21 Day Marriage Challenge

This is your invitation to join my Marriage Strengthening 21 Day Intimacy Challenge! 

Intimacy: (n)

1. close familiarity; closeness

2. a private cozy atmosphere

3. an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse

As a coach and future mental health counselor, much of my interest is in the marital relationship. How do two people with different upbringings, experiences, and love languages learn how to become one? How can marriages become and remain strong? How can we keep them healthy and safe? In addition to communication and trust, intimacy reigns supreme as one of the high priorities in marriage. With the two major causes of divorce being money and sex, intimacy is something that should be openly discussed and intentionally worked on if a marriage is going to last the test of time. 

Intimacy as it is defined above touches on three of the nine psychological tasks for a good marriage as per the American Psychological Association. Which ones? I'm glad you asked...1. Build togetherness based on shared intimacy 2. Keep alive the early romance and 3. Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship. 

Each day for the next 21 days, take a few moments (or hours) to light the flame of intimacy or set the fire ablaze! No matter if your relationship is thriving or just surviving, you can benefit from participating in this challenge.

So let's let's break down this challenge category by category shall we!

Category 1: Closeness

This is by far the most fundamental aspect of intimacy, without which none of the other categories mean very much. And because it is so monumental, it comes with the greatest fight. Once you have moved away from being intimate with your spouse, attaining closeness is seemingly the most difficult to get back. I say seemingly because intimacy isn't hard to attain. The challenge lies in what stands in the way- pride and awkwardness. If you are willing to set these things aside for the greater good of your marriage, intimacy is just 21 days away (maybe less)!

Closeness is all about strengthening friendship and trust. This is accomplished with small acts that acknowledge the presence of your spouse and show your appreciation for that presence. It is behavior that says "Thank you for being here, I don't take it for granted." Here are a few suggestions to get you going... 

Establish a ritual (an activity that you do daily with your spouse with intention to set aside an honored time for you both to connect); hold hands as you have conversation, make eye contact, pick a show to watch together, sleep facing each other at night, ask about your spouse's day (and LISTEN to their answer), send an endearing text or call, hug and kiss daily to greet, say goodbye, and for no reason at all; share a dessert, go dancing, etc. 

Each couple is unique, so be creative. The point is to get back to the basics and connect with your spouse as your friend and partner. 

You may find yourself in this category if you are currently mending a relationship after infidelity or some other form of mistrust; recently had a baby; in the midst of 'empty nest' syndrome; overcoming illness; heavily preoccupied with work, ministry, parenting or any other highly demanding facet of your life; or simply haven't deliberately set your marriage as a priority and intimacy has escaped you

Category 2: Getting Private & Cozy

This category is for those who have a pretty solid foundation but the day-to-day mundane garbage (and important stuff, too) has taken precedence over cozying up to your spouse. You guys are friends, you have fun together, and there is no strife or discord but a deeper connection is lacking. This category is for you! In the words of Al Green, you need some sexual healing. Set the mood and get going. Here are some suggestions for my folks in category 2...

Make out; bathe together; take it to the hotel; make eye contact during intercourse; and here are some highly suggested activities...

Naked Naps- Yes, it is self explanatory. But here's why this is so simple and yet so profound. It takes away the shame of being naked in front of one another. So often we hide because of changes in our bodies over time. This provides a chance to become comfortable with being uncomfortable without the pressure of performing. It is a gratifying experience where you can use pleasurable touch and teasing to bring the sexual tension back from the dead. This is also great for elder couples who may no longer be able to perform but still desire affection and attention from their spouse. The need for sexual engagement does not have an expiration date!

Oral Sex- Welp, absolutely. Has sex become a ritual of obligation? Here's the cheat code, have oral sex. Why? It is the one act that is focused solely on one person receiving pleasure. What better way to communicate you value your spouses needs than to perform this act of selflessness? 

The point is to break away from the robotic connection and bringing a deeper level of intimacy to the relationship. Connection is at the core of getting cozy. 

Category 3: Sexual Exploration

Here we are! This is the category of the highest attainment of physical intimacy in a relationship. For those of you who have a solid foundation of emotional intimacy and you have conquered the art of connecting in category 2 this one's for you. You've maintained attraction to your spouse, you feel that your friendship is flourishing, flirting is consistent, and the connection is there, no question. But perhaps you feel like you've hit a plateau. You're wondering how to spice it up a bit for even more heat in the bedroom and an unbreakable bond that extends beyond what you have known with your spouse. This is where exploration comes in. Try something new and fun. Be open to your spouses fantasies and ideas. Here are some things to consider...

Be present- Feeling a connection while being intimate is similar to feeling anything more deeply (no pun intended lol). Be present! Don't become preoccupied, don't overthink, don't rush. Enjoy yourself by being 100% in the game. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in enjoying the experience by paying attention to the details. Focus on how your spouses fingertips feel on your skin, or the smell their cologne/perfume. Notice everything, study your spouse, feel everything. You get it right? Side bar... The article would be way too long if I were to walk you through the tragic statistics of failed opportunities for the female orgasm. But ladies, its all in the breathing (deep breathing that does not constrict the ability to have a full body orgasm) and in being vulnerable and uninhibited. 

Get a game or toy- There are games (i.e. sets of dice and cards) available for purpose that will give you detailed fun challenges to execute together (or in front of each other #spicy). I don't know what you might be into, but there is something for everyone. From the innocent feather and cuff variety to way more daring items.

Get rid of the secrets- Have you told your spouse your fantasies? Communicating your desires is an extremely vulnerable thing to do. Opening up to your spouse in that way is incredibly intimate. Talk about it. Give them a clue. Let them in on what makes you sweat. Let's not act like our spouses know everything we fantasize about. I'm sure there are at least a few that you can share. 

Keep it safe- Im not advocating against B.D.S.M., I am encouraging you to provide a 'safe space' to communicate and experiment. You wouldn't want to be embarrassed by your spouse, laughed at, or mocked. Do not harm your spouse by doing that to them. Don't make them feel strange for what they might like. Likewise, you must be honest about what you are willing to perform and where your boundaries lie. You know your spouse best. Do what you can to make them feel comfortable when stepping outside of the comfort zone that you have built throughout the years. Reassure with words, touch, and humor (which is another tip from the American Psychological Association).