One Way To Solve The Most Common Fight In Marriage

I read somewhere that married couples fight about three things: family, intimacy and money. No kidding.

My husband and I have proved that’s true over and over since we’ve covered those categories many times. One day though, a friend of mine casually mentioned something that changed the way I thought about one of those categories. She and her husband made a deal about their intimate life. My friend (I’ll call her Suzy) was exhausted because they had their first little baby and she felt like she would never, ever catch up on her sleep again. Her husband (I’ll call him Bob) felt like their intimate life would never, ever be the same again because his wife was exhausted all the time.

Suzy solved their problem by making this proposal to her husband: Bob would be the one to get up with the baby each night. Since Suzy was nursing, all Bob had to do was change his diaper (if he needed it), then deliver him to Suzy so he could eat. Bob could fall asleep while the baby nursed, then would take him back to his crib when he was done. Bob would be in charge of every nightly “waking” of their son, and for any other children that would come along. This would apply to nursing babies, sick children, nightmares, etc.

And what was Suzy’s part in the proposal? Simple, when Bob approached her because he needed some intimate time, she would never turn him down. She explained that it wouldn’t matter whether it was day or nighttime, as long as she had the option of choosing what I call “the full-meal deal” (which means both parties reach a climax) or a “quickie” (where just Bob would enjoy a physical release). That way, Bob would still receive what he needed, but if time was a factor, she could still fulfill her end of the bargain.

Suzy pointed out to Bob that this deal would be in place for their entire married life. The kids would be getting up at night while they were little, but that would eventually come to an end. She did also expect him to carry his obligation through the teenage years, because sometimes that requires waiting up for your kids to come home. The bargain, however, would never come to an end, and even when all the kids were sleeping through the night, and eventually when the children grew up, she would fulfill her part.

Bob thought about this for about two minutes before agreeing. And that’s the part about this couple that I love.

To Suzy, sleep was the ultimate motivator. She knew that if she were well rested, she could not only feel good about herself, but could fulfill her husband’s needs. She wanted Bob to feel loved, admired, and happy and she understood that to him, intimacy was the fastest way to achieve that.

To Bob, sex was the ultimate motivator. Having his woman reject him over and over “because she was so tired” left him feeling abandoned and unloved. He wanted Suzy to feel good about herself, and be well-rested, and he also wanted to feel like her hero. This plan accomplished that.

That was ten years ago. They each still keep their part of the bargain and it still works for them. They have had more kids - some of which were good sleepers - and some were not. I should mention that if either party is really sick, then the agreement is “on hold”. Nobody should have to get up with a crying baby when they have the flu, and nobody should be forced into intimacy when they are nauseous!

But what if this particular proposal won't work in your house?  Then make up one that will work.


Another friend of mine (I’ll call her Anna) came up with a different brilliant suggestion:

She gave her husband a deck of cards at the beginning of each calendar year. When he wanted some intimate time with her, he would give her a card. This let her know what his needs were. Anna previously had found it very difficult to make time for intimacy in her marriage, and having a deck of 52 cards helped her to remember to make her husband a priority an average of once a week.

Now, once a week will seem too often for some couples, and not often enough for others. What other people do is NOT a guideline for what you and your spouse need, so you should be honest with each other about that. In Anna’s case, she could wait several weeks in a row before even thinking about sex. Her husband struggled with this, so being able to have a “sure thing” once a week for him was a marriage saver.

I liked her idea and tweaked it a little to suit the needs in my own marriage. I bought a hot-pink set of face cards (so they couldn’t be confused with other playing cards at our house), and put them in my husband’s Christmas stocking. I explained to him that they each represented “a quickie”. These would not take the place of our regular lovemaking, but when I got distracted or busy and wasn’t paying attention to his needs, or when he was really stressed about something, he could just leave one card for me to find. I didn’t want him to hand it to me; I asked him to leave it in plain view on my pillow, or slip it into the back pocket of my jeans, or prop it up on the bathroom counter, or any other place where I would be sure to see it. Why? Because that way, I have the option of approaching him when I am ready later that day. I don’t want to feel trapped or inconvenienced, and since I’m such a sequential thinker, it’s just frankly easier if I can say to myself, “Okay, I’ll just finish this up, and then go find him.”

In our case, I needed a gentle but clear reminder that didn’t feel like an immediate demand on my time, and... my husband needed a way to bring his needs to my attention without feeling needy. It’s all about you talking to each other to find what works for both of you.

I love the old folk tale about the Preacher in the village who spent many evenings visiting his parishioners to counsel them about various things. He and his wife lived in a two-story home right next to the church on a small hill. Since the house was elevated, you could see the second-story window from just about everywhere in the village. The Preacher’s wife knew that her husband’s visits were important to the people, but when she wanted his attention, she lit a candle and put it in the second-story front window of their home. The Preacher would notice it, and come home quickly on those nights, so that his wife would feel loved and appreciated. If she had abused the system by lighting that candle night after night, it wouldn’t have worked for them. If he had repeatedly ignored her signal, then the system would be a failure. Whatever agreement you come to - respect it by being fair and honest with each other.

I came up with what I thought was a particularly smart plan when our oldest kids had become teenagers. They were often doing homework or watching a movie with my husband when I was ready for bed. (I like to turn in early, but my husband does not.) Since I almost always went to bed before he did, I was completely out by the time he came downstairs to our room. This obviously had an effect on our love life, but I didn’t feel comfortable saying in front of the teenagers “Come to bed now baby and I’ll make it worth your while!” So I explained to my husband that if I said: “I’m going to BED” then that meant I was open to his advances if he came downstairs soon. If I said: “I’m going to SLEEP” that indicated my plan was to brush my teeth and be dead to the world in about ten minutes so you might as well stay up with the kids. This way, we would have an easy and non-embarrassing code of communicating with each other in front of our oblivious teenagers, AND increase our together time.

But it didn’t work!

My husband just couldn’t remember which word meant, “yes please” and which meant “no thank you”. I was stubborn for awhile and even practiced it with him until I realized how ridiculous that was. It’s not supposed to be complicated, and you shouldn’t have to practice. Now I just squeeze his hand to give him the “come on down” signal when I head off to bed and that does the trick.

Remember that one solution you come up with may only last a few months or years. Life and circumstances change and your relationship can (and should) adjust to meet those changes. If you truly consider what your needs are, and then honestly share them with each other, it’s not hard to come to a solution that will solve your intimacy needs.

Then you’ll only have two things to fight about!