What are some ways couples can develop a more intimate relationship? How have you guys done it in your marriage for 24 years?
Donald and Veronica are friends of ours who have been married for 24 years. Both hold professions in various coaching roles, Donald as a Leadership Coach and Veronica as an NLP Practitioner. They have helped many individuals develop in their personal and career journey and are passionate about seeing people discover their true potential and live meaningful and fulfilled lives.
We decided to get their insight on a topic that is more personal in nature, yet very important to address for a fulfilling marriage: Sexual Intimacy. This conversation is the third and final excerpt, from the FB Live Session we had with them in May 2021, hosted by Alex and Grace.
I think that as a man, I had to really drop a lot of the notions I understood about being a man. My dad was a self-made man. He was a small town boy from a very small place in Johor, and he became an entrepreneur and worked his way up. The things that he taught me about being a man, some parts of it were difficult to apply in my marriage. I had to start asking myself what kind of man do I want to be: what the world shapes me to be, or who I want to be for myself and my wife? I needed to shed off quite a bit of pride and ego and start to really be an equal partner.
And from there, just learning to love my wife and to honour and even sacrifice sometimes, which is not what the world teaches us to be as men, sometimes. It’s not always about the man first and then the wife second. That’s not how we work in our marriage. You can say we are on equilibrium. But the equilibrium depends on what areas are your equilibrium, but generally the marriage is of an equilibrium. So from that, we are able to trust each other, and provide a lot of safe space as Veron likes to call it.
We also took the opportunity to discuss a lot of our own traumas we had when we were young. Because relationships were not healthy, there were traumatic experiences we had since we were kids, and we were able to deal with all that. And that’s how sexual intimacy actually took a step upwards.
Once we’re able to deal with a lot of hurts and let go of a lot of issues individually, as well as in our younger relationship, that really helped us.
I think just to add that, as we mentioned earlier, it is all about what every component about being married is. It’s not just about the physical. It’s about the emotional, the intellectual, the spiritual. That’s how you create a more intimate marriage simply because we have to be willing to be vulnerable to one another. I think the more vulnerable we became with one another and realizing that it also takes trust ya. Because when you are vulnerable, you are putting your trust in the other person to say that, that person is not going to take that information and make fun of you or hurt you in any way. So when we come to that kind of intimacy in our language, then it just makes everything else easier. It solidifies the marriage.
Yeah, it’s very true that everything is all interconnected. I think for us…
[turns to Alex]
How do you feel that we have worked through our marriage to develop a more intimate relationship? What do you think we did that helps us?
Well, I think we tried carving out time for date nights, but that didn’t really work all that well… with the kids and the whole environment. But what we do is we sometimes put the kids to bed and then we sneak downstairs and we watch a movie together.
Just simple things, like just everyday things count. It’s not like the one off big moments like having to go on staycation or a vacation. While those are really nice, I think it’s more the everyday things that add up. And this is what keeps things interesting.
Yeah and I think we kind of feel it. Like there are certain days of realising, “Eh actually… time has passed by. We’ve not really had proper communication with one another. We’ve not shared anything. What more, having any kind of form of sexual intimacy at all!” Weeks could be passing by and like… I kiss the kids more every day than I kiss you, you know? So it’s like, OK, can I just give you a hug now? Can YOU give me a hug? Haha! And then suddenly just realizing and putting a pause and asking for it.
We had to come to that stage where we say, OK, let’s just spend some time together to just be together, alone. So that has helped us keep ourselves in check I guess. And to ensure that we continually build it into a lifestyle, otherwise the busyness of life just gets us.
If you remember, there was a pastor who used to counsel couples who are going through issues. And one of the first questions he would ask is, when’s the last time you had sex or how often do you have sex? Because that is a very clear metric, I suppose, of how the relationship is doing. If everything is not going well, then obviously it’s not going to end up in any form of intimacy whatsoever. It’s probably the last thing on their mind, right?
The frequency of sex. Do you think that is something that people should be concerned about?
Do you think that it’s something we should have a measure for ourselves like, “Oh if we haven’t had sex for X amount of time, then we are in trouble?” What do you guys think?
For Veron and myself, we don’t literally gauge on the quantity, per se. I think we have come to a point in marriage where we always go for quality. We have quality conversations. We have quality intimacy time. It’s not sex actually, its making love. Because it’s an expression of love. So it all depends on your energy level. Drive your focus, your priorities. Every couple is different. Doesn’t mean once a month or once a week is not good. It’s just different.
Yeah. I also think that we shouldn’t all be generalizing. Like, “Oh women are always like that or men always have a high sexual drive…” I think there are cases where guys don’t have a sexual drive.
One question we received was, what if my husband doesn’t want to have sex? Should I be worried? Does it mean that he has other outlets that he’s prioritising, like porn or an affair?
I don’t think we can answer this kind of question but perhaps it’s a good space to have these conversations about what exactly is going on in the marriage relationship.
Can I share this story? This is very personal to Veron and I. Whenever a partner abstains from having sex or be wanting to be physical, there must be reasons. And I want to share this story about my own experience. In the first about 10 years of our time together in the marriage, my stamina in terms of sexual intimacy is not strong. And often felt that I could not fulfill Veron. She would fulfill me and whatever I desire, as a man, I get what I want. But somehow I just said… This is not right. How can I only get what I want and my wife doesn’t get to have that fulfilment. Whether it is the kissing, caressing, or to some extent reaching orgasm. And it was discouraging. And my wife would keep assuring me saying, it’s alright dear, I enjoyed myself. But I just knew that I had to work at it.
So we talked about timing. We talked about when I’m comfortable. We talked about what she enjoys the most. And I must say that in the last 10 years, we both equally get something out of that intimacy. So initially it was difficult because I felt like I was not performing. You feel like as a man you are failing. But it takes a lot of… Veron being very patient with me and just loving me in every aspect and not seeing it as an inadequacy, but just helping. So I’m just trying to share something very real for us.
Yeah, I think a lot of times when couples have problems in the bedroom, it’s always a silent struggle, because you don’t really have anybody to talk to about such things, even if you have other problems emerge, sometimes it is so difficult. What more if you have issues regarding your lovemaking.
For me, in the initial years I remember that my experience was always feeling that I had experienced pain, it wasn’t very pleasurable. I had to really go through to understand my body and understand what works and lubricant helps! Alex was very, very patient and we worked through the issue together. If he was someone who was completely impatient or didn’t really care about what I felt or what I thought, you know, he’d probably just be pushing through his own agenda.
But the fact is, we didn’t have anybody we could talk to about such things. Who do you talk to? Do you even go find a gynae or someone to talk about certain problems? So sometimes it is quite challenging. But I think it’s about having this kind of open communication with each other. If you can’t have conversations with other people, you need to start developing that between the both of you.. That’s the most basic thing for every couple’s relationship, to openly and honestly share.
Just to add to that, I always remember that
because we got married for a reason, I think that we should be reminded that we’re on the same team. It’s what matters. And when you’re on the same team, you want to work together to make things work.
And like you said, as long as that’s the open communication, the willingness to talk, the willingness to share, that’s the very, very basic thing. And from there really… Things can happen, the communication level builds and grows.
So I have a question for you Donald, because you are a coach and as a coach, you’ve dealt with a lot of different levels of people. So I know for some couples, maybe one person is willing to have that conversation and the other person is not willing to have that conversation at all. So how can you work through those kinds of relationships?
Normally, when two persons are not able to have a conversation, they are not aligned. It’s very important then, to ask, what is “alignment” like for this couple? Where is the starting point for this conversation? Is it about myself versus you? Or is it something deep within? Or is this something very pleasurable or superficial? So most of the time, couples have to dig really deep.
Going back to why in the first place did you come into this marriage? What was the reason to want to commit and love one another? Start from that again. Reset a little bit. Explore the fundamentals, go back to literally the foundation of your beautiful relationship. Strip away the kids for a little while, strip away the job and business, strip away the finances and the BMWs for a little while, and just stay focused on just the two of you. And oftentimes we always see very, very positive results. And then it’s just building on one level after the other.
I like that a lot actually, because a lot of the time you lose focus.
You think you’re striving towards the end goal, but you get caught up in that whole process of striving for things that actually don’t really add up to the end goal. Exactly what you said. You know, you get caught up trying to earn more money to give your kids better education or to send your family on a nice vacation. But sometimes that’s not what they really need or want.
It’s just having each other at that point in time, right?
Yeah, but a lot of our viewers are female, right? So it goes to show that a lot of females are very interested in building a marriage relationship. But somehow there (okay I’m stereotyping here) are a lot of guys who might find that it’s quite difficult to actually break through this to really work on the marriage, you know, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges and a lot of couples face, especially more so when the kids come because and you feel like, oh, you really don’t have that kind of energy and time to do so many things in your life, right?
So I don’t know. It’s like… are there ways that we can help address some of these kinds of things. So do you feel, like for guys..
In terms of helping, is there anything that we can help other guys who are not so interested in working in a marriage, to actually work on the marriage? I know that’s a very tough question!
Call Alex and Grace! Connect with them. They will help you guys! Haha!
But seriously, I would like to say this. That Asian men in general, even though we are in 2021 now, we have got a lot of conditioning. The conditioning of what Asian men should be and how Asian men should “hack it”. It can be difficult for Asian men to admit that certain things are not right and that “I need help”.
However, whoever is watching, if you’re just on your own, if your spouse is not here, try to position your spouse with someone they trust, of the same gender. The conversation can start from there. Someone that they look up to. Someone that has walked the journey a little bit more. Not focusing on the area of weakness or lack, but saying hey, we have a potential for our marriage to grow even more beautifully, perhaps we should just invest a little bit in that and see where it goes.
Yeah, I think it’s one of those things that men sometimes don’t do. You don’t really seek out mentors. Maybe it’s a pride thing. But I mean,
if you seek out, like business mentors, then why not a life mentor, someone to take that relationship with the family further, right?
But, yeah, you’re right. I think it’s also a pride thing that stops people from advancing that way. But I suppose looking for someone that you both mutually trust, who genuinely cares for you, would be great. Someone in your circle.