We’ve all seen the movie- a rugged man returning from deployment, and a wife-dressed in a gorgeous red dress hugging in all the right places. Lights turned low, music crescendo as they are re-acquainted with one another; blankets covering up just enough. The screen blinks and they are sprawled out on the California King, happy, sated, and...with all her lipstick still in place?
Wait a minute….somethings off. Where is this magical place with no talk of lube, no silly sounds coming from who knows where, and music that hits the high note at exactly the right spot?
They don’t even have mood lighting in base housing! Movies-setting up and dashing expectations since childhood. With romanticizing military life, and how sex is displayed in movies, it’s easy to feel let down when sex for the first time back feels like a shy "hi"instead of a husky hello.
Here are our favorite four ways to shake off the red carpet expectations; so sex with you and your partner can be a smooth transition back-even without the specially curated soundtrack.
Where are the kids? If you have children, plan ahead of time for creating space for you and your partner to connect and have sex. Your children will be missing your spouse as well, so plan accordingly. One mom shares, "Throw $5 worth of nickels in the back yard, and give each kid a bucket. Tell them they can’t come in until they have $3 dollars worth each. They’ll be searching for quite a while!" Try trading babysitting overnight with a friend, or hire someone to watch them for a few hours so you can do dinner and bed together...or dinner in bed. Another mom tells her children her husband came home a day later than he did, and they proceeded to go to a hotel to connect in style-as she arranged a sitter for the kids. Regardless of your choice, make sure to plan so you aren’t rushing around the day of. Murphy’s Law will make sure you have something to fix. If it’s not a sitter, that’s one thing off the list.
Speaking of children... Are you or your partner on birth control? What are you using? Has it changed since they’ve been gone? Whether you are trying for a child or wanting to stay child-free; know whether a condom, diaphragm, sponge or other item needs to be used during sex is important.
If you have stopped taking birth control while your partner was away, make sure that you started taking it again before they return. If you are not looking to add a new member to your family at this time, and just got back on the pill last week, be safe and use a condom. Hormonal birth control can also impact your sex drive, and how you feel in your body, if it doesn’t feel right, or you need more foreplay to get "started," communicate and be open with your partner to have a reunion you both will enjoy.
For some, it may seem odd to talk about communication in the bedroom. It’s sex! What do we have to talk about? Sex conversations can feel awkward, or hard (and not in a good way). Many women were taught growing up to not talk about vaginas, periods, or to think about sex. Men were told to want it often. Create space to chat about expectations. When they get home, try going out to eat just the two of you, or get a pizza and go to a park.
Flights back from deployments can be long and draining. As fantastic (and itchy) as your new lacy underwear might be, your partner might not be in the mood for sex and this is okay. Sex can mean so many things outside of just intercourse. Being intimate with your spouse could look like snuggling in bed together naked, or using hands and mouths to explore each others’ bodies. The same pressure we place on ourselves to have that perfect reunion can make it fall apart at the seams.
Over the course of a year, 6 months, or even a few weeks, it can become clear on what you, or your spouse may be longing for. A great way to start the conversation is to create a list of things you love in the bedroom before they come home and to share it with them. In the heat of the moment you may go along with an idea, but secretly be fretting inside if you are good enough, or if they still like you. Lovelies. Be honest. Be kind to yourself and your partner by speaking up. Your partner is not a mind reader and doesn’t know what you might be thinking. If you are frozen during sex because you feel like you didn’t have time to actually talk beforehand, then you aren’t fully present and able to enjoy your bed adventures either.
Stressed sex is no fun for either partner. Lovers who are in tune with one another will usually know something is up.
During sex, speak up about things you like by saying “I love when you do ______” or ‘Oh, that’s fantastic, please can we do more of ____”. Each couple’s communication in the bedroom is different, but if your goal is to delight in one another and your bodies then speaking up and asking for what you like gives your spouse opportunities to love you well. Think of it like a test that’s open book. It doesn’t make the test fake, it simply gives you a better chance at success.
Cue the Mood Lighting
Being in the right mindset can help sex feel smoother. Having the kids watched at a friend’s house for the evening, or having a crock pot meal, can allow your body to relax. Create a playlist you love. You could even both have added songs throughout your time apart that made you long for one another. Set yourself up for success so that way when you are in the bedroom you aren’t thinking about the 20 other things on your to-do list.
Do you know what the biggest sex organ is? Your skin. Whether as a couple you get right into it, or take your time, don’t dismiss your body’s need to adjust. If your only touch has been kids, hugging friends at church, and your hairstylist, your body may be craving sexual touch. At the same time, being touched again may feel overwhelming both in good and strange ways. Remember as you begin again, sexual touch is just as sexy as sex and is a great way to warm up your bodies.
A few more helpful tips:
Foreplay. Some see this as an appetizer to your dinner, but think of it as your first few bites of your favorite meal. Massaging, cuddling, and using hands to explore one another can set the tone for what is to come. Everyone’s sexual drives vary throughout our lifetimes, so unless you have to have a quickie, take your time and enjoy one another.
Lube. According to a study by Indiana University, 70% of women said lube made sex more enjoyable. Lube isn’t just for when you are dry, but for every encounter. You have to create a relaxing atmosphere and smooth sailing. Vaginal dryness can occur because of alcohol, stress, food, exercise, medicine, time of the month, age, and more. There is a false belief that if you aren’t wet you aren’t turned on. This belief creates shame, painful sex, and can do long term damage to your vaginal walls.There is NO SHAME in asking for more lube; if your love has been gone for a minute it may take time to warm up, and lube can help you feel ready.
I recommend water-based lubes, as they do not stain, and are safe to use with condoms, toys and are generally safe for those with sensitive skin. PRO TIP: This is not the day to try out your new warming lube. Don’t do it. Wait a week. Your first time back, give yourselves grace to be and have fun together.
AJ sparks imagination and joy through art, entertainment, and events with her business In Joy Productions. As a military spouse, she creates sacred spaces for women to flourish through Red Tents, retreats, and soul art workshops. Facilitating conversations in engaging ways, she helps women move, totally embodied, through to world- allowing them to show up for themselves and others. Her heart is to change the traditions and stories we pass down to the next generation by creating brave spaces to share about womanhood, in all its phases. She lives in San Antonio, TX, with her husband Jeremy, two pups, a peace lily, and a bucket full of glitter for emergencies. She writes for SheLoves Magazine, GEMS Girls Club, and MilSpo Co. Connect with AJ at www.ajsmit.com or @mermaidHarmony on Facebook and Instagram!
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
We invite you to join us in creating a paradigm shift within the military spouse culture. We want to be at the forefront of creating a movement within our community that trades comparison for compassion. We want to replace the negativity that surrounds the MilSpouse culture with a positive image of personal fulfillment and success. We can be a group that raises each other up, building strong leaders and supporting new ideals. Join us by “liking” our Facebook page, subscribing to the blog, and linking us to your local “spouse’s” Facebook page!