Posted on Jul 13, 2020
By Mahasin D. Shamsid-Deen
Let's face it. We've been stuck inside for a long time. Even if you're cautiously venturing out now (and hopefully wearing your mask), many of us are still in areas where sheltering-in-place is still recommended. And, if you'be been indoors with your spouse and/or family for the past nearly four months, things can become routine and irritations can arise.
Intimacy is an important part of a married couple's life. But it's too easy to fall into patterns and take each other for granted. Intimacy (physical and emotional) between married couples deepens over time with kindness and understanding. Below are ten tips from for a healthy intimate relationship with your spouse, which may help shake things up (and bring back some heat!) during these stressful times. (Source: Jamiatul Ulama)
Remember kissing? Maybe stealing kisses when the kids weren't looking (if you have kiddos stuck at home with you)? There are many ways to kiss a spouse and no reason not to do so! It is a wonderful expression of affection and attraction, and is from the sunnah. So, kiss as often as you like and in ways that are mutually enjoyable. Don’t neglect kissing as unimportant. Make it more of a priority when you are spending so much time together.
2. Look, speak and touch each other gently.
A kind expression; whispered words that express appreciation, compliments or desire; and a gentle touch on the arm or shoulders are their own aphrodisiacs. A lingering touch during the day can say so much.
3. Recognize your spouse’s sexual zones.
Let's face it – if we've been with our spouse for awhile, that can affect the excitement, especially when you've been sheltering-in-place for months. As spouses grow more and more familiar during intimacy, certain patterns will emerge over time. Although some people fear that patterns are the path to boredom, the reality is that remembering and reinforcing those things that please our spouses enhances the intimate relationship and the marriage overall.
Scientific research suggests that men reach their sexual peak in their late teens or early twenties, whereas women reach theirs a decade or more later. Often when a woman is in her thirties and forties her desire for intimacy may surge. Knowing this may help explain and accommodate each other's moods and desires.
4. Understand, accept and appreciate natural sexual development.
As a man ages, his patience, self-control and emotional maturity increases. Through each stage, couples grow and learn more about each other and (hopefully) become more patient and sensitive to each other’s needs. This is wonderful because it allows a couple’s intimate life to balance out.
Spending so much time together in these times lends itself to either taking each other for granted OR paying attention to our spouse's development and needs. (Hopefully it's the latter.) If you take the time to pay attention to your partner's cues, in turn your partner hopefully will pay attention to yours.
5. Acknowledge the different kinds of intimacy.
Many women who have converted to Islam may worry about becoming sexual slaves due to distorted reports of women’s obligations to satisfy the lusts of men. Many born-Muslim women may worry about this as well. This could be no further from the truth. Prophet Muhammad (saw) warned men that their wives have rights over them – this includes intimate contact. It is not a one-way street. Wives have their own needs from their husbands.
Marriage is about sharing mood and emotions as well as physical contact. Having someone there for us in our life, especially during stressful times, creates a bond and trust that benefits our psyche and produces feelings of happiness. It also benefits us physically by releasing endorphins and lowering anxiety. Whatever the kind of intimacy a couple engages in, ultimately intimacy connects the couple, maintaining and strengthening the marital relationship.
Some couples, especially young married couples or those overly influenced by media portrayals, may feel that passionate intimacy is the only goal. However, every time a couple joins, there is no need to be fireworks. This is because intimacy is variable. There are times when intimacy will simply be a comfort.
Other times it may be functional, celebratory or to satisfy a need or desire in the moment. Yet, other times it might happen simply because the couple is close together. Seek out all manners of intimacy, from the intimate conversation protected away from the rest of the family to a kiss to whatever it is that brings you and your spouse together.
6. Hey guys! Put her in the mood.
Men are more likely to be stimulated by visual images. Something as simple as his wife’s smile, the flip of her hair or her movements as she goes about her day may trigger feelings of passion and/or intimacy.
However, acting on these impulses without considering that women need to mentally prepare for sex is counterproductive. Often couples confine themselves to a very small definition of foreplay.
A wife may respond to hugs and caresses, playful attention, certain foods or even conversation that is pleasing thus putting her in the mood. There is a hadith where the Prophet (saw) implied that engaging in intimacy without foreplay could be considered an act of cruelty to the wife.
The Prophet said, “Let none of you come upon his wife like an animal, let there be an emissary between them.” When asked what the emissary is, he replied, “The kiss and sweet words.”
As women age, they may experience pain without the foreplay needed to build passion and allow for the body to do what it needs to do. Therefore, the strength of a good intimate relationship relies a lot on doing that good deed.
7. Communicate! (No, really!)
Even after years of marriage, many couples may still feel shy about communicating sexual needs or problems. This is especially may be an issue for men who commonly do not want to give the wife the impression that they are anything other than strong and virile.
In some instances, there may be physical concerns that affect ability, desire and frequency of intimate contact. Couples may lie in silent frustration, too embarrassed to discuss. So, they start to grow apart. Remember that you are both each other’s only halal means of sexual fulfillment. Spouses have a right to know and assist when they find that the other has a physical issue that is affecting intimacy.
8. Comfort each other.
As couples grow, they will learn how to speak of these things and maintain a certain amount of modesty in doing so. Couples sometimes also feel shy about addressing frequency even if there is no physical problem. Expectations of what constitutes "normal" in the relationship can only be defined through communication. Especially now, when spouses are together so much, the opposite can happen, and communication can break down.
Married couples too often let children and job/career obligations overtake them and their time. Especially now, there are a million more things to handle before paying attention, really paying attention, to each other. Many therapists and marriage counselors report that fatigue is the number one enemy of spousal intimacy. When couples are preoccupied or tired from work, intimacy is usually one of the first things to go.
If couples get into the habit of delaying intimate contact, it often starts a pattern of having feelings of inadequacy or doubt. This can then be translated into more frequent disagreements, as we consciously or subconsciously act out our dissatisfaction with the situation. No couple wants to find themselves in a rut where they feel intimacy is a thing of the past and just not a priority.
There is a solution to this problem, and that is making each other a priority. Easier said than done, yes. This takes a constant effort. If exhaustion is really an issue, make a plan. Scheduling things out may make things feel stilted, but on the other hand if you incorporate the suggestions above, you can build towards that scheduled time together. Try and find time to rest so that you can enjoy some time together. Make each other a priority. Really.
10. Hooray! It’s halal.
Engaging in intimate contact stirs the craving for more contact. Intimacy elevates the brain chemicals associated with desire and happiness. This human contact in marriage is ordained and encouraged for couples, so do it!
What are your suggestions for keeping the sparks going with your spouse, especially when you're spending A LOT more time together? Share in the comments below! This article was adapted from this original piece on Muslimvillage.com.