Sex Gone South


Marriage and the challenge of holiday distractions

In a recent radio show I was asked how we deal with the common challenge of couples signing off on sex during the holidays. It’s a good question and one my wife and I are challenged by as well.

The holidays bring an inordinate array of challenges to most families. There are, of course, financial challenges – how do we do all we want to do and live within a budget? Perhaps this year there’s the additional challenge of no budget at all. There’s also the challenge of time – we have committed to three (3!) parties on one Saturday in the next few weeks. And there’s the challenge of extended families. Relatives we haven’t talked to, but must. Relatives who are wanting us to visit or who will be visiting. A caller to our show lamented that her husband’s family was coming for the entire holiday season. “He,” she worried, “reverts to the little boy he was in that family as he grew up.”

This husband apparently hasn’t yet developed the skills required to be the grown up man he normally is, around his mother and father, siblings and others. This challenge is much bigger than a quick answer on a call in show but it’s a legitimate question – how do we cope with the strong memories that this time of year provokes, as well as the people who provoke them?

In the middle of these multi layered challenges there is a great need for marriage partners to connect and to do so often. Does it have to be sexual? A wise woman friend asked me as we talked about this over coffee?

We say there are at least five kinds of intimacy – there is intellectual intimacy, psychological, emotional and spiritual intimacy, and of course, physical intimacy. To ‘stay in touch’ with each other in a deep, genuine and tender manner is probably the most feared and the most comforting.

Feared? The holidays bring all kinds of memories many of which we don’t even realize we’re remembering. They are affecting us, nevertheless. Fear of physical connecting is clearly a re- enactment of childhood experience where you may have been shamed for feeling the joy of your body, or your family may have suffered significant emotional distancing. There is also abuse in some of our histories, and there is religion, often a carrier of rationalization for coldness and self control.

So, this time of year may just be the best time to look your fear in the eye. Reach out to your partner. Touch her cheek and tell her what you cherish about her. Hold his hand tenderly and warmly and looking him in the eye tell him about your gratitude for his presence in your life. Do it daily regardless of how busy and distracted you are. You’ll celebrate your connection in a way you may have forgotten.

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