During a recent dinner with my girlfriends, I brought up the challenge that my husband and I did last winter. We were having a good time with lots of girl talk, eating guacamole and chips with our tequila, and the memory just popped up and then, in my typically unfiltered fashion, out of my mouth.
“A sex challenge?” one friend asked. I nodded, explaining that the test involved both partners committing to seven continuous nights under the sheets.”What??” they cried. One woman complained that her husband traveled, another girlfriend said that her bed was so squeaky she feared her kids could hear. One friend gave a flat “no way” because she still had little ones up at all hours of the night. I concurred that they each had valid excuses.
I am an empty nester, so the roadblocks to spending quality time together are far less for my guy and me.
However, we have been married for three decades and there are times when, although we may not have kids at home, work and stress (him), hormonal changes (me) and the comfort of being in a long-term relationship (us) seem to get in the way of intimacy. Truthfully, I take our coupling for granted more than I should. Knowing that he loves me and is a constant in my life, is just such an easy way out of all the other stuff.
However, as we discovered, getting busy in bed can be marriage’s superglue. After my girls’ night, I became curious about where this whole sex challenge idea originated. It couldn’t have been my middle-aged friend’s light bulb idea.
Most of my peers feel that a good book and a salty snack are equivalent to having Jon Hamm in bed these 55 year-old years. ‘Time to Google,’ my writer self exclaimed. I was amazed at how many relevant topics appeared. There is a book titled “7 Days of Sex Challenge,” a Lifetime reality show of the same name and articles from church pastors about doing the deed for 30 straight nights to make a marriage stronger. Cosmopolitan magazine posted a piece suggesting 77 positions in 77 days. I think I will leave that one to the under 30 crowd; I can’t see any of my body parts attempting the circus acts beyond position 9. The Dating Divas blog not only describes the rules of the challenge, but also offers products as incentives.
Since we did it for a week, I read the forward of the “7 Day” book by Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo (110 pages would have to wait). Their first challenge stemmed from 11 years of marriage, and consisted of having sex 60 times in 60 days. They ONLY made it 40 of those 60 days. ‘Woah,’ I thought, doing math on my fingers. That’s like five days a week for two months straight. I think my husband would never go to work if I suggested we try this one.
When I first suggested that my husband and I do this crazy challenge, it was at a time when I was feeling disconnected from everything. My girls had been away for several years, enough time for it to really sink in that they wouldn’t be walking in the door every night. I had just completed two years of time-consuming volunteer work and was trying to finish my first book. I wanted to feel that our bond was strong and that I still had it, whatever ‘it’ is.
This whole idea stemmed from my selfish desires, but in the end it was something we both needed. I didn’t realize how lonely he was; working ten-hour days and eating dinner by the television light, long after I was in bed. It’s silly to look at our love as something that needs an instruction booklet, but this exercise helped reignite something we had misplaced. I don’t think the challenge solves all the problems that couples have, but can be an important reminder that marriage is a marathon and not just a sprint mired in the daily grind.
Years ago, I had the honor of introducing famous sexpert Dr. Ruth Westheimer at a charity event for 500 women. When she stepped onto the podium, she asked if my husband was in the room. ”In the back,’ I told her, standing by the door (ready to flee). She posed this question to him in front of the audience: did he know what the key was to a long-term marriage? My husband shook his head and probably had his hand on the exit door.
“Change positions!” Dr Ruth belted across the giant abyss of women, which got quite the group guffaw. But she was right. By changing things up and challenging each other, we became more connected and happier to be in each other’s company. There is always time for a bowl of pretzels and a good read… after.