Arousing Intimacy in Marriage

Love Mark

Robert Duffer explains how a few changes to how you approach intimacy can help create the healthy sex life essential to a great marriage.

One of the hardest parts about being a parent is being a spouse. After the jobs are over, the chores are done, the family time complete and bedtime nearby, there’s barely any energy left for each other. There is even less time for what every adult loves and every parent could use more of: sleep.

Most of us could use some good old fashioned nookie, too. Some folks think that couch time in that brief window between kids’ bedtime and parents’ deadtime is a good time for sex. But how do you bridge that chasm between the cushions, and the even bigger chasm between what your mind thinks would be good and what your body is too tired to do?


Avoiding the weeknight sex desert

Every man I know has tried the old point and smirk, going so far as to add a gesture to his futility. Whether the smirk is boyish or provocative, the result of pointing at your penis is all the same: it never works. The thought of foreplay, which is not what was referenced above, can be too much work when you both are that tired. But foreplay can be a state of mind that’s cultivated throughout your marital parental day.

Forta-LogoMy friend Reservoir Dad instructs men to help out around the house. Not to get laid but to express appreciation. Helping out with cleaning and tidying and landscaping and making your home a place you both want to be shows respect, that you care what she thinks, that you regard each other’s presence regardless of who was at work or who was with the kids. Instead of picking up the remote, pick up her hand and give her ten minutes of your undivided attention. Ask one question. You’ll get it back. It’s not foreplay, it’s intimacy. Increased intimacy leads to better sex and more of it.


Salt of the Earth: Get some coarse sea salt and dim the lights in the kitchen or bath. Rub your hands together under hot water and pour the salt on them. With all four hands gently rub the salt into to your palms to exfoliate the dead skin. Do it until the sensitivity is too much. Then rinse. Close your eyes and put your palms on your partner’s face. Feel it as if for the first time.

The element of surprise

The odds are against you on weeknights. Plopping down on the couch makes the odds even worse. Consider other times to charm her. Put a movie on for the kids, sneak a bottle of wine and two glasses into a medicine chest; maybe a back rub in the laundry room, a favorite piece of chocolate strategically placed on the folding table; go out to the garage where you’ve got her favorite song playing and her favorite lawnchair laid out. These things won’t get you laid; if you’re thinking that way, you’re already lost. They will create intimacy.


The expectation of routine:

You’ve jointly scheduled every minute of the day, who’s going where when and with whom. Some couples benefit from having a schedule for sex, too. There’s plenty of ways to work intimacy and surprise into that routine. Again, it’s about respect and consideration. Talking about how much sex you’re having or want to be having or don’t want to be having at least gets you on the same frequency so you can come to a mutually respectful compromise.


Date night: Going Big

Once a month consider making a date night out. Alternate months and surprise your partner when it’s your turn. If you’re a competitive couple it gets to a delightful game of one upmanship that can get out of hand. Once in a while, do something that she loves that you do not. Not because you have to but because you’re curious. Go into it open minded, as an experiment. Even if it’s for sushi.

Dinner and a movie is fine if that’s what you love, but consider little details to mix it up. Instead of sitting at the booth of your favorite restaurant, consider sitting at the bar. Instead of going to your usual movie house, make the trek to the drive-in, or try a play or a concert or a festival instead of a movie, something where you can interact during the entertainment to heighten the experience. Although, for many parents, getting to a movie is a rare joy in itself. Two hours to be entertained without any external demands or effort can be a wonderful night out. Smuggle in something good, a wine split or sea salt caramels or tamales.

Get lost: Take the train to the next town over. Check out the next exit on the interstate. Explore someplace new. Within the confines of your personal safety, go see what’s over the hill.


Date night: Going small

Paying for a sitter can sometimes double the cost of date night. Consider doing something low-key but love intensive. Going for a walk to a nearby haunt or a park is a great way to enjoy silences. Those silences can create space for the most profound conversations. Bike dates and bar hopping or friend pop-ins can be fun too, riding around as far as your legs will take you.Home date: Just because money is always tight and you never seem to get ahead doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at home. Instead of hiring a sitter or imposing on a relative, consider making a date night at home. Consider this: taking out the seats in the minivan and turning it into your own private dinning hall. Put big cushy pillows on the floor (after vacuuming it for God’s sake). Make a meal in advance, and a basket with her favorite drinks. After the kids are in bed, grab the baby monitor and take her out to the garage, which maybe you’ve festooned with decorative lighting or silk curtains blowing over the lawnmower. Or take her up on the roof. Or sit out back with a campfire.

Wake Later: Consider arranging for the kids to be somewhere else the morning after date night, or spending a night in a hotel. One of the sexiest things you can do is sleep in together so you can have an adult playdate in bed.

Enjoy each other. Revisit your minds, spirits and bodies. That’s why you made babies in the first place. Sex is important in marriage not just because it’s pleasurable, but because it is an intimate form of communication like no other. It’s part of the love language that is distinct to your relationship, that is different from every couple. Part of that ineffable harmony that has you thinking the same thoughts, finishing each other’s sentences, and enjoying those quiet moments as one. Sex is part of that love language, and like anything pleasurable, it expresses appreciation, respect, curiosity and marvel at your lover, your partner, your spouse.

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This post was written in partnership with Forta for Men.




Photo: Flickr/Alyson Hurt

About Robert Duffer

Robert Duffer ( is the editor of the Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project. Winner of the Chicago Public Library's writing contest, his work appears in the Chicago Tribune, MAKE Magazine, Chicago Reader, Curbside Splendor, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Annalemma, New City, and other coffee-table favorites like Canadian Builders Quarterly. He teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and lives in the suburbs with his wife, two kids, and their minivan. Follow @DufferRobert, Google+, facebook.


  1. Ugh, is ihis really an ad for “sexual enhancement supplements”? Come on now. I generally respect GMP, but the way you slipped that in at the end just feels really slimy. I’m disappointed in you guys.


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