In marriage, I think we go through several different stages of sex!

And this month, for our October series, I’d like to go over those different stages, look at the fun parts of each one; look at the red flags that may pop up; and then look at how we can make each stage great.

To start this series, I’d like to look at those first few years of marriage when you’re just figuring things out in the sex department.

When I did my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage were not actually the honeymoon years. They were, instead, years 16-24 of marriage. You’d been married for over a decade and a half. You were comfortable with each other and knew everything about each other. You could totally relax. You’d figured things out. The babies weren’t babies anymore. And that’s when everything often fell into place!

We assume, though, that the “figuring out” stage of sex is going to be the best. Those honeymoon years, when you’re both excited to be with each other, and libidos should be through the roof, and you’re all about trying new things. But actually, trying new things often comes in later, when you’re more used to each other.

What’s great about the “Figuring Things Out” Stage of Sex

Everything is new and exciting, and you’ve got the future in front of you! You can create some awesome memories; you’re not in a rut yet so you don’t need to “spice things up” to get them exciting; just being together is exciting.

You’ve got more time available than at most other stages of life (and stages of sex), and so it’s often easier to make more time for sex. And the first big breakthroughs–like figuring out how to bring her to orgasm or discovering how to make a new position work–can be real victories.

Potential Landmines in the “Figuring Things Out” Stage of Sex

When you had sex before you were married with other people, you may figure, “I know what to do now!”

Just because you knew how to please another partner, though, does not mean that you know how to please your spouse! It’s important to start from scratch and really learn each other’s bodies and desires. Men, especially, assume that they know how to have sex because sex tends to feel so good for them, so they may think something is wrong with their wives if their wives don’t enjoy it.

Hint: If your spouse is not enjoying sex, the problem is often not with your spouse  at all. It’s that you haven’t learned how to make them feel good! A while ago in the comments one woman explained how she was trying to tell her new husband that she needed more in bed than just intercourse, and trying to encourage him to read this blog. He replied that he’d raised hogs all his life, and he figured he knew how sex works. Please don’t do this to your spouse! Don’t assume anything.

Even if you had sex with your spouse before you were married, still start from scratch. She may not have had a wonderful time, and she may want a reset. Let her have that.

Communicating about what feels good may feel very awkward

Women, if we want the men to start from scratch, then we also need to learn how to speak up. I know that’s difficult, because it feels awkward to ask for what you want. It’s difficult to talk about sex. And telling him you want something specific can feel like you’re making demands, or that you’re being an imposition, and holding him back, because he could enjoy sex so much better if he could just get on with it, rather than being bothered with all the things that you need.

Resist the urge to be quiet. 

You are setting the stage for the rest of your married life. While you may be okay right now with sex not feeling very good, it’s pretty quickly going to become an imposition if you do it just to make him feel good. Speak up. Tell him that you want your pleasure to be considered in your sex life, too. Set the stage NOW for you being an equal partner in your sex life, rather than your pleasure being an afterthought.

Past porn use or past erotica use can impact your sex life

If you married thinking that marriage was going to cure the temptation to watch porn or read erotica, you’re likely finding out that’s not true. And you may be encountering a ton of other problems besides! Porn and erotica retrain the brain so that what’s arousing is an image, video, or a story rather than an actual relationship, and then you need that stimulation to get aroused during sex (for erotica, it’s fantasy that you really need, so you often mentally dissociate).

You need to make a clean break with pornography and erotica, and these posts may help.

Trauma may surface

If you’ve undergone significant betrayal or trauma in your life, from sexual abuse or assault to parental figures walking out, much of that trauma can resurface, making sex difficult and trust difficult. Seek a licensed counselor to guide you through the healing process, because you don’t need to be stuck.

You may not realize when things aren’t normal

Because we don’t often talk about the nitty gritty of our sex lives, you may assume that things are normal when they’re not. You may think pain is normal, or him not being able to maintain an erection is normal, or him wanting strange things sexually is normal. If you’re experiencing pain, I’ve written before about vaginismus, and the importance of seeking out a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Here’s a more detailed post on red flags in your sex life.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut

Because it’s new, if you try one thing and it feels good, it’s easy to keep doing that one thing, because it can feel awkward to say, “Hey, let’s try something else!” Even if you’d like to try other positions, you can feel embarrassed asking for it, especially if your spouse seems to be enjoying what they’re doing. And so you can start your sex life off to a rather humdrum routine.

That’s what can go wrong. Now let’s look at how to make things go right!

Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?

SPICY 1 - The Stages of Sex Series: Figuring Things Out

Try these 24 dares–plus one bonus–to take your marriage to the next level!

How to Make the Figuring Things Out Stage of Sex Great!

Start from Scratch–even if you’re not new at this

Assume you know nothing. Seriously. Even if you have sex with other people before you were married, or even if you had sex with each other–start from scratch.

Why? Because sometimes we get into patterns where sex is really good for one person but not the other, but in a dating relationship, we’re willing to put up with sex not being that great because we want to please the partner/keep them happy/keep them with me. Especially for women, this can be a huge problem. It’s very vulnerable to speak up and say what you like, and sometimes you’re not even sure or don’t have the vocabulary for it, so you don’t tend to say anything. And in that dating relationship, you can often get a lot of satisfaction just knowing that your boyfriend/fiance enjoyed himself and loves you.

But that’s a terrible way to start a marriage. So, guys especially, hear me out on this one: If you had sex before you were married, do not assume you now know how to do it, even if your fiancee was your sexual partner.  And how do you do that?

Aim for arousal, not just intercourse

Focus on arousal, not just “having sex”. Make sure that you know how she feels aroused and how to get her there. Sometimes that means just touching her, or stimulating her in other ways. It may take a long time. It can’t be rushed. But she needs to figure out what feels good, and you need to know that something can, indeed, feel good. Even if you have to hole up for a few weekends until you figure this out, take the time! It’s worth it.

Aim for a few sex marathons

Early in your marriage, when you’re relatively young and responsibility-free, is one of the few times in your life when your time will be your own. So if you’re going to do some sex marathons–where you don’t get out of bed all day, or when you go away for a weekend of trying all new positions–this is the time to do it! When you have small kids and you go away for a weekend, what you’ll really be looking forward to is sleeping in, and you’ll always have your kids in the back of your mind. Now is the time to create some awesome memories!

Try new positions and new things

Finally, make it a habit that you do try new things. Say, every Saturday you have to try a new position or something else that’s new. Take a look at my posts on how to spice things up, or better yet, check out 31 Days to Great Sex or my Sexy Dares! That will help you try pretty much everything, one thing at a time, and make sure you never get in that rut!

The “Figuring Things Out” stage of sex is an exciting time–if you handle it well. The biggest thing to do? Speak up and communicate. If something is wrong, call it out. If you’re worried your spouse is holding something back (like porn use or something else), ask directly. Don’t beat around the bush. You’re setting the stage now for the rest of your marriage. Set it well. Deal with issues (everybody’s got issues, after all!), but then put some time in to trying new things and making sure that sex feels good for both of you. It’s okay to be on a learning curve; it can even be exhilirating! But take the time that you have during this stage to create those awesome memories; to try as much as you want to and you’re comfortable with; and to make sex feel as great as it can.

Weekly To Love, Honor and Vacuum Challenge:

Communicate What You Want!

No matter what stage of marriage you’re at, tell your spouse TWO things today!

Grab a cup of tea, go for a walk, or whatever, and say:

  • My favourite sexual memory is…
  • What I’d like to do more of is….

And then ask your spouse for them to fill in the blanks, too!

Adjusting to Sex in Marriage - The Stages of Sex Series: Figuring Things Out

Posts in the “Stages of Sex” Series:

  • The Figuring Things Out Stage (this one!)
  • The Hectic Stage (kids & jobs)!: October 9|
  • The Glory Years: October 16
  • Menopause, MidLife and Beyond: October 23
  • When Life is Stressful: October 30
SheilaSidebarAboutMe - The Stages of Sex Series: Figuring Things Out Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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