Sex, every day, for a year. Even when tired
Five years ago, two couples embarked on sex marathons to boost their relationships. Is it still good for them?
‘I can’t believe we did the whole thing. We had little kids, too – our days were just exhausting. Annie and I were both shattered. How did we do it?” says Douglas Brown.
Do it they did, though: every day, for 101 days. Charla and Brad Muller, though, did better: they managed the full 365. Can you imagine? Sex, every day, for a whole year. Even when you’re knackered. Even when you’re barely speaking to each other. Even when there are lots of things you’d rather be doing: hot bath/good book; footie on the box; clean the goldfish bowl?
Shortly after their respective, self-imposed marathon sex ordeals – perhaps inevitably – two books appeared. One was called Just Do It: How One Couple Turned Off the TV and Turned On their Sex Lives for 101 Days (No Excuses!) and the other 365 Nights: a Memoir of Intimacy. When the books came out, this newspaper interviewed their authors: first Doug and Annie, then Charla and Brad.
That was five years ago. So how are things going now? What effect have these two barely imaginable bonkathons had on their relationships? Are they all still at it?
In short, the answer is yes. “Not once a day,” says Annie quickly, down the line from Denver, Colorado. “I’m 45 now – the menopause is starting to rear its ugly head. In terms of life cycles, I’m definitely on the other side of my sexual peak. We try for once or twice a week, but we have a really small house and the kids don’t have bedtimes any more. There are weeks we don’t manage it. But you know what? If we hadn’t done 101 days, I don’t think we’d understand the importance of sex in our relationship. That’s the real thing.”
Annie explains further: “When you’re in the tunnel of childrearing and career-building, that whole side of things just tends to get put on the back burner. People really don’t understand that sex is the glue that keeps you together. The physical in a relationship is the foundation it’s built on.”
Doug, a journalist on the Denver Post, agrees: “We did still have a sex life,” he says. “We communicated pretty well. But life just got in the way. Work, money, kids. It’s easy to lose that time for each other in a relationship.”
The couple set off on their sexathon after Doug covered a sex conference for his paper and heard about a support group for men in relationships who had not had sex for at least that length of time. It was Annie’s idea to reverse that.
Doug says the experiment is still paying dividends. “If you force yourself to do it, you realise how special sex is, how unique. It’s different from anything you have with anyone else. And if that leaks away in a couple, it’s really sad.”
Self-enforced intimacy created “a familiarity between us – but in a good way. A kind of mutual comfort. Each knows what the other likes. And it’s led to it not feeling strange or shaming for us to suggest things.
“There’s just a physical ease there, a naturalness. That’s stayed with us. It’s great now when we both know it’s going to happen. It kind of feels like coming home. And it has really taken away the pressure.”
That’s a bonus, especially for a man. “Before, there was always that pressure to perform. That’s distracting and it can be dispiriting. The feeling that you’re on stage, you have to perform. But when we did the 101 days, all that . . . melted away. You realise you can’t be on stage every day.”
Charla, who works in marketing, says Brad, a salesman, and she feel the same way. “You’re no longer in it to win it every time,” she says, on the phone from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Doing what we did for a year removes all the embarrassment and awkwardness from the whole thing. It was a transforming year for us in every respect. In fact, it’s hard now to know what our life would be like if we hadn’t done it.”
Five years on, the biggest lesson from this couple’s 365-day marathon – the project was Charla’s gift to her husband for his 40th birthday – is that if “intimacy every day may not be a long-term sustainable model, neither is no intimacy at all”.
The point, says Charla, is that: “We all tend to have this picture that sex has to be spontaneous and romantic. But when you have kids and laundry and work and all the rest, the reality is that there’s just not much in your life that happens spontaneously.
“We thought having to pay all that attention to it would somehow distract from it, make it mundane. But it didn’t. The other thing that year made me realise was that men don’t need it more than women. Men might want it for different reasons. But I learned that I wanted it, too.
“Everything just gets better when sex is a vital part of your relationship. He’s happier, you’re happier, the whole house is happier. A daily kindness enters your relationship, a level of attentiveness for each other. It’s almost like you’re dating again . . . That’s a real discovery.”
Double or nothing
Not that Charla would necessarily recommend 365 days of sex for anyone else. “What worked for us won’t work for everyone. But what I suggest is, whatever you’re doing, double it. Then in a month, double it again. Just see how that feels. You might be surprised at what it brings.”
So, um, how often do they manage it these days? “Not every day,” she says. “ But enough to keep a smile on both our faces.”
Doug thinks many couples might profit from a bit of enforced coupling. “It’s just so easy not to make that time for each other,” he says. “And even easier now. Five years ago there were laptops; now there are tablets and smartphones, too. We have a conscious agreement that it is not acceptable to lie in bed and tap on a screen. But I think that if a couple can commit to a period of time and really plan for it, prepare for it, start engaging with it, there’s a good chance they’ll benefit.”
Annie’s advice? Just make the time. Focus on each other, if only for one night a week. Take the time to find out why you fell in love in the first place. A good massage, says Doug, can do the trick just as well these days. “Mind you,” he adds, a shade wistfully, “when we were doing the 101 days, there was a whole bunch of times when we did it outdoors. We haven’t done that since. I kind of miss that.”
365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy by Charla Muller is published by John Blake