we’re missing the mark of what we would want or what we’re called to and my invitation is what happens when we shift that, and we begin to get a clearer vision of where we’re going.

We know in business that’s critical. If all I’m doing is stomping out problems, we’re in trouble. I need to have a compelling vision that I’m striving toward, that allows me to weather a lot of storms. And that allows me to stay very creative in my problem-solving. It’s no different in our sex life. And because most couples don’t really talk openly with each other, they don’t develop a clear, compelling vision. They step into marriage, not having really talked about it, they just have this idea that it’s going to be healthy, and it’s going to be good, and we’re going to want it. And then they run into problems and snags. And they don’t have a clear, compelling vision that they’re both fighting towards. And very quickly, they get off track, and then things start to clunk along and start to pull apart.

So a couple sitting down and talking through why do we have sex? I mean, that’s a simple question. But many times they approach it from very different directions. And can they figure out a way to kind of be on the same page? That that you approach it the same reason that I do? But can we? Can we develop a shared vision of why we would get together? How often would we like to get together? What would be the ideal, and most couples go to what you’re saying earlier, most couples are way closer than they realize. The frequency that they pick, is often just one step away from each other, where they thought they were going to be 12 steps away from each other.

When we do is it nurturing? Or do we want it to be playful? Or does it need to be erotic? Or, you know, does it have to be romantic? Or can it be romantic? No. Does that have to be focused on one act? Or can sex be this rich menu that we can regularly choose from? And we don’t always have to pressure to experience an orgasm or to do one particular kind of behavior? Or is that part of the vision for us? And how long do we want to spend in each different section of our sex life? And you know, what do we want out of it? What do we want to look like as we grow older?

As couples start to talk through it, they develop a vision for it. Now, I know what you’re after I know what you would like. So let’s take a frequency. You know, a common number for couples is we’d like to our vision has to have a healthy sexual interaction twice a week. And if that’s our vision, and we both know that we’re striving towards that vision, then when it’s been a particularly rough week with the kids, or we’re caring for parents or work has gotten off track, and we just haven’t gotten together this week, and the two times that we want just a lot more grace because I know that’s what you want to. It’s not that you’re rejecting me, or it’s not the, or maybe I wasn’t the best this week, and you have stepped away from me. But we both want the same thing. We’re both on the same path, we will get there. I trust that you’re going to continue to do what you need to to get to that vision. I’m going to do what I need to do to get to that vision. And we’ll meet in that middle space, rather than me stepping back and demanding that you be who I want you to be and critic, criticizing you because you’re not where I think you need to be, that falls apart and starts to do damage. Where if it’s both – Yeah, we didn’t hit our goal this week. Did we babe? That’s okay. We’ll try for next week. Maybe we can make up a little bit? No, that’s a much healthier type of approach. Because I’m vision focused. I’m not just problem-focused on I didn’t get what I want.