Carolyn Evans' marriage was in a slump. She and her husband were barely communicating beyond banal banter or seething arguments. But while trying to think of a 40th birthday present for her spouse, Evans had a moment of inspiration that ended up strengthening their bond and gave rise to a veritable method for sexy relationship-resuscitation. Here’s an excerpt.
Part 1: A sexy little wives’ tale
I’ll just start at the beginning. My husband’s birthday was fast approaching. The big 4-0. And even though he wouldn’t admit it, I knew Ray had been building this birthday up in his head for at least 20 years. He’d dropped some hints. He mentioned a watch upgrade, showed me a picture of some nerdy looking telescope he thought he’d like to have for his office even though he’d never shown the slightest bit of interest in stargazing. Nothing seemed to be the right thing, and I just couldn’t get behind buying some superfluous item that would be tossed into his toy collection. Particularly during these wobbly economic times, it didn’t feel right to throw a big wad of cash at my husband’s 40th birthday. That, and the fact that we hadn’t really been getting along all that well.
The months leading up to my husband’s birthday hadn’t been all that great for us. Not awful, but not great. I would say my husband and I had a general lack of interest in each other. Which I figured was fine, given the loads of necessary s--t that needed dealing with on any given day. Instead of having a drink together before dinner like we used to do, I’d be well into my first glass of wine, cooking in the kitchen, when he got home from work. He’d come in, say “hey,” offer a quick smile and go off to find the kids. We were like two toddlers engaged in parallel play, bobbing along in two separate orbs, doing our own thing. After a family dinner, we’d spin off again, usually to opposite ends of the house.
Or we’d set into fighting. Sometimes knock-down, drag outs and other times just seething comments followed by periods of silence. We’d go to sleep pissed off only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. This was how we operated for awhile, and I really wasn’t all that concerned because I loved my husband, in spite of all the petty bulls--t we’d been wading through at that time. I was sure that whatever we were going through would pass and we’d get back on track eventually.
But it turns out he was super-pissed and had been for awhile. One afternoon, I was running errands, getting ready for weekend guests (when you live in Charleston, South Carolina, you have a lot of weekend guests) when he called me. We chatted as usual, ticking items off the “you’ll do/I’ll do” list, and just as I was pulling up to Bed, Bath and Beyond, he laid it on me.
“What are we doing?” he asked.
“I told you. I’m going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, then to the grocery store, then I’m picking up the kids,” I said, gathering my stuff to get out of the car.
“No, I mean … I can’t live like this anymore. I think maybe we should take a break — from each other.”
I was immediately defensive and I’m sure said something like, “What the hell do you mean?” It spiraled down from there on a cold January afternoon in a shopping center parking lot. Turns out, what I called a “temporary bump in the road” was more like a rather large fault line in our marriage. S--t. I tried my best to quell the situation following my knee-jerk defensive attack, but as I cited reasons why I thought we were fine, I realized something had to be done.
During our 13 years of marriage, we had been in this kind of place before. Back when I was performing a lot with my band and keeping crazy-late hours, our marriage slipped beneath the watery surface of an almost loveless state. It was so openly bad that our friends and family braced themselves for the unraveling that so often follows this kind of misery. But eventually, we pushed off the bottom of the pool, thanks to a ton of couples’ therapy (spread among at least five exceptionally trained and well meaning therapists) and a little advice from my sister-in-law.
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“Have sex with him every day,” she’d said to me late one night when we were up drinking wine.
“What? Are you crazy? No way, man. I’m pretty sure he hates me anyway,” I told her.
“Just try it. It worked for us. At least for awhile,” she’d said.
On the one hand, I was pretty sure I hated him as much as I suspected he hated me. On the other hand, I really wanted to stay married to him because I knew deep down that he wasn’t the a--hole he’d pretended to be over the previous year; somewhere in there was that guy I was so obsessed with in my early 20’s and left my cushy job in London to be with. Also, there was this precious five-year-old girl involved. In short, I was willing to try anything and having sex with him every day seemed to fall into that category. It worked like a charm. It didn’t go on forever (because who has that kind of energy?), but it was like attaching a set of jumper cables to our marriage and it got us cruising again.
Fast-forward from there to a couple of nights before my husband’s big birthday. I knew I was flirting with disaster as the hours lurched dangerously close to the big day and I remained gift-less with no promising prospects. There I stood at the bathroom sink going through my nightly cleansing ritual, when a bit of long-suppressed information emerged: Every year, at least for as long as I’ve been aware of it, my mom has given my dad an entire month of sex for his birthday. I hadn’t really given their steamy Septembers much thought until then. Actually, I’d probably put a fair amount of effort into not putting my brain around that whole thing, but when I realized I could go from deep in the hole to better than flush in an instant without having to pay for expedited shipping, I decided what the hell. What’s one month? I was a little drunk (which made my split-second decision almost effortless), and since I was fairly sure my marriage was headed for a nose dive, I marched into the bedroom to make an announcement. Piecing together a few tangled memories and loose assumptions while pulling on my faded cotton pajamas and slathering on hand cream, I heard It tumble out of my mouth.
“You’re getting 40 straight days of sex for your birthday!”
I probably could’ve timed the whole thing a little better by making my decree after removing the “scary-brown-peel-your-face-off lotion” he and the kids are afraid will eat them alive if they touch. Nonetheless, he responded with appropriate measures of shock, jubilation and gratitude. Minutes later, though, as he sat back in bed and pondered his good fortune, he started to question just how the whole “every single day for 40 days” thing would work. The look on his face turned from celebration to a mix of trepidation and fear. As I sat next to him reading in bed, he started looking at me like he was staring down the length of a six-foot-long Italian sub sandwich. And he had to eat the whole thing.
“So … Every. Single. Day. For 40 days. Really?” he asked.
“That’s right,” I said, flipping through my magazine.
“What if I get sick and miss a day or pull a hamstring or something? What happens then? Do those days just get wasted?” he asked.
“Wasted. Yes. Sorry, that’s just my policy. And, look, it’s okay if you want to exchange your present for a bunch of personal trainer sessions or something,” I told him.
“Oh no! I like my present. I love my present. When does it start?” he asked, nervous that his present was about to get yanked and inching over to my side of the bed.
“Uh … on your birthday, goodnight!” I said and reached across him to turn out the light.
The next day, I woke to that dreaded feeling I sometimes get the morning after a dinner party where there was lots of good wine and intimate conversation. That nagging feeling I’d said something I shouldn’t have, told too much (one of my worst habits) and would hear it repeated back to me before my coffee. And then I remembered. Forty times. Dammit! In 40 days! That is a lot of sex. I don’t care who you are — even if you’re part of Hef’s harem living at the Playboy Mansion.
As I walked to the bathroom, I reflected on the evening’s conversation. I could see why my husband had been taken aback once he felt the weight of this gift I’d laid on him. Forty times in 40 days. In the harsh morning light, I couldn’t figure out why I’d come up with such a generous figure, despite the fact he’d been alive that many years. Maybe I shouldn’t have counted those years when I didn’t even know him yet. I really do have such a big mouth, and once again, it’d worked me into a tight little corner. But seeing as I do have some sense of honor, I do love my man and I was not about to take back the only gift I had to give, I resolved it was up to me to figure out how to make this thing work.
Excerpted from “Forty Beads: The Simple, Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage” by Carolyn Evans, Running Press, 2011.
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