Awaken your taste buds before the main course arrives
by Sheila Wray Gregoire
When hunger pangs intensify, inhabitants of my small town head to a local truck stop where the meals are huge, fast and wonderful. You wolf the food down, and you leave stuffed. What could be better?
Last summer my husband and I experienced a new kind of culinary delight. He whisked me away on a second honeymoon, which was infinitely better than the first since we had some practice in the interim. Our destination was an extremely posh resort: the kind where you count the forks to make sure you’re using the right one.
At the beginning of every meal, the server presented us with the tiniest of little nibbles to whet our appetites. It was always something very tasty and very interesting, but it was barely bite-sized. The appetizers were rather diminutive as well.
At first I felt cheated—and rather hungry—with dreams of that truck stop dancing in my head. Sure the food was delicious, but 20 minutes elapsed between each minuscule course.
Then the penny dropped. That’s the point! This posh restaurant was putting our taste buds on alert before the main course actually arrived. Instead of eating being merely a functional task, it became an experience.
Perhaps we need to start thinking of sex the same way. I’m afraid we see sex too much like food. You’re “hungry” and you need to “eat,” so the best thing to do is to jump in and satisfy that craving.
Women, though, generally don’t get hungry for sex the way men do. It doesn’t mean you don’t turn our cranks; it just means we’re likely to crave chocolate as much as we do something more energetic. In fact, a recent study published in Psychology Today found that the majority of women don’t actually feel “in the mood” before they make love. That mood only arrives once we’re engaged in the process. The trick for you guys, then, is to lure us into wanting to start, instead of questioning why we’re not hungry in the first place.
Unfortunately, too often both genders are stuck in the truck stop mentality. We think of sex as a hunger. But that frame of reference endangers women’s libidos, because it’s all too easy to conclude that since women aren’t as hungry at the onset, we don’t need sex. It was created for you, and we’re the accessory. How degrading.
Besides, think what that analogy is saying: if the point of sex is to relieve hunger, then our aim is to make the yearning disappear. That hardly sounds thrilling. Even worse, it sounds awfully goal-oriented. And as a woman, I get antsy about goal-oriented sex. It reminds me too much of football. You’re rushing for the touchdown line, and it’s counted as a success only if you cross it. That’s putting a lot of performance pressure on everyone. Sure that something we want to achieve is great, but even if it doesn’t happen at exactly the right moment while doing exactly the right thing, can’t we just enjoy being together, anyway?
Don’t get me wrong; sex is stupendous when those fireworks go off. Every guy should become a student of his wife’s body to discern what she likes (because she may not have a clue, either, until you experiment). But like Song of Solomon says, there’s a time to “awaken” love slowly, and that time occurs far more frequently than most of us make allowances for.
Our marriages would be much richer if we aimed to be more like that resort chef. Instead of being irritated that she isn’t in the mood, why not woo her with a variety of appetizers? Leave love notes expressing your devotion (and not only your amorous desires). Touch her as often as possible. Kiss her, even if the kids are in the room and that’s all you can get away with. If you’re the one with the low libido, it’s a recipe to heighten your desire, too!
Then, when the appetizers are over and the main course is ready to be served, focus on presentation. This may sound odd, but pray with her first. And I don’t mean praying, “for this bounty which we are about to receive…” I mean praying for each other. Go into God’s presence on your wife’s behalf and ask that He will empower her in all the things she does. For a woman, there’s little sexier, or more intimate, than hearing her husband hammer the door of heaven for her. And since that feels so intimate, chances are you’ll both want to be intimate in other ways, too!
But don’t rush. Light some soft candles. Massage her. Whisper in her ear. Let sex not just be about the physical, but let it draw you together spiritually and emotionally as well.
When we whet our appetites, instead of rushing to satisfy them, everything becomes more intense. In that intensity, you’ll experience tenderness and affection, all while awakening deep desire. And that is truly a recipe for a great marriage.
Sheila is the author of several marriage books, including Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can find her speaking at marriage conferences around the country, or at www.SheilaWrayGregoire.com.
The article above was featured in the January 2010 issue of SEVEN magazine.