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  My partner and I have been watching the Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships , which is a Gary Smalley series.    Our version is from the mid 90’s but I believe but there is also more current material by Gary Smalley as well as his sons who have followed in his research and counseling.

  The session on mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy is somewhat predictable in it’s content, especially if you have watched the 11 preceding sessions which all build on one another or if you are a person who reads a lot of self-improvement, psychology related materials or relationship materials.  It also might be that as a woman these are all things I have discussed with other women,  wanted in my relationships or asked my partner for.    Maybe because they are all soneeded in my heart and mind, the session didn’t feel like any new information to me.   But what I liked about this video was that my partner was able to hear it from a man, in a man’s words.  Secretly I hope he watches the video another time or two until he truly hears what is being said.

 These very basic keys sum up some needs that can leave people struggling for decades trying to communicate them to their partner.    I have to say that this video might feel heavily biased toward women and I think that might cause some men to be less open to what he is trying to teach.    He does a great job of opening the session on the men’s behalf.   Basically stressing the strength of the sex drive and giving women a simple analogy that he hopes will help them to understand the frustration a man feels when he isn’t getting sex.  I want to say here though, that I think a lot of men think that we don’t have any understanding of their sex drive or how it feels not to get sex when you want it.   I have to admit I can’t possibly imagine that physical pressure while setting here inside my woman’s body.   Nor can I probably comprehend what that sensation creates in your mind or emotions.  What I understand and I believe most of the ladies I know understand, is that your sex drive is very high and largely difficult for you to constrain in terms of desire, fantasy, and need.  I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t acknowledge, hasn’t read about, heard about, talked about that sexual difference between men and women.   Even women who genuinely love sex.    I can’t think of any ladies I know who aren’t keenly aware of it and don’t have the desire (though perhaps not always the energy, motivation or arousal, but at least the sincere intentions) to try to help fulfill it as often as she can.  

It’s sometime a stereotype that we just don’t get it or care.  That we control the sex.  Dish it out like candy and withhold it for punishment.    That attitude in my opinion could be responsible for squashing the potential for one heck of a lot of sex lives in marriages. By the very argument that we control the sex and don’t care what your needs are, a wall of separation is created in which you might blame us for your lack of or low level of sex and yet assume no responsibility for filling your half of the deal.

   You scratch my itch and I’ll scratch yours should apply here.    The second reason that attitude is hurtful is that I don’t know if men truly realize how few of the 4 key needs are fulfilled for women and thus can’t really comprehend just how often women ARE having sex and trying to make love, despite the fact that the things they also long for are missing from the equation.  You might ask,  if the experience is not ultimately satisfying for us then why do we bother doing it at all?   Well, sometimes lesser than average sex is better than no sex and like men we just need to scratch the itch.   But even that only goes so far before it becomes difficult.   That only leaves one reason we would be doing it.   Because we love you. You need it and we want to be the one you are getting it from. It’s really that cut and dry. 

I’ve  told my male friends, don’t complain about women faking it.  If she’s faking it at least she CARES ENOUGH to fake it.   The question is what is missing that would change faking it to loving it?

When we are giving it our best effort even though the return might  be low for us and we hear you complain that you don’t get enough sex or we don’t show enough excitement, it’s a real barrier of hurt being built between us when what you  might want to ask yourself is how you could help change that.  

After talking about the high male sex drive Gary Smalley moves into the 4 key areas that must be present for sex life to be fulfilling and this is where it begins to underscore the common frustrations you would most typically hear from a woman rather than a man.   Perhaps because men rarely talk about sex in this way or on this level.   Maybe because men speak of sex in sexual terms rather than emotional terms.  That is not to say that the 4 areas are not important to men or that men might not or can not understand how each one might add to the quality of their sexual intimacy.    Only that I felt when watching it that they were all things I’ve found myself wanting or trying to communicate throughout my life but certainly nothing I’ve ever heard expressed to me from a male partner.    It felt to me as though it were a lesson on trade offs in life.   A message that was aimed at helping men understand that women NEED these things to be intimately open and sexual and that if they hoped to have the sex lives they desire in their relationships then it would behoove them to understand them and fulfill them.   Behoove?   Strange.  I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before.  But it fits.  It benefits them and is the right thing to do.    Though the primary message might be received as “do these things and get laid a little more often”  I think the underlying message was that in the long run not only can you find yourself with a more frequent and fulfilling sex life,  you just may discover that intimacy runs much deeper than intercourse and can improve the quality of your life and relationship in ways you might not have imagined.

   The four hidden keys that Gary talks about are Mental intercourse, Emotional intercourse, Physical intercourse and Spiritual intercourse and he states that all 4 should be present.  It’s not a pick and choose menu.  It’s not something you check off 1 thru 4 right before you jump in bed either.  He used a quote which I really loved though I don’t recall who he credited it to.  “All of life is foreplay”.    I think that’s fantastic! It really says that these things need to be part of your life every day.   It’s about the way you treat each other and interact in a living breathing relationship that is always alive and feeling. Really being conscious about the seduction and nurturing of each other.  And it leaves you more open, more energetic, and more primed for sexual intimacy to occur not only more frequently but in a more satisfying way.     In my words not his….. just because you’re getting laid doesn’t mean you have mutually satisfying intimacy.   Adding one or two of these keys is nice.   But it’s the combination of all 4 that opens the door to real satisfaction shared by both partners.   It’s like eating cake.   Cake is good.  You bet!  You can live your whole life enjoying cake but until you’ve had double chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, topped with whipped cream and hot fudge sauce sprinkled with crushed pecans, maybe a little coconut, you really have no idea that there is something even better than just plain cake. Yet once you know there is more than plain cake,  suddenly cake doesn’t seem the same.


Gary Smalley defines intercourse for all intents and purposes as getting to know someone intimately. So what are these 4 intercourses all about and when should we do them?  I’m going to do my best to summarize what I heard.    By all means look up the book or video to learn more or draw your own conclusions. 

MENTAL INTERCOURSE= talking and sharing thoughts, exchanging ideas, it is the act of getting to know your partners internal thought process and beginning to understand how they tick or what makes them tick.   It is the first of the intercourses because it is required before any physical intercourse can become truly meaningful and intimate.     Ways to do this are through sharing time, interests, and activities every day as a way of life.   But most importantly it occurs through talking, sharing thoughts and ideas and partaking in meaningful communication.    Meaningful communication can be summed up by exchanging information about yourself.   It isn’t small talk or one person controlling the conversation. It is bouncing ideas off each other, talking about future plans or dreams, talking about your thoughts on current world issues, sharing your preferences and opinions, discussing a movie or book,  setting goals together, etc.   Taking up a new hobby together or learning a new language or theory together.  And yes, even talking about sex.   It is the activation of our brains as a couple.  We connect all day long to people in different ways.  At work, as parents, as children or siblings in our families, as friends.   It is important that we also connect and share our minds with our partners in life.    All of these type of exchanges require both people to participate and share and through the process each partner learns what is inside of the other.  What motivates them, repels them, moves them, excites them, makes them laugh, makes them grimace?    People tend to think that the “getting to know you” phase ends in courtship but it doesn’t.   People grow and change and the world effects and shapes us every day in so many ways.  We never remain the same.   We are always evolving. Mental intercourse should be taking place every day for the rest of your lives.   It is the pursuit of truly knowing and learning and hearing who your partner is at any given moment.   Research shows and life confirms that we just feel more loved when we believe we are known by our partners.  


Emotional intercourse = is the act of sharing deep inner most emotional feelings with your partner and sparking emotions within your partner.   It’s talking about how you feel and what you need and listening to the feelings and needs of your mate.  It’s also about displaying emotions and placing priority on emotional bonds. Creating the emotional tones, or environments such as being openly affectionate with your spouse and also your children.  Honoring special occasions or events that mean something to you as a couple or family.    Expressing feelings of love, pride, loyalty, awe, thankfulness.    It’s romance in gestures and thoughts,  notes taped to a mirror or left on a pillow, dinners, flowers, music, a walk on the beach, setting under the stars.

Physical intercourse = well that one sounds pretty self explanatory, right?    Not so fast.  It does include physical intercourse,  but it doesn’t start with it.  Physical intercourse defined as sex is only a small portion of this vital intercourse element.  Gary sighted the following statistics.   He said that in studies it was shown that one big difference between men and women is that women required 80% meaningful touch to 20% sexual touch.    Men often reserve all their physical expressions to sexual activity or the expression of sexual desire.  Gropes, grabs, foreplay and sexual intercourse.    Women work much differently and actually shut down sexually when the ratios become more sexual than meaningful. Or when every meaningful means of touch seems to predictably migrate to sexual.   So what do they mean by meaningful?  I believe that they mean any kind of touch that conveys appreciation,  admiration, affection and caring but does not imply sex.  It doesn’t have strings attached to it.  Also any physical closeness that helps create the feeling of a bond.     It’s a touch solely for the purpose of caring for the other person.   Back rubs, shoulder rubs, foot massages, hand massages, a hug and kiss good-bye and a kiss and embrace hello.  Holding hands,  guiding her through a crowd by placing your hand in the center of her back,  running your fingers through his or her hair, a playful tickle,  a pat on the rump, a wink,  placing your hands on her hips as you gaze in her eyes,  hooking your arm in his as you walk, putting your arm around your partner, pulling her back into you as you wrap your arms around her and rest your chin on her shoulder, cuddling on the couch while watching TV.  Laying on the bed one leg entwined with the other while reading a book, spooning before falling asleep.  Dancing together.   A soft surprise kiss on the back of the neck.   

Think of a woman as a rechargeable battery,  for the best most powerful charge during sex you should be spending every other hour of the day giving her regular doses of energy and affection.   I didn’t say every minute but I did say every hour.   At least from my own view point I don’t think a random touch or show of affection every hour is unreasonable.   How long does it take to incorporate some of the things I’ve listed into every day life?  Many of them are as easy as a simple reaching out to touch each others hand as you pass heading two different directions through the house.   Each gesture says you matter,  I value you.   Each one a little spark that adds to the fire.   Isn’t it worth such a simple but meaningful investment of your time?  And don’t let the statistics on women fool you.    Men may reserve their expressions more for sexual touching but what man does not love to be pampered and touched?  They enjoy and need meaningful touch as much as we do!


Spiritual intercourse = When you are both connecting spiritually. In the Smalley videos and material they discuss the importance of a shared connection to god but I think this applies just as much to those couples who do not share a belief in god or who share different religious beliefs.   A spiritual connection is still required between the couple.    There is something hard-wired into us that requires or longs for a connection to something larger than ourselves.    And this applies to relationships as well.  They are stronger when they are united by a larger force or purpose.    So what if you are not religious?   In my own opinion I think that what is required here is a common moral ground.   Spiritual intercourse can mean having the same beliefs, or having the same core values or a combination of both.   It can mean a commitment to living by a certain set of moral values your are united in and can include say, the kind of life choices or work that makes a difference to something or someone such as volunteer work with homeless, animals, environment .  I’m not saying it’s a requirement to do volunteer or charity work before you find great sexual intimacy.  I’m saying that those types of shared life choices and commitments also qualify under the spiritual intercourse definition.  In my opinion.

What are your thoughts on the 4 key intercourses that Gary Smalley believes will lead to a mutually satisfying sexual intimacy in your relationship?