[Note: today's post is adapted from the book Open: What Happens When You Get Honest, Get Real, and Get Accountable by Craig Gross with Adam Palmer]
I once spoke at a marriage conference … where I heard an interesting fact about the relationship between happiness in a marriage and the amount of times the husband and wife in that couple were engaging in sexual activity. In other words, the more frequently husbands and wives have sex with each other, the happier they tend to be with their marriage …
Sadly, the flip side of that is something else I learned at this marriage conference: there is a shocking number of married couples who aren't having very frequent sex.
They are taking this critical component of marriage and sidelining it, for whatever reason.
For some it's a heart issue (there are problems in the marriage and one or both partners are withholding sex for an emotional reason).
For some it's a time issue (one or more of them spends a lot of time away from home for work purposes or something, so the amount of time they have together is limited).
For others it's a schedule issue (both of them are just too busy and wind up tired every night), and for others it's an opportunity issue (both of them are willing but something — kids, illness, etc. — keeps getting in the way).
Regardless, I was in an accountability group with a bunch of married men. We were about eighteen months into this group at this point, and since we'd all recently experienced a breakthrough in our relationship together, I thought it would be a good idea to test that depth of relationship and ask a courageous question with the hopes of getting courageous answers. So one day I was leading the meeting…and I decided now was the time and threw out this little conversation starter:
"When was the last time you had sex with your wife?"
At first, it was so quiet that I thought something had gone wrong with the phone lines or that my phone had accidentally dropped the call. I had to take it away from my ear and look at the screen to make sure I was still connected to the call.
Every single one of those guys knew I wasn't looking for locker-room talk, nor was I seeking advice or soliciting ideas on stuff I could take into my own bedroom. I asked this question out of a legitimate concern for my friends' marriages; this was the serious, gut-wrenching, courageous work that an accountability group is supposed to be engaged in.
We were a tight group, but we'd never gone there.
Hence the cricket-chirping silence.
Finally, one of the guys chimed in, quietly and disappointedly: "Actually, it's been about three months." No one said anything, so he continued, sounding like a man with a broken heart: "There have been some issues between us, and I'm not proud of it, but whatever. There you go."
You know what the rest of us did? We thanked him for sharing. In fact, another of the guys said, "Thanks for sharing that, man. On my end, it's been about a month." Because the first guy had enough courage to speak out, it gave the second guy enough courage to do the same thing.
That day's conversation changed our group, altering our dynamic for the better. Even though our group was already pretty courageous, that conversation added even more courage to the equation.
Courage begets courage. When you start walking in courage, it becomes even easier to continue doing it, and doing it with more courage.