One very practical and creative way to work on sexual intimacy in your marriage is to put thought and intention into the physical space of your bedroom. Whether or not you are aware of it, the environment of your bedroom impacts your sexual intimacy. Here is a quick exercise to show you what I mean:
Close your eyes and imagine walking into the following different physical spaces. For each of these familiar environments, use your imagination and pay close attention to what you might see, hear, feel, and smell.
#1 – A spa
#2 – A driver’s license bureau
#3 – A romantic seaside restaurant
#4 – A child’s birthday party
#5 – A church service
I’m guessing that each of these environments had a different impact on you. Do you feel stressed? Calm? Excited? And what did each room cause you to anticipate? For most of us, the spa is more relaxing than a child’s birthday party. Both environments provide a huge amount of sensory stimulation. The spa intentionally targets your five senses toward relaxation with calming music, soft lighting, essential oils, quiet voices, and cucumber-infused water. The birthday party has the opposite strategy, appealing to fun and excitement. Bright lights, upbeat music, children’s laughter, primary colors, and sugary snacks all say, “It’s time to celebrate!”
The combination of sensory intake and past experiences determine how an environment will affect you. Maybe spas are not relaxing because of a bad experience you once had. All five of our senses create the capacity for new memories and trigger old ones.
Companies that create great experiences put a lot of thought and money into what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. Disney World. Apple. Ikea. Chick-fil-A. The experience they create determines how long you stay, what you do, and whether or not you want to come back.
Let’s apply this concept to your sex life. Whether or not you’re aware of it, your five senses are always at work, cuing you to feel a certain way. Relaxed. Excited. Anxious. Sad. Aroused. Safe. Being intentional about your physical environment is one way to invest in intimacy.
Walk into your bedroom. Yes, right now. If you’re not home, do it as soon as you get home. Take a few minutes to notice. What do you see? Hear? Smell? What is the general ambiance? Does it feel more like a retreat, a place of rest, or a reminder of things that need to be done?
Because we don’t usually show people our bedrooms, they often get the least amount of attention. Remember, our minds and bodies respond to environmental cues. Does the look and feel of your bedroom cue you toward intimacy and pleasure or toward chaos and stress?
Think sound: What do you hear? Kids crying or relaxing music? Is the space soundproof enough for privacy?
Think sight: What are the visual cues that set the mood? Candles or dirty laundry?
Think touch: Is the air hot and stuffy? Are the sheets and pillows soft and inviting? Do you have lotion or massage oil?
Think smell: While scent is a personal choice, research shows that “your sense of smell is the strongest of the five senses and highly involved in sexual freedom, pleasure, and irritation.”
Here are some quick and low-cost ways you can create a different ambiance in your bedroom:
- Get rid of clutter like laundry baskets, hangers, and that pile of books on your nightstand.
- Soften the lights with a dimmer or soft light bulbs.
- Invest in a small speaker to play relaxing or romantic music and white noise for privacy.
- Invest in things that ignite your senses like a full-length mirror, silk sheets, massage oil, or scented candles. (The smell of cooked cinnamon is a natural aphrodisiac for men. For women, the scent of baby powder, cucumber, licorice, lavender, and pumpkin pie all increase vaginal flow.)
- Paint. Just a bucket of paint and an afternoon of work can transform the feel of your bedroom.
- Make your bed. I know your mom told you this growing up, but a made bed invites a different state of mind.
- Create a tech-free zone in your bedroom. Smart phones, tablets, and TVs often replace uninterrupted talking, praying, and cuddling.
- Make the bedroom a kid-free zone. Get a lock on the door and use it. Teach your children to first knock or ask permission before coming into your bedroom.
Investing in the physical space of your bedroom is not as important as addressing the internal chaos of conflict, shame, and trauma. That is why the majority of the work we do at Authentic Intimacy is focused on the internal environment of your heart and mind. Even so, God created us to respond to stimulation, either positively or negatively. Paying attention to the physical environment of your bedroom can be helpful in both eliminating negative sensations and accentuating the positive.