(Here’s a link to the series introduction — a good place to start!)

Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather.

And you can’t keep blaming your spouse, either!

Stephen Covey describes three Circles that can be used to understand and evaluate our circumstances:

  • Circle of Concern: Everything you care about, everything that impacts your life.
  • Circle of Influence: The subset of your Circle of Concern that you can affect with your decisions.
  • Circle of Control: The subset of your Circle of Influence that you can directly control.

Here’s a diagram, for you visual thinkers.

When we’re reactive, we spend all our time and energy worrying about things we can’t control or even influence. When we’re proactive, we spend our time and influence on the inner circles, the things we can control (in our own life and body) and the things we can influence in our immediate community and family.

As an exercise with your spouse, it can be helpful to categorize your concerns using these circles. First, list everything you care about. Second, underline the concerns that you can influence. Third, put a star next to the things you can control. (Once you have your list, you can draw the three circles if you want!) Discussion questions: Do your lists match? What items are you spending the most time and energy on?

Here’s what Jesus says about our Circle of Concern:

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God is all-powerful, so nothing is out of his control! As believers, we can trust God with our Circle of Concern and have his peace, relying on his power and goodness to handle everything that concerns us.

God’s power isn’t just for our Circle of Concern, but for everything in our lives. Proverbs 3 is full of advice, guidance, and commands for making good decisions — it’s hard to pull out a few verses to quote, but these are some of my favorites:

Proverbs 3:3-6

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Action words for the proactive Christian: bind, write, trust, lean, acknowledge — along with promises of what God is proactively doing for you. God is active — he is always at work around us — and since we’re made in his image he expects us to be active also.

Here’s another passage from Proverbs about being proactive.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

The ant doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do, and she doesn’t sit around waiting, pouting, or complaining about the seasons. The ant works within her Circle of Influence to gather what she needs when the circumstances are favorable.

It would be easy to go on and on — God’s commands in the Bible are always proactive. Even when you’re in a season of waiting, you are commanded to be in prayer, service, and study.

So then, what does it mean to be proactive in our sex life with our spouse? Here are some examples that might resonate with you.

Reactive thinking says:

  • It’s not my fault, I can’t help how I feel
  • Our sex life is disappointing because of our jobs/kids/health
  • Why doesn’t he know what I want?
  • Why doesn’t she initiate sex?
  • After my day at work / with the kids, I just can’t do it
  • If he would ABC, then maybe I would XYZ

Proactive thinking says:

You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose how you act in response. You can take responsibility for yourself. You can’t control your spouse, but by being proactive you can influence your spouse through service and communication. As you focus on what you can control and influence, your Circle of Influence will grow!

Being Proactive is a big idea, so maybe you’d like an actionable tip for where to start. Take a look at this post about The Five Love Languages and Sex and find your spouse’s primary love language, then do something for them that speaks to it. Afterwards, remind your spouse of your primary love language and point them at that post and this one. Rinse (if necessary) and repeat!

If this habit has made an impact in your life and marriage, leave a comment to tell us about it.

This post is an introduction to a new series based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen R. Covey. The ideas in “7 Habits” have been applied in many different contexts, and I think there are lessons that can be applied in our sex lives with our spouses. As always, our thoughts will be guided by Biblical truth, and I think you’ll see that the 7 Habits work very well in the context of a Christian marriage.

As I write the posts, I’ll add links to this list of the 7 Habits.

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

If you’ve never been exposed to the 7 Habits before you may be thinking that they’re a bunch of modern pseudo-psychological gobbledygook, but that’s not true. The posts in this series will include specific, concrete behaviors that you and your spouse can use to improve your sex life. We’ve written before about the power of habits to create real and persistent change in your life, and even though the Bible doesn’t use the word “habit” there are many passages that command us to build positive patterns of behavior. Here are a few examples:

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Proverbs 3:1-2 “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

1 Corinthians 11:1-2 “Be imitators of me [Paul], as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

Proverbs 4:20-27:

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.

This series will look at each of the 7 Habits and discuss how to apply them in a Biblical manner to improve your sex life with your spouse.

I will conclude this introduction by mentioning a key tenet that is woven throughout the 7 Habits: the abundance mentality. The basic idea is that in most circumstances there is enough of everything for both spouses to get what they need from the marriage. Unless you each want exactly different things, there’s a way for both of you to be satisfied. Habit 4 (“think win-win”) builds directly on this concept, but the mindset is of broad applicability. The abundance mentality stands in contrast to the scarcity mentality — the belief that there isn’t enough for both of us. The abundance mentality isn’t magical thinking, and isn’t about actually having more. The abundance mentality is about acting on the expectation that the resources you have (e.g., time, money, attention, energy) can be used in a way that pleases you both.

The scarcity mindset says:

  • There isn’t enough for everyone, so I’d better get my share now
  • If I don’t get my way now, I never will
  • Only one of us can win this argument (and it’s going to be me)
  • I give her what she wants, but she never gives me what I want
  • How can I get more?

The abundance mindset says:

  • There’s plenty for both of us
  • When she wins, it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost
  • I can give away my time/energy/prestige/power/recognition now because there will be plenty more later
  • We can reach a decision that lets us both win
  • How can I give more?

As Christians, we have more assurance of abundance than anyone else in the world! The abundance of God is obviously not mere worldly possessions, but the fullness of a life built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

John 10:10 “[Jesus said] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Luke 6:37-38 “[Jesus said] Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Matthew 6:33-34 “[Jesus said] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [worldly needs] will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

I challenge you to begin thinking about your marriage and your sex life with an abundance mindset! Your sex life is not a competition over who gets what they want. You both have needs in your marriage, and there is plenty of sex, time, energy, and love to satisfy you both. Pray that God would show you his abundance in your marriage.

Other people aren’t having as much sex as you may think.

The numbers here are for men and women between 18 and 29, and the “reality” number is self-reported, so take it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, you can see that we tend to wildly overestimate how much sex other people are having compared to ourselves.

Historically, married people have had a lot more sex than single people.

To look at the statistics about marriage and sex, you wouldn’t even know that there was an issue to begin with. “Studies have found that married people have more sex than single people, and they also have more varied sex,” says sexual health expert and best-selling author Dr. Laura Berman, who hosts “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN. ”Oral sex is also more common among married people.”

One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, which was released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, confirmed this, compiling statistics on sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. An average of 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, compared with 18 percent of married people. Looking specifically at those between the ages of 25 and 59, 25 percent of married people reported that they were still having sex two to three times per week versus less than five percent of singles.

But sadly, some recent studies indicate that single people might actually be having more sex than married people now — primarily because married people are having far less sex than they used to.

Back in the early 1990s, the average American had sex about 60 to 62 times per year, but that number dropped to less than 53 times per year by 2014. Among married couples specifically, the drop was even more dramatic — from about 73 times per year in 1990 to 55 in 2014. This actually brings the sex lives married couples below people who’ve never been married, who have sex about 59 times per year as of 2014.

But forget about everyone else… what about you and your spouse? Sexy Corte and I advocate making a habit of daily sex — yes, every day! Sometimes you miss, but those misses should be the exception, not the rule. Tell us how you and your spouse fare in the comments.

People say it all the time: “it’s only a season”. Seasons come and go. Some are better than others. Rather than wishing time away, we need to learn how to embrace the season we are in. The light parts and the dark. Maintaining a good habit of having sex with your spouse can help shape your outlook on whatever season of life you are in.

Sometimes I’m well into a season before I realize how things have changed. Right now I think I would title the season “over”. Lately I feel a lot of “over-(blank)”. I am starting my third year of being home with three preschoolers. I love our kids like crazy, but toddlers definitely contribute a lot to the tone of a season. Often at the end of the day I feel over-touched, over-stimulated, and over-tired. However, I also feel that I’m in the best time of my life! Children are a blessing from the Lord, but they can zap your energy right out of you. So how do you keep a fulfilling sex life in the midst of raising kids?

Here are some thoughts. Please leave suggestions for what’s worked for you in the comments!

  1. Time of day. The first thing I do when I find myself in a new season of life is reevaluate the best time of day for sex. Pay attention to your body and notice when you feel that urge — be alert. If you are exhausted by the end of the day, try having sex in the morning. It takes more discipline — you need to go to bed earlier, set an alarm, and actually wake up.
  2. Pray! Do you pray for your sex life? You should! Pray for desire, satisfaction, and regularity, for both you and your spouse.
  3. Take a moment. We are all busy, whether at home or at work. By the time the kids are in bed, I am not ready to be touched for a while. Similarly, if you work at a job where you have to talk a lot or are around people all day, you need a bit of quiet when you get home. I’m amazed at how even just 15 minutes alone can rejuvenate me and prepare me to better spend time with El Fury in the evening. Most of the time, this is just a nice hot shower.
  4. Make sex a habit. If sex is a regular part of your schedule, it’s going to happen! The same way you commit yourself to exercise and brushing your teeth, you should treat sex as a priority. If you’re already in the regular habit of having sex, you’re more likely to maintain a good sex life during the different seasons of life. You are in charge of your own time, and if something is important you should be able to carve out 30 minutes for it.
  5. Be flexible. If you have kids you have constant interruptions. They have lots of demands and very little patience. Even when I wake up early, am alert, and in the mood, there are times that things have to halt because there is a tiny person crying at the (locked) door. It’s frustrating, but it’s part of having these wonderful little people in your life. Keep trying. That evening. The next morning. Just keep trying!
  6. Communicate and ask for help. For me, the hours between 4 and 6 can make or break how I feel. Making dinner and cleaning up is often intense. When EF is able to help — with either clean up or baths, or just taking the kids away so I can prep dinner, it makes a world of difference. For less stress, try some slow-cooker meals. Anything you can to make dinner time less overwhelming will help!

Your spouse deserves your best, not just whatever you have left at the end of the day. Adjust yourself and your sex lives throughout whatever season you’re in. And remember, it’s only a season!

Staying disciplined with our kids’ bedtimes has been one of the best habits that Sexy Corte and I have cultivated during our marriage. We’ve written two posts about protecting your master bedroom from your children and making it a haven for your sexual relationship, and it’s just as important to protect your time as your space.

When you have young children it’s easy for them to dominate every waking second of your life, but your sex life is going to suffer if you let that happen. Maintaining a consistent bedtime for your kids is important for their mental and physical health, your sanity, and your sex life. If your kids wake up and go to sleep when you do, it’s no surprise you don’t have time and energy for sex.

Children need structure and consistency, and they need a lot of sleep.

Among the children who were in bed by 8 p.m., 10 percent were obese as teens, compared to 16 percent of those who went to bed between 8 and 9 and 23 percent of those who went to bed after 9, according to the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Although the study does not prove that early bedtimes protect against obesity, Dr. Anderson said, “there is a great deal of evidence linking poor sleep, and particularly short sleep duration, to obesity, and it’s possible the timing of sleep may be important, above and beyond the duration of sleep.”

“This provides more evidence that having an early regular bedtime and bedtime routine for young children is helpful,” she said.

We try to have our younger kids in bed by seven every evening, and the older ones in bed by eight. They’re not always asleep by then, but they’re in bed and quiet. We stick to this schedule about six days a week, and the other day we’re likely to have some church or social event that keeps us out a later. Our kids are like all other kids: they stall, delay, and beg to stay up later, but they know the routine and are generally compliant.

This schedule gives me and Sexy Corte at least two hours together almost every evening. It’s very easy to have a babysitter watch the sleeping children while we go on a date (which we try to do monthly) but most of the time we spend the evening playing board games together — and having sex! Sexy Corte’s best time of day for orgasm has moved around over the years, and now the golden hour is right after we get the kids to bed. As you can imagine, I’m pretty motivated to tuck them in!

As our kids get older I’m sure they’ll stay up later, but we still plan to enforce a quiet time in the evening starting around eight. We’ll see how that goes!

We’re frequently shocked to learn that many of our friends have their kids in activities several nights per week, let them stay up until ten, or even let them sleep in the master bedroom. I don’t see how such parents ever find time for themselves. If you’re in this position and you can’t imagine how to change things around, check out our post about creating the habit of daily sex — it contains a bunch of good tips for creating good habits in your life and marriage.

Do you have any good ideas for protecting your time, space, and energy for sex?

It can be hard to consistently find time and energy for sex, and yet we know that the best way to have great sex with your spouse is to have more sex. We get a lot of emails from husbands and wives who want more sex, but for all sorts of reasons it just doesn’t happen. It’s easy to blame your spouse, or to “try harder”, but there’s a tool available to you that you may not have considered and is guaranteed to work: creating a habit.

When was the last time you forgot to brush your teeth? Or put on clothes? Or how to drive to work? You’ve been doing these things for years or decades, and you basically never forget. Sometimes you even drive to work on accident when you mean to go somewhere else! These things are all habits, and you do them easily every day without thinking. They enhance your life, keep you healthy, and satisfy your needs. Bad habits are easily acquired, but good habits don’t just happen: someone creates them. Getting dressed and brushing your teeth seem routine, but your parents worked hard to create those habits for you! In the same way, you can intentionally create the good habit of daily sex with your spouse.

First of all, consider: does your marriage have a bad habit of assuming that you won’t have sex? This is pretty common for married couples. The expectation is set that they won’t have sex unless someone initiates it. The baseline assumption is no sex. That’s a bad habit! Fortunately, the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit.

Ok, so how do we build a good habit? Tom Bartow has identified three phases of habit formation that we need to recognize in order to be successful.

Phase 1: THE HONEYMOON

This phase of habit formation is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.” As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end. The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring. For example, a person attends a highly motivational conference, and for the first few days after the conference the individual is making positive changes in his or her life.

Phase 2: THE FIGHT THRU

Inspiration fades and reality sets in. A person finds himself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight thru, use the following techniques:

  1. RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight thru. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight thru, and I need to win a few to move past this.” Winning each fight thru will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight thru, you make it easier to lose the next one.
  2. ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?”and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Bring EMOTION into the equation. Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing.
  3. LIFE PROJECTION: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 5 years if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.

Phase 3: SECOND NATURE

Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove.” Once in second nature, the following are 3 common interruptions that will send a person back to the fight thru:

  1. THE DISCOURAGEMENT MONSTER: An individual allows negative results discourage him or her into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
  2. DISRUPTIONS: An individual experiences significant change to his or her current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends).
  3. SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the special one. I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process.”

If a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the fight thru, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring him or her back to second nature.

Here’s how to put this process into action and create a new habit of daily sex.

The first thing to do is have a conversation and say it. Tell your spouse that you’d like to change your daily default from no-sex to sex, that you want the two of you to set the expectation that you’ll be having sex every day. The key here isn’t that you must have sex every single day, but that the expectation is for daily sex —  if no one says anything, then assume you’re having sex. Does your spouse agree? If not, then you’re not ready to create a habit because you aren’t both on the same page. Continue your conversation and come back to this post later. To be successful, both spouses need to want to create the new habit.

After you’ve agreed on your goal, start doing it! Have sex every day unless someone asks otherwise. Make sex the assumption, and no-sex the exception. This is the beginning of Phase 1. It’ll probably be easy for a while! Remember your first year of marriage, your literal honeymoon? You’ll want to pick a time that’s usually available every day and start doing it.

But Phase 2 is the hardest part. There may be a few days where no one says anything, and you don’t have sex. Your new habit hasn’t solidified yet. You have to recognize that your expectation is reverting to no-sex, and you need to have a conversation about it. Reaffirm your shared goal of daily sex. Don’t make excuses for why you failed, and don’t feel bad about it. Just recognize the need to “fight thru”. Take the time to get in the mood, muster some energy, and make love. Just Do It. Winning “fight thru” episodes is the key creating a new habit — it will take several wins over the course two or three months to set your new habit in stone.

And finally, don’t become complacent when you hit Phase 3. Periodically remind yourselves about your goal of daily sex, and verify that your new expectation is solidly in place: do you always have sex unless someone initiates a “no”?

Once your habit is in place, you should never have no-sex unless someone intentionally initiates it. The end result won’t be sex every single day of the year — sometimes you get sick, kids drive you crazy, work and chores overwhelm you, and emergencies happen. That’s life! But the expectation every day is that you’ll be having sex together.

What do you think about the daily habit of sex? Is your daily expectation yes, or no?