Fifty Shades of Marriage

By Mike McKeown

As a therapist and life coach, of course I want to help couples keep things alive and adventurous in their marriages. For a variety of reasons, it’s not unusual for couples to have issues with this aspect of their marriage staying vibrant and fun.  It could be because of how they were raised or because their lives prior to marriage were far more exciting. Or it could just be a matter of boredom and life interfering with that side of things. This seems to be a topic that couples are reluctant to discuss with each other.

From what I have learned, it seems that many couples are using the Fifty Shades series as marriage enhancement tools. I know it makes sense to think a book full of sexual ideas could possibly rejuvenate your own sex life. Especially when it comes to your marriage. However, I’m not convinced the outcome will be what you might think or imagine. By immersing yourself in something like this Fifty Shades series of books and movies, you are seeking excitement through reading about sadism and masochism and sexual bondage. You need to be aware that it could also end up causing longer term harm. This type of fantasy creates an unrealistic and extremely distorted view of what should be happening within the marriage bed.

It’s good to remember that characters in movies have writers that design each line, each scene and each plot point to make things the most romantic they possibly can be. People in real life don’t have that. Even a broken character like that in the Fifty Shades series is designed to bring out the nurturing side of women. That’s the draw and attraction for the audience.

Listen, having these sorts of fantasies can be fun to play with between a man and wife. It’s safe when it’s someone you know and trust implicitly and you have both discussed things and agreed on things. However, applying that sort of fantasy to a real-life marriage can also set up the average person to experience a serious disconnect. When it comes to comparing intimacy with a real spouse in a real marriage, to this disturbing ‘fantasy world,’ there is always a danger. It’s like trying to wear a hat or shoes that don’t quite go with the outfit. Or if you’re a guy, it’s like trying to put on a jacket that doesn’t actually fit well through the shoulders. It’s not meant for that occasion – so don’t put it there and don’t force it.

Although sex in a marriage can be extremely exciting, just remember you are now comparing fantasy with reality. The movie and book both give us a glimpse of something that is new and exciting. Much like other kinds of pornography though, it changes the chemistry of the brain and thus changes the view of the routine, ordinary married life. Is it possible to have a healthy sex life while engaging in BDSM? Perhaps. But in my experience as a therapist, it will not turn out happily ever after like the movies or books.

Instead of looking to some pop culture book or phenomenon, it’s simple enough to make resonating changes to how you do things in your marriage. Here are a few easy ideas you can try that will start to make the impact you’re looking for in your marriage.

Do you remember the first time that your spouse held your hand? It’s possible that it gave you tingles running up and down your arm. Maybe it made your heart race just a little or your breath quicken. So when was the last time you held hands while just sitting on the couch together or walking into the grocery store? Try hold his or her hand during the ordinary daily tasks. You may be able to recapture some of that magic.

Do you regularly make sure to say goodbye and give your spouse a kiss before they go? If not, give it a shot. Or maybe greet them at the door when they get home. Let them know how important it is to you that they are home. This goes for anything, really. Coming home from the grocery store, errands, or after picking kids up from activities…make sure your spouse knows how happy you are to see them. 

That doesn’t really get addressed in Fifty Shades though does it? It’s in the bedroom that we’re looking at. And in the bedroom – no matter how long you’ve been married, things should be fun and lively. Even if you’ve been together twenty years, sex can be far more than just boring routine. Don’t turn it into a to-do or something you need to check off once you’re done. However, you don’t need trashy novels or soft-porn movies to liven your fantasies.

Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life 

Talk About It
The more honest you are about your sex life with your spouse, the better it will be. Talking about what you like and what you don’t can open up some incredible doors. Maybe each of you has a fantasy you’ve never discussed. Don’t be afraid to tell your spouse what turns you on and what turns you off.  Explore these options. Sometimes the mere act of discussing them will get the spark moving again. Make sure that  you don’t do all the talking though. Ask what turns your spouse on. And LISTEN.  Those likes and dislikes might be something you (or your spouse) hasn’t ever before considered and it might be fun. And don’t be afraid to talk DURING sex. Yep, I said that. Verbal communication can be just as important as physical touch and reaching out with that intimacy, making eye contact, and really exploring the connection of your lives together will often make things deeper than you’d realized.

Usually over the course of marriage, life and daily responsibilities tend to get in the way of the sweet, precious, dating stuff that started your relationship off. Kisses and whispers get replaced with bills and grocery shopping or chauffeuring kids from place to place. How can you recapture those early days? Well, a little flirting always helps. 

Time to send each other signals that you desire each other. Drop a text during the day to let them know you’re thinking of them or you care. Leave a note someplace you know they will see it. (In their car, wallet, purse, on the coffee maker…) Think of the way you treated each other when you started dating and the ways you wanted to let him or her know you wanted them. Put those into play now. Imagine it like starting the sexual foreplay early. The more your spouse realizes you want them, the more ready they will be to make things happen in the bedroom.

Get out of the rut
 We all appreciate schedules. Especially when there is a house full of kids or pets or other responsibilities that we have to juggle. Though it isn’t exactly the explosions of passion that started your marriage off, making sure you have time on your schedule for your spouse is important and it can be just as sexy. Set a date and time for your sexual encounter with your spouse. Then make sure you set that time aside. Guard it zealously. Don’t schedule over it or forget it. Look forward to it. Anticipate it. Think about the way you used to plan your dates together. And use the other things I’ve mentioned to get him or her excited about it too. And when you get that time, don’t be afraid to change things up a little. Don’t do the same things over and over. This part of your marriage needs to happen regularly, but it most definitely does not need to be the same thing over and over again.  Have a discussion about how to do things different to overcome the boredom that has crept in over the years. Romance your spouse. Show him or her you desire them. Don’t be afraid to jump right into things, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to draw it out either. 

There are a lot of options here and a lot of different things you can do. Don’t feel like you have to do them all! But if you put in the effort on even one or two, you might be surprised at how quickly the tone can change in your marriage and move back toward the romance that started it all.


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