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How Important Is Sex To A Marriage?

Recently, we heard a story about a minister in Texas who told his congregation that he wanted married couples to have sex all week long! He told them that God may have rested on the seventh day, but he wanted married couples in his church to have sex every day for a week!

In these days of severe economic challenges, debates over same-sex marriage, and the like, it's time, he says, to turn the "whining" into "whoopee."

The question is, where do you start with debunking such a ridiculous notion. Let us count the ways!

For starters, we all know that good sex can be fun, romantic, exciting, and something that makes most consenting adults feel warm and fuzzy all over. Over the years we have interviewed thousands of successfully married couples, and most report a reasonable degree of satisfaction with their sex life. But here is our most important research finding concerning this issue – no marriage was ever saved or made successful because the couple had a great sex life!

And more importantly, when we ask successfully married couples how important sex is to the success of their marriage – to rank on a scale of 1-10 with 10 high – the average rank was only 6! This finding has held true over the nearly 27 years of our research. The results are hardly a resounding endorsement for the importance of sex in a successful marriage.

You see, marriage is a multi-faceted and highly complex relationship, and in the best marriages no one aspect stands out as the make or break part of it. The truth is, and as we report in our new book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, Ó2010), there are seven pervasive characteristics present in all successful marriages. And guess what, sex is not one of them! Sex is only part of one of the seven characteristics of a successful marriage reported about our research in our new book, Building a Love that Lasts. Of particular note is our chapter entitled “The Loving Touch.” Check it out.

As we say so often in our many interviews and writings, all of the married couples, representing the best marriages we have interviewed, have shared with us the importance of touching in their relationship. One gentleman we interviewed told us that if he passed his wife in the house a hundred times a day, he touched her. To touch someone you love is to acknowledge their presence and to communicate your love for them. That’s why the most successfully married couples amongst us do it so often.

In our humble opinion, the minister’s charge to his congregation that we reported on earlier is this missive, to have sex seven days next week, not only cheapens the importance of healthy and positive sex with someone you love, but it also reinforces the silliness that great sex will save your marriage – that sex is the centerpiece of all good marriages. Truly, enough is enough on this topic!

As you know from our many published writings, we believe that the overemphasis on sex in books about love and marriage cause people to believe that if they don’t have stupendous sex everyday there is something wrong with their marriage. Trust us on this – marriages that fail do so for a variety of reasons and not for a single reason.

We are sure the good Reverend was well intentioned with the challenge to his congregation, but we believe his advice is misguided as it once again overemphasizes the importance of sex in marriage. To single out sex is to blow its importance entirely out of proportion to its relevance to a great marriage. We wish people would stop doing that!

In our book chapter about “The Loving Touch,” we report many first hand accounts from successfully married couples who report how important the human touch is to a loving marriage. They hug each other often, the kiss, they touch each other while talking, they sit cheek to cheek on the couch while having a conversation, they curl around each other when they sleep or just gaze at the stars, and yes, they have sex from time to time – when it’s right for them and not forced by some arbitrary “have sex everyday rule!”

You see, people touch each other in many, many different ways and no single form of touching wins the day. It’s what we like to call “the accumulation of touching” that matters. Touch the one you love often and in whatever way your heart desires. It’s that human connection that wins the day – and wins the marriage! The simple truth is, the best marriages engage in a lot of touching, sex is only one of them.

Simple Things Matter in Love and Marriage! Love well!

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Authors of Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book 2009 Nautilus Book Awards
(Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.

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