Three years ago, an American pastor stunned his congregation when he asked married couples to have sex for – wait for it – 30 days in a row. It was his way of taking on the nation’s 50% divorce rate.
In his book, The 30 Day Sex Challenge: A Journey To Intimacy, the pastor, Paul Wirth, states that to “have a stable relationship, you need to be connecting spiritually, emotionally and sexually.”
This sounded like a great challenge for my partner, M, and me. We’ve been together for over four and a half years. We used to rip each other’s clothes off daily, but it had tapered off.
For a while I was mildly depressed, we were having issues and our sex life had dived to once a month – maybe… Things finally levelled out at around once a week.
So would a hot and heavy month make a difference?
Week 1: A Sex Comedy Of Errors
My partner and I had discussed this venture at length – he’d been a bit dubious at first, but after quite a bit of persuasion, he came around to the idea. But once we’d set a date to begin our experiment, he got nervous and tried to back out, resulting in fits of laughter every time we attempted intercourse.
We managed one night before I fell ill and couldn’t have sex. So ill, in fact, that I had an emergency appendectomy. Clearly, this was not meant to be. I was put on bed rest for a week, but it was three weeks before the pain had subsided enough to even consider getting naked again.
Of course, three weeks without sex resulted in navy-blue balls and my guy was champing at the bit. Time to get busy again.
Week 1, Attempt 2: Getting It Right
Now that I knew what M’s reaction would be, I opted not to tell him when we were starting the challenge again. We’d been at it for four days when he suddenly asked,“Hey, this isn’t like you – we’ve started the 30 days again, haven’t we?”
Considering he hasn’t had nookie four days in a row since our honeymoon period wore off, I’m surprised it took him so long to figure it out – testosterone was likely clouding his thoughts.
It was quite difficult for me to concentrate on anything besides the big scar on my stomach; in fact, I kept trying to cover it up with my hand, as it seemed so prominent from my vantage point.
Even though M had seen my scar dozens of times, my body image had taken a nosedive. If I wasn’t expected to complete the 30 days, this is the point at which I would have quit.
Last year, a study in the Journal of Sex and Research found that negative evaluations of the body and self-consciousness during sex are associated with a tendency to avoid sex. But by avoiding sex, these negative views are perpetuated. Why?
If you aren’t having sex, there’s no opportunity for these views to be invalidated; for instance, by your guy telling you how beautiful you look. So it was a good thing I had to keep going, and it helped.
By week three, I barely noticed the scar. M said he’d never noticed it anyway – he was too busy focusing on other things.
Week 2: Keeping Things Interesting
Seven days in and we were in a rut. Rudolph says this is common. “Expect to get bored if you plan 30 rounds in missionary with the lights off, just before you fall asleep,” she explains. “You need to do something fun and different every day.” So we tried alternative areas of the house, including the carpeted floor (make sure you have cushions!).
And I set the alarm 30 minutes earlier to give M a great wake-up, but pressed the snooze button a few too many times. Pity – Dr Debby Herbenick, author of Because It Feels Good, says: “Having sex in the morning releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin, which makes couples feel loving and bonded all day.”
Week 3: Rediscovering Love
By this stage, we’d become really lazy. It got so bad that one night we actually played Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would do the work. I lost.
“Couples generally lock into a few things that they know work and stop experimenting,” explains Ian Kerner, author of 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex. “But the brain is the biggest sex organ and anytime you try something new, you’re stimulating the brain’s natural desire for novelty.”
As much as we complained, once we started, we actually enjoyed it. A study in the Journal of Sex Medicine found that, while 15% of women only engaged in sexual activity if they felt sexual desire at the outset, 31% typically or always accessed desire once they were aroused. I was definitely part of the latter. I can’t say there were fireworks, but rather familiar, intimate lovemaking.
Towards the end of week three, we happened to go for dinner with friends. They were intrigued by our experiment, but couldn’t understand why we were so over it.
As much as we tried to explain how 30 days of sex can be exhausting (not to mention boring), the guys at the table didn’t get it. The women, of course, sympathised, rolling their eyes whenever their boyfriends asked if they could try it.
“On the bright side, at least you have three men jealous of you tonight,” I said to M as we left the restaurant, to which I received a heartwarming reply: “I don’t care about that. It’s not about the sex itself anymore; it’s about being close to you.”
Ironically, that turned me on.
Week 4: The Final Countdown
After the laziness of week three, the realisation that our experiment was coming to an end caused us to shift into high gear. We obviously couldn’t carry on with Rock, Paper, Scissors – we needed something fun to get us through the week.
So we resolved to try something different every night. Ever heard of Battleship Bodies? It’s like the old board game Battleship, but instead of ships, you draw your body on a grid and mark off five of your erogenous zones. Your partner then guesses which grids you’ve chosen and, if he hits the spot, he’s allowed to touch that body part.
It’s hilarious and breaks the ice for things to come.
This week also included watching porn, something we had done previously. But when I tried to twist and flick my nipples like the woman on screen, I gasped with pain, not pleasure (note to self: you’re not a porn star!).
Sensual massages were on the list too. I’m lucky that M enjoys working the knots out of my back and neck, but as a means to an end, these massages were so much better!
And that’s not all we did. As I was climbing into my car to go to a friend’s house on the second last day, we realised we hadn’t had sex, so we did it right there, against the car. Seriously hot – and very unexpected.
The final night, M was so exhausted, he mistook the ties of my hoodie for my nipples, commenting, “Wow, they’re so hard tonight.”
The resulting laughter meant we could barely function, but at least we ended the challenge on a happy note.
As the final day drew to a close, we lay cuddling. “I’m really going to miss this,” said M, “but can we rather skip sex until we’re actually horny?” I agreed, thinking we’d be taking at least a week off from the bedroom antics.
Needless to say, two days later, we were ready to go again. Sometimes, all a relationship needs is a little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.