Chapter OneA Tale of
Jim and Karen were both virgins when they
got married twenty-one years ago. Like many
young couples, they had fairly unrealistic
views of what sex would be like. "Hit and
miss" might be a pretty good description of
their sex life after the honeymoon; they never
really got a handle on things until almost fifteen
years into their marriage.
Here's what happened. Jim was always looking
for (and worse, thinking he had found) the
"magic bullet." He tried something new-the
way he held Karen, cradled her, or tenderly
touched a delicate spot-and he tuned in to
her moans, thinking, Okay, this is the key; this
will unlock her sexual fury.
While Karen really did enjoy that new
touch, she learned to be conservative with her
moans because once Jim heard one, he was
certain to do the exact same thing for the next fifty
to one hundred times they made love. Karen never understood
why it took one hundred times of silence to overcome
one moan, but that's the way it was with Jim. He became so
predictable that what once made her hotter than an August
day now turned her into a glacier. Jim would just get frustrated,
thinking (but never verbalizing), I know I'm doing this
right. It worked that one time! Why isn't it working now? I must not
be doing it soft enough (or fast enough, or some other variation).
When I first met with Jim, I gave him a simple assignment.
"Jim," I said, "I want you to go home, look at your wife's closet,
then look at yours. Tell me if you notice anything different."
"I don't have to go home to do that, Dr. Leman," he said. "I
know our closets by memory."
"Okay, then. When you look at the shoes, do you notice
"Yeah, she has fifty pairs and I have three."
"Let me guess-business shoes, tennis shoes, and work-in-the-yard
"Now, if you counted her outfits and then counted yours,
what would you find?"
"I'd need a calculator for her outfits, but I could count
mine using my ten fingers."
"What does that tell you?"
"That she likes to buy clothes?"
"Well, yes, but in regard to sex, what does it mean?"
"Well, she doesn't have many sexy outfits, if that's what
you're getting at."
Seeing that subtlety wasn't Jim's strength, I decided to lay it
out for him more directly. "Jim, what I'm trying to say is that
your wife appears to like a little more variety than you do. She
doesn't want to wear the same dress on Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday. In fact, she may not want to wear the same outfit
every other Monday. She wants variety.
"You see, some of us guys treat sex like a football playbook.
We know what we're going to do, how we're going to do it,
and where we're going to end up. The problem with this is
that our wives soon grow bored with the routine. They could
chart our movements and predict, within about ten seconds,
how long we're going to spend upstairs before we go downstairs.
Your wife wants more than that."
I saw a lightbulb go on in Jim's mind. What I was saying
was making sense.
"Here's your job, Jim," I continued. "Your wife will not be
the same woman on Tuesday evening, sexually, that she was on
Saturday morning. One night she may be up for adventure or a
rushed quickie. She'll want you just to 'take her.' Some mornings
she may want slow, languid sex, with you taking a lot of
time to convince her that she's up for it. Your job is to figure
out which way the wind is blowing on that particular day."
It didn't take much more than that. I didn't need to send
Jim to a "sex surrogate" (nor would I ever do such a thing). He
didn't have to watch some videos. He didn't need to buy a
hundred dollars worth of "marital aids." In fact, Jim realized,
as I wrote in another book, that sex begins in the kitchen-it's
an all-day affair. He adopted a new mind-set and, according to
Karen, became a virtuoso of the bedroom.
Now, seven years later, sex permeates virtually everything
Jim and Karen do. If you haven't experienced this, you
wouldn't believe what an amazing marital "glue" good sex can
be. Three years ago, Jim was trapped in a job that he hated. His
boss was determined to become the most hated man east of the
Mississippi. When you're in your mid-forties, feeling trapped is
about the worst feeling there is. Jim could barely force himself
to go into the office, but with twins who were in middle school
(with college in the not-too-distant future), and two toddlers
just getting into grade school, he didn't have a choice. Now was
not the time to make a risky financial change.
One Friday Jim got an e-mail from Karen. It was the first
thing he saw when he sat down in his office:
Great news! The younger kids are going to
be at Grandma's house tonight and the
older boys will be gone at youth group. I
made reservations for eight at Palazzi's
[Jim's favorite restaurant]. If you can come home
by six, that'll give us a good hour and a
half to enjoy the hors d'oeuvres-which I
plan to be "wearing." By the way, if you
look in your briefcase, you'll find a
Polaroid. Consider it your predinner
"menu." Can't wait to see you.
You know what Jim said to himself after reading that e-mail?
Keep in mind, he was in a dead-end job; financial pressures
were mounting. His boss was a jerk who made Jim's daily existence
a living hell. But even so, Jim closed the e-mail and said
to himself, "I'm the luckiest man alive."
Having a great sex life is an exhilarating experience; it can
bond a husband and wife in a way that's unequaled in human
experience. Knowing that your bride really does care for you,
that your husband desires your body more than anything else,
affirms a man and a woman in profound and multiple ways.
Jim and Karen's kids benefited greatly from this e-mail, by
the way. When Jim and Karen finally picked up the younger
kids from Grandma's house, Jim couldn't wait to see them.
Because he was sexually satisfied, he could focus fully on being
there for his kids, hearing about their day, and taking the
time to tuck them into bed. And don't think that the kids
didn't notice how affectionate Jim and Karen were that evening.
It gave them a sense of security and happiness, makingthem think, We're in the best family anyone could be in.
Sexual fulfillment didn't come overnight for Jim and Karen.
But when it came, it changed everything about their home. To
tell you the truth, Jim would die for Karen; he'd take a bullet
for her without thinking twice. There's nothing he wouldn't
do for her.
* * *
Mark and Brenda faced a sexual challenge of their own. They
had been sexually active before marriage, and both admit that
the sex was pretty exciting. But, predictably for couples who engage
in sexual relations before marriage, sexual relations cooled
off not that long after the wedding. Mark didn't seem as eager
as he had been before, and Brenda was far less adventurous.
At first Mark and Brenda thought it was just the kids. They
got pregnant early on in their marriage and now had two kids
under the age of five. Over time, however, sex became even
less frequent, until eventually it was almost an embarrassing
afterthought, something the two of them did because they
thought, well, they should-at least once a month, anyway.
Mark had a well-paying job and a good boss, but he was under
tremendous stress. As a salesman, if Mark performed well, he was
rewarded handsomely. If he fell into the bottom third, he'd be
fired. He was only as good as last quarter's numbers.
Mark thought he had an account worth several hundred
thousand dollars in the bag; it was just a matter of getting the
company to sign. When he went into the purchaser's office,
however, he was shocked to hear, "I'm sorry, Mark, but we've
decided to go with someone else."
"You've got to be kidding! We've been working on this for
two months, and last week you said it looked like a go. What
do we need to do to earn back your business?"
"It's too late for that," the purchaser replied. "We've already
signed another contract."
Stunned, Mark walked out to his car in a daze. He instinctively
answered his cell phone when it rang but immediately
wished he hadn't.
"Hey, Mark!" his boss yelled through the phone. "I thought
I'd take you out to that new Italian restaurant for lunch to celebrate
your closing of that Andreeson account."
Mark wanted to swallow the cell phone right there.
Five hours later, after a lonely and very alcohol-laden
lunch, Mark began to reflect on what his life had become. He
had earned a six-figure income last year, but his job security
was always on the line-as his boss reminded him when he
heard the news about the Andreeson account.
How long had it been since he and Brenda had had any
fun? Mark remembered the days they couldn't keep their
hands off each other; now they were like two roommates sharing
the same bed but not much else. Ever since the kids arrived,
they seemed boxed into that (admittedly gorgeous)
3,500-square-foot home. Mark yearned for the days when he
and Brenda could make the world disappear for a few hours as
they got lost in each other's embrace.
Deciding to make a change, Mark called Brenda and confessed,
"I've had a really crummy day. Can we just go out tonight?"
It was an emotional cry from Mark-even more than a physical
one-but Brenda didn't understand. She'd had a rushed
day herself. And because she'd lost touch with her husband
and wasn't able to read the emotion in his request, she responded
with a curt, "Mark, it's five o'clock! I can't get a baby-sitter
this late. What are you thinking? You never give me any
Mark wanted to tell Brenda that he missed her. He longed
for her to be the eager woman she used to be, who was willing
to cut classes to "fool around" for a little bit. But he had already
stuck out his neck once today, and look where that got
him! So he went on the defensive.
"Ah, forget it," he said, and hung up the phone.
Mark stopped at a pub on the way home and shot pool until
11 P.M. He knew he'd catch a lot of flak from Brenda for being
out so late, but she didn't understand the pressure he was under.
Brenda also didn't understand that Mark masturbated two
or three times a week-and every time he did so, he felt his desire
for Brenda as a person decline just a little bit more. He was
tired of being reluctantly accommodated and never pursued.
For her part, Brenda was too busy with the kids to notice. In
fact, she was actually thankful that Mark didn't pressure her
for sex anymore; she was too tired to even think about it. It
never occurred to her that Mark was taking matters "into his
own hands" and was adept enough at hiding the pornography
on the computer that she never found it.
What Brenda didn't realize was how much this sexual winter
was costing them as a couple, and how, if they didn't turn things
around, they'd probably be divorced within another five years.
The kids noticed that Mommy and Daddy were rarely affectionate
toward each other and often very impatient. They
could sense there was something "under the surface," a seething
discontent. But because it was never brought out into the
open, they lived with the fear and lack of security that such an
Brenda became more and more focused on her kids, trying to
meet her emotional emptiness through her children's affection.
Mark became more interested in work and his computer at home.
Both lived out the sad truth depicted in this anonymous
Their wedding picture mocked them from the table, These two whose minds no longer touched each other.
They lived with such a heavy barricade between them
That neither battering ram of words
Nor artilleries of touch could break it down.
Somewhere, between the oldest child's first tooth
And the youngest daughter's graduation, They lost each other.
Throughout the years each slowly unraveled
That tangled ball of string called self, And as they tugged at stubborn knots, Each hid his searching from the other.
Sometimes she cried at night
And begged the whispering darkness to tell her who she was.
He lay beside her, snoring like a hibernating bear, Unaware of her winter.
Once, after they had made love, He wanted to tell her how afraid he was of dying, But, fearing to show his naked soul, He spoke instead about the beauty of her breasts.
She took a course in modern art, Trying to find herself in colors splashed upon a canvas, Complaining to other women about men who are insensitive.
He climbed into a tomb called "The Office,"
Wrapped his mind in a shroud of paper figures, And buried himself in customers.
Slowly, the wall between them rose, Cemented by the mortar of indifference.
One day, reaching out to touch each other
They found a barrier they could not penetrate, And recoiling from the coldness of the stone, Each retreated from the stranger on the other side.
For when love dies, it is not in a moment of angry battle, Nor when fiery bodies lose their heat.
It lies panting, exhausted, Expiring at the bottom of a wall it could not scale.
* * *
Two couples. Two stories. One reality. If you think sex isn't
important, you are sadly mistaken. Many people have been
wounded by sex and hurt by sexual memories. (We'll talk
about this in a later chapter.) But if you're married, sex will be
one of the most important parts of your life, whether you
want it to be that way or not. If you don't treat sex this way-as
a matter of supreme importance-you're shortchanging yourself,
your spouse, and your kids.
This might, in fact, be a hard book to read. It certainly was a
hard book to write, because in our society today we have a difficult
time talking about sex. Oh, we joke about sex, degrading
it through filthy stories, movies, and magazines, but we never
talk about marital sex in the way the Creator designed it. Marital
sex-the most important and only appropriate kind, in my
view-gets ignored, and couples pay a fearful price when this
sad reality happens.
But when you give people permission to talk about sex in a
nonthreatening environment, you can't shut them up! Once
they get going, they want to talk about sex because they know
that sex is a powerful force in our married lives.
My hope is that this book will expand and challenge your
thinking about sex. It's not just a how-to-do-it manual; the
physical mechanics aren't that difficult. This is more of a do-it-yourself
look at why to do it and how to do it better. I want
to reawaken in you the shared experience of enjoying this
wonderful gift on your journey with your mate.