The Essential Elements of Sex; provides you with the building blocks you need for the sex life you have always hoped for and dreamed about in your marriage.
We are facing an epidemic of divorce in the church, and the dirty little secret is that these marriages are falling apart because we, as Christians, are woefully unprepared for the most taboo aspect of our relationship—sex. The Essential Elements of Sex outlines information crucial to the foundation of sexual intimacy and describes the nine essential elements necessary to build a strong, sustainable partnership.
Eryn-Faye Frans combines the authoritative research of some of the most renowned experts in the field with her own experience coaching thousands of individuals and couples across North America. In The Essential Elements of Sex, she provides a biblically based, scientifically established understanding of the issues men and women face in the bedroom. She debunks myths about sexual intimacy, provides answers to commonly asked questions, offers tips and how-tos, and suggests practical exercises that can improve communication, intimacy and appreciation for each other.
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The Essential Elements of Sex9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy
By Eryn-Faye Frans
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Eryn-Faye Frans, LL.B.
All right reserved.
"I drag my myth around with me." Orson Welles – Writer, Actor, Director and Producer
Jacqueline is a beautiful, confident and articulate woman. As she tells me her story, she does so striving to be as compassionate and balanced as possible, despite the fact she is relaying a horrific ordeal.
She and her husband moved in esteemed Christian circles. He was a professor at a Bible college, and she was a youth pastor. They waited to have sexual intercourse until they got married. They faithfully attended premarital counseling. Statistically speaking, they were the ideal age to marry. They had phenomenal relationships within their church community. They did everything right.
And within three and a half years, they were divorced. Why? They had never consummated their relationship.
In the infancy of their marriage, Jacqueline's doctor failed to recognize she had a physiological impediment that made penetration impossible. For years, she blamed herself for not being able to "suck it up" when it came to the excruciating pain she felt every time she and her husband attempted to have intercourse.
When Jacqueline finally found a doctor who diagnosed her properly, and told her surgery was the only way to correct the problem, Jacqueline's husband already had one foot out the door. Years of misunderstanding, lack of communication, and frustration had worn away at the foundation of their relationship to the point he no longer believed they had a real marriage.
If Jacqueline's story doesn't scare you, it should. We are facing an epidemic of Christian divorce. And the dirty little secret is these marriages are falling apart because we are woefully unprepared for the most taboo aspect of our relationship – sex.
While the inability to consummate a marriage might seem like an extreme example to you – although from my professional experience I can assure you it is not – it highlights our secret assumptions that we can just figure out this thorny and complex issue on our own. The problem with this assumption is we are culturally inundated with myths about sexual intimacy that have no basis in fact, research or even Scripture. We then drag those myths into our marriages and rely upon them as we form our expectations of each other.
If we are going to have a truly thriving sexual intimacy with our spouses, we have to begin by cutting loose the myths we have been dragging around.
Myth 1: I can have a great marriage without sex.
Most of us start out believing that in order to have a great marriage, we need to have sex. We believe this, that is, until life gets in the way. Then, all of a sudden, we move from being advocates of sex to experts on the realities of life, armed with a fistful of excuses. "We sleep in different beds because he snores." "I fall asleep on the couch because I can't go to sleep without watching the Late Show." "I am too tired." "I am too busy." "We'll have better sex when the kids get older." "I don't feel emotionally close right now."
We quickly forget (or ignore) the importance of sex when it stops being easy. But just because it takes more work now does not mean it ceases to be essential. If we are going to have a good marriage, we need to have the Three Cs.
The Three Cs
I was first introduced to the concept of the Three Cs when I was eighteen years old. I was studying law in Scotland, far away from family. My father, sensing I might be homesick, introduced me to a pastor and his wife who lived in London. When I got lonely for family, I would jump on a train for a visit. Eleanor would put on endless pots of tea, talk for hours, and mother me for the weekend.
Since I was seriously dating a man at the time, our conversations inevitably touched on the topic of marriage. It was during one of these talks she introduced me to the cornerstones upon which solid relationships are built, and that make a marriage work – commitment, communication and consummation. If you are missing one, or if any of the three are out of balance, the relationship will be in jeopardy.
When I was eighteen, I had no idea how deeply this bit of wisdom would sustain me in life. It was, for me, a complete paradigm shift that changed my understanding of marital interactions. It has guided me in my own marriage, and has been the cornerstone of my coaching philosophy with couples regarding theirs.
Here's a shot of reality. In North America, we have about a 50:50 chance at making our marriages last. The Canadian divorce rate is lower than the U.S., but not by much. It doesn't matter if we are Christians. In fact, some researchers believe Christians have worse divorce rates than atheists and agnostics. How can this be so? How can it be that our God created marriage, and yet those who profess to follow Him are splitting up at alarming rates?
The reason lies in what we refuse to discuss. We talk about commitment. We excel at extolling the value of marriage. The communication industry is a multibillion dollar a year business. If we need booster shots on communication, we can turn on Dr. Phil or select from dozens of self-help books that discuss this subject matter. But consummation is still taboo. If we are lucky, our pastor talks about it once a year or so, but he rarely get into the nitty-gritties.
When everything is shrouded in secrecy, it is very easy to slide into a sexless marriage without anyone else knowing.
Experts tell us couples that have sex ten times or less a year qualify as sexless marriages. It is estimated one in five couples in North America falls into this category. However, a couple rarely goes from having lots of sex to having none overnight. It is a gradual progression. Usually, when couples fail to make sex a priority, there is a slow erosion of physical contact. Couples stop touching, sitting close on the couch, holding hands, brushing up against each other as they pass in the home, hugging or kissing. All physical contact – even non-sexual contact – dissipates.
However, sex is one of the most important parts of your relationship. It is what sets your relationship with your spouse apart from any other relationship in your life. You can have companionship with your friends, be deeply committed to your children, fight with your relatives and even co-parent with your ex.
But you save sex for your spouse. It is the one thing that sets you apart from simply being roommates. It creates bonds on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. It gives you intense pleasure, it draws you closer together, it smoothes out the bumps in your relationship, and it gives you something to look forward to. It makes you laugh. It may be short and quick, or long and luxurious.
At least, it can be all those things. It can also be the most painful, awful thing about your relationship. In fact, issues surrounding sex consistently rank in the top two reasons couples divorce.
Studies tell us that when marriage is good, sex only accounts for 15 to 20 percent of the focus. However, when marriage is bad, it balloons to 50 to 70 percent of the focus. Scott Haltzman, co-author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men, makes the point, "This tells us that although sex is one of many factors in a relationship, if you have problems in your marriage, you will have problems with sex."
Myth 2: A healthy marriage means we both want sex at the same time.
It is estimated that one in three married couples struggles with a desire gap in their relationship. Simply put, one person (the High Desire Spouse) wants sex more consistently than the other (the Low Desire Spouse).
In my experience, most couples have a desire gap, but how they navigate it differs from couple to couple. For some, the gap might be small and manageable. For others, it seems like a giant chasm that keeps them from experiencing intimacy together.
Regardless of who gets labeled the "horny" person in the marriage, one thing is always constant – the person who gets to set the frequency in the sexual relationship is the Low Desire Spouse. Logically, this makes sense. You cannot force your spouse to want to have sex. You can try to guilt him into it. You can strike a bargain so she says yes. But ultimately, it is the spouse who needs convincing who gets to make the final choice.
If both parties are communicating effectively and accept this arrangement, it is usually smooth sailing. However, problems develop when:
there is a large gap between what the High Desire Spouse wants and the Low Desire Spouse wants
the gap grows because the Low Desire Spouse begins to avoid all physical touch for fear it will lead to sex
the High Desire Spouse begins to push harder for sex in response to the Low Desire Spouse's pulling away
communication about the subject becomes acrimonious or nonexistent
one or both spouses begin to feel misunderstood or unloved by the other.
If the couple does not understand the dynamics of the gap and learn how to bridge it, it can lead to a cycle of misunderstanding, communication breakdown and lack of physical connection. Sadly, if this is allowed to perpetuate in the relationship, the marriage is at high risk for infidelity and/or divorce.
Why Don't the Same Sex Drive People Marry?
One of my greatest joys is to do Passion Salons. At these Salons, I give an educational talk based on questions the ladies have sent me beforehand, and then I open the floor for discussion. During one of these sessions, a young woman spoke up and said, "The people who want it all the time should get married, and those who don't should get married!" She had made a very astute observation. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a test so the "once-a-week people" could marry each other and the "every-day people" could marry each other?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. In the initial "falling in love" phase, our brains are flooded with a cocktail of chemicals designed to bring us together. During this stage of infatuation, we have a spike of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and phenylethylamine. When this happens, we have more energy (even if we have been up until 4am talking to each other), lower inhibitions (we will try things we always swore we wouldn't), and a higher-than-usual libido (we struggle to keep our hands off each other).
Neuroscientists believe somewhere between six to twenty-four months into our relationship, this powerful hormonal cocktail subsides, and we move past the infatuation phase into the bonding or attachment phase. The good news is in this new phase, we have altered levels of oxytocin and vasopressin that are instrumental in creating deeper love and commitment to each other. The bad news is there was no way to anticipate we would have a desire gap in our relationship because it simply did not exist when we were falling in love.
If you are blaming your spouse for "deceiving" you before you got married, stop. It is useless. It might help you to think of those early days in these terms: Back then, your spouse was just high.
When the Roles Reverse
The desire gap can be a daunting challenge in and of itself, but can become even more so if the spouses switch roles. This might be due to stress, illness, exhaustion, children, hormonal fluctuations and a host of other life circumstances. A woman might be the High Desire Spouse before the couple has children, and all of a sudden realizes she has become the Low Desire Spouse. A man might be the High Desire Spouse until he is put on heart medication that affects his libido, and he is no longer as interested in sex as he once was.
When the roles reverse, this can be a source of tension for the couple because all the patterns they had in their relationship up to this point have been disrupted. Even though the husband was the Low Desire Spouse, he enjoyed the fact his wife pursued him for sex. All of a sudden, she is paying all her attention to the kids and has no energy left over for him. Or the wife may have loved the sex life she had with her husband, even though she was the Low Desire Spouse, and now the side effects of his medication have stolen that from her.
This issue becomes even more magnified when the woman becomes the High Desire Spouse after years of being the Low Desire Spouse. I have seen this happen numerous times after teaching a series to groups of women. Suddenly, they are given permission to enjoy sex. When that switch moves from off to on, their husbands are baffled by the change in their wives.
Some men are ecstatic. One morning at church, a man approached my husband. "Thank you. Thank you," was all he said as he shook Eric's hand. "I had this crazy comment from a guy at church today," Eric said on the way home. I simply smiled. "Ah. He must be the husband of one of your clients." Enough said.
Unfortunately, other men feel threatened. When you have been with the same person for years and have always known what to expect, change can be scary – especially when what has always worked for you is no longer working for your wife.
One of the primary reasons this can be a shock is we do not give a lot of credence to the idea of a man who has a "headache."
Myth 3: He is always the High Desire Spouse.
Can you imagine a guy having beer and wings with his friends, complaining, "My wife is after me all the time. She just can't get enough. She is driving me crazy! I have to go to bed ahead of her and pretend to fall asleep just to get her off my back!"
No. We have a cultural expectation of a man who is in hot pursuit of his disinterested wife. But many, many women are the High Desire Spouses in their relationships. Women who fall into this category often feel a deep sense of shame. Usually, they blame themselves. "If only I could lose this weight." "If only I could learn better techniques in the bedroom." "If only I were more attractive."
As the situation persists, they begin to have even darker fears. "What if he is having an affair?" "What if he is secretly gay?" "What if he is not attracted to me?" "What if we made a mistake getting married?"
To make matters worse, these women also have a profound sense of isolation. Often their girlfriends fall into the category of stereotypically disinterested wives, and this exacerbates the feeling something is wrong with them. "I just get really quiet when my friends talk," one lady confided in me. "I wish my husband would be more like theirs."
The truth is there are many reasons why a man might be the Low Desire Spouse in his relationship:
The main sex hormone for men is testosterone , and when it comes to this hormone, not all men are made equally. Some men naturally have higher levels in their systems than others. Men who have lower levels of testosterone usually have a lower sex drive. Remember, this lower sex drive might have been disguised during the early days of the relationship because of the high both of you were experiencing from falling in love.
He might be in the midst of a personal situation that has caused his libido to be lower than normal. Women are often surprised to learn the sex drives of men – just like women – can be effected by stress, financial pressures, work expectations and interpersonal conflict.
He might be on a medication that impairs his libido. Many prescriptions given to resolve medical conditions such as depression, heart disease, epilepsy and so forth can interfere with the hormones responsible for a man's sex drive.
He could have a physical issue which impedes his ability and/or desire to have sex. For instance, if he is unable to get or sustain an erection, or if he suffers from premature ejaculation, the idea of jumping into the sack might be fraught with anxiety for him.
He could be a Cycle Two person who needs a better understanding of how different people become aroused. (See the Myth 4 for a full explanation.)
Regardless whether it is a season where the man is the Low Desire Spouse or whether it will be this way for the entirety of your marriage, the ramifications are important to address. According to a survey done by Redbook in which over 1,000 wives responded, 60 percent felt they were "as interested in sex as their husbands – or more so." Furthermore, a startling number of women who are the High Desire Spouse in their relationship felt they were at risk of having an affair because of their loneliness and frustration. Dealing with this issue is essential to the health of your marriage.
Building the Bridge
No matter whether you are the Low Desire or High Desire Spouse in your relationship, the goal here is not to help you eradicate the desire gap. The gap in your relationship might always remain the same as it is today. However, as you gain a deeper understanding about each other and learn about the desire gap in your relationship, you will find ways to reach across the divide.
Excerpted from The Essential Elements of Sex by Eryn-Faye Frans Copyright © 2012 by Eryn-Faye Frans, LL.B.. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part I: Laying the Foundation....................1
Define Your Direction....................23
Part II: The Essential Elements....................53
Element 1: Communication....................55
Element 2: Ritual....................77
Element 3: Mystery....................93
Element 4: Respect....................109
Element 5: Pleasure....................127
Element 6: Trust....................151
Element 7: Creativity....................169
Element 8: Passion....................181
Element 9: Attraction....................193
Part III: Making It Last....................211
Making It Last....................213
My One Thing Worksheet....................220
The Essential Elements of Sex™ Wheel Exercise....................221