Best. Gift. Ever. (?)

For his fortieth birthday, I gave my husband sex every day for a year. What was I thinking?

"Honey, what if we don't like it?" I asked.

He looked up from the paper, distracted: "Don't like what?"

"Like having sex every day . . ."

He smiled. "I don't know about you, but in my case . . . I think it's pretty close to genetically impossible for me not to like having sex every day." He looked a little more intensely at me, trying to read me: "Are you changing your mind?"

"Absolutely not! I'm just. . ." I hesitated, and then continued, "thinking through some things."

"I don't know, sweetie, it sounds like you're backpedaling. Just say the word, and we go out to a lovely birthday dinner for two and call it a day."

It was an inauspicious start to Brad's birthday. We were on our annual vacation in the mountains at my parents' house.

Dreamy, huh? Wait, it gets better. . . In addition to my parents and my children, my brother, his wife, their toddler, and their new baby were there, too—a family affair, to say the least.

Très romantique, non? So this was not exactly a secluded, lovey-dovey place to kick off having sex with your husband daily for a year, but hey, a birthday gift is a birthday gift, right? It was a standing tradition that we spend the week of July Fourth up in the glorious mountain town of Asheville. Not even my offer was going to push this trip aside. Perhaps it was sleeping in my old bedroom on July second, the night before Brad's birthday, that made me worry whether I could pull off this endeavor. It had been redecorated since I'd moved out, but my flute was still in the closet, along with my high school yearbooks and my wedding dress, professionally cleaned and packed away for who knows what.

Surrounded by the stuff of old dreams and tossed-aside possessions, I had some lingering doubts as I surveyed the site of what was to be our first attempt at intimacy every day. I mean, if I could throw away my daily commitment to that flute so easily (and I did . . . snap, just like that), couldn't I just as easily dismiss this whole 365-nights-o'-pleasure thing? I didn't want Brad to think that I was reneging on my offer, because I wasn't, but I did want to be honest with him. What if we didn't make it? What if, instead of this being the great year that I had envisioned. . . it turned into the year where Brad chuckled and said, "Char, remember when you made me that great offer and then retired twelve days later?"


Brad's suggestion of tossing aside my birthday offer and enjoying a gourmet dinner sounded nice, but it would be only marginally adequate, and we both knew it. I took some nice deep breaths, centered myself, and got back in the Sex Every Day Zone. I could do this. I had promised some serious once-in-a-lifetime action to my husband and I could not be an Indian giver on this one.

This reminded me of a time during our engagement when I was backpedaling for a different reason. Brad was engaged before we met, and I was a little unnerved by that, not because I had concerns about the former fiancée, but rather, what if he changed his mind about getting married, again?

"I won't change my mind," he told me over and over again with extreme patience.

"How do you know?" I asked. "You thought you had it right the first time. What if it's not right this time?"

"Because I know. Because I've been there. Because I know what it feels like to feel right. You should know that there is nothing you can ever do that would ever make me leave you."

"Really? Nothing?"


And that exchange changed the course of our relationship. From then on, I worked harder to make sure that this lovely man who would never, ever leave me had a great life, not in spite of me, but because of me. And while I failed miserably at times, he had faith in me. I had tempted him with this offer of my own making, and he let me know that he wasn't going to let me do it unless I really wanted to. This was all the reassurance I needed. "Don't be silly. It's going to be great." And with that, I was ready.

There was much to do to prepare, for the actual birthday, I mean. In addition to Brad's birthday, my family gathered to celebrate birthdays for my brother and my daughter. We were surrounded by a dizzying number of birthday dinners, cakes, celebrations, and gifts. There was a whole red, white, and blue color scheme going on, which has always bummed out my baby brother, who swears red cake icing tastes different. He should know as he's had a red, white, and blue birthday cake every year for the last thirty-four years.

Fourth of July parades, cookouts, fireworks, and family birthdays, and you've got a fairly typical July vacation with the Mullers . . . one big, happy family affair. But this year, things felt different for me. Sure, I was nervous about my gift to Brad, but I was also excited. I'd never taken on this kind of commitment before that hadn't fizzled out. Besides employment and marriage, I can't think of anything I've done for an entire year—by choice.

"How in the world will you do it, Char?" I asked myself.

There were so many variables to manage—time, energy, availability, nosy kids, ringing phones, housework—the list of distractions was really, truly endless. Even though we had worked out some of the logistics beforehand, the best-laid plans can go amiss. Normally, our mountain vacations included dinner with friends, lots of time at the pool, golf for the guys, some shopping, and serious family time with my parents and brother.

Now, we had to incorporate a daily tryst in a bedroom loaded with tons of nostalgia, including a giant nightshirt from high school tucked in the drawer, ready for wear. It featured a mammoth pink ice cream cone and the words my diet starts tomorrow emblazoned on the front. That bedroom did not at all ooze romance, I tell you, including the fact that it was attached to our kids' room via a bath.

But despite my worries, this annual mountain retreat became a giggly, sweet, and fun reintroduction to some revved-up intimacy. The only questions we had to answer were: "Will we do it this morning, this afternoon, or this evening?" I was more relaxed about the chances of our kids interrupting us, because they were so preoccupied with cousins and grandparents and all the play, fun, and games they could ever want, they wouldn't for a moment wonder where we had gotten to. In fact, there was so much chaos and entertainment in that house that no one missed us a bit when we slipped upstairs on our own. I'm happy to report that we did indeed make our kickoff a little flirty and definitely romantic, even while in the mountains with my entire family. Do wonders ever cease?

Some say that it's very easy to be happily married on vacation, but it's much harder to pull it off in the real world. Which is why honeymoons were invented, don't you think? And of course, it's true. On vacation, the stress of everyday life dims in the background of being together. There was no homework to finish, no lunches to pack, no clothes to launder, no meetings to staff, and no conference reports to write. Instead there was golf, massages, long walks, longer dinners, great wine, reading the newspaper, doing a puzzle, and the chance to sleep in (but who can actually sleep in anymore, right?). Even on the drive home from vacation, you can still bask in the glow of a great time together (until your kids get carsick driving down the mountain).

But the memories remain. And in our case, the memories of our summer vacation in Asheville remained, too.

However, when our big SUV rolled back into our driveway, the sweet vacation was over. It's amazing how quickly the thrill of vacation is stripped away by forty-three messages in your e-mail box, thirteen more on your voice mail, a spastic cat who is mad that you left and madder that you came home, pounds of mail piled on your counter and sliding onto the floor, some dead plants, and a slightly weird house odor (I know you've had one, too, don't deny it).

It was crunch time—I had to figure out how to live the chaos of everyday life and how to keep my promise to my husband.

Brad's schedule, as the head of marketing for a large manufacturer, is pretty consistent. He leaves early, and unless there is some nutty emergency at work, or a sales dinner, he is home for dinner with me and the kids at 6 p.m. every night. So our opportunities for sex are: morning, before he leaves for work and before the kids wake up; or evening, after the kids fall asleep; and on the weekends, when schedules miraculously mesh and both kids are at a playdate and/or birthday party and we can hunker down in the house . . . all alone. Since I am not a morning person, and our kids are up and about getting ready for school, I was pretty much certain that this was going to leave our nightly hours to making whoopee.

In the old days, before these daily encounters kicked off, I would hop on the computer, plug into a few mindless hours of television, or read a book. Brad would do the same—we have multiple TVs, two computers, and a lot of books. Sometimes we were together watching TV or reading, and sometimes we were doing our own thing. When we weren't having sex regularly, Brad was always wondering if he was going to have sex anytime this month, and I was guiltily wondering when I was going to have the time, energy, or desire to have sex anytime this month. Sex permeates a relationship more when you're not having it. Even snuggling on the couch was sometimes fraught with tension—is this foreplay or simply hanging out? Does he expect this fantastic smooching to be something more than fantastic smooching?

While I was very nervous about how this yearlong project was going to fit into our lives, I discovered we did, indeed, have time for intimacy, and that this everyday business really takes the tension out of nonsexual encounters. I can still get my downtime and Brad can have his downtime, and then we can meet up and have some saucy times together in the bedroom.

Once I acknowledged that I used to try to get out of sex, and once I saw how much happier Brad was as a result of our daily arrangement, I asked him his thoughts about my Dance of the Darting Spouse. Brad shocked me with his simple response.

"Well, hon . . . It really sucks to get rejected all the time."

"I don't understand . . . It's not like you should take it personally." I cringed.

"Why not? I'm your husband. How do you want me to take it?" he replied sharply.

Well, that's a veddy, veddy good question.

My intention was not to reject him, per se, but rather his request for intimacy. It never occurred to me that he treated those two points as one in the same. But when I said no to his overture, it was a personal rebuff for Brad, and I venture he's not the only guy who's felt the sting of rejection, especially when it piles up day after day like unclaimed coat-check tickets. I felt crummy.

Brad's not a complainer, and while there was tension between us pre–The Gift, it wasn't like we were fighting constantly about our lack of intimacy. He wasn't standing up yelling about his rights as a husband, or demanding that I acknowledge his feelings about the subject. I had made out Brad to be this tall, silent, macho type whose feelings couldn't be hurt…and shouldn't be hurt when it comes to sex. I had wrongly assumed that he could shrug off my "not tonight" and immediately intuit that I was worn out, stressed, and simply not in the mood.

I sucked at seeing through that facade, I admit it.

While I felt awful that I couldn't change the way I'd behaved in the past, I could do something about the here and now. I've made a big turnaround. Now, I'm doin' it with my spouse. . .yes, the Dance of the Daily Deed.

Charla Muller is a Charlotte writer. Reprinted from 365 Nights by Charla Muller with Betsy Thorpe by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2008 by Charla Muller and Betsy Thorpe. 

Categories: Opinion, Perspective, The Buzz