Marriage and sex: A year of living passionately

What would happen to your marriage if you decided to have sex every day? Two couples have done just that, and recorded their experiences in books which come to surprising conclusions. Jonathan Brown and Nikoliina Sajn report

Ask a man what he wants for his 40th birthday present and the average wife can be assured of a variety of predictable responses. A golfing weekend, maybe something for the garden or even, at a push, the new Coldplay album. But offer him guaranteed sex every day for a year and the answer is likely to prove both surprising and not a little disappointing.

Such was the experience of Charla Muller, a 39-year-old mother of two who made just such an extraordinary suggestion to her husband, Brad, on the eve of his birthday milestone. "He actually told me no. He thought I wouldn't be up for the challenge," she recalls. But perseverance being the key to a successful marriage, Mr Muller was eventually persuaded to accept what they now refer to simply as "the gift" and the couple embarked on their year-long sexual odyssey with admirable dedication.

Their exploits over the year now form the basis for a remarkable new book entitled 365 Nights which is now poised to take the United States by storm. That and a second tome, Just Do It , by Douglas Brown , a Denver-based lifestyle journalist, and his wife Annie, who committed to 100 successive days of marital workouts, are being hailed as either a panacea to the modern lifestyle pressures that render so many marriages sex-free zones, or a prescription for relationship pain.

Both couples are now engaged in separate tours of the talk-show sofas, touting their various takes on the joys of daily coitus. Both books are due to go on sale in Britain later this summer when they are expected to spark a similar debate over the merits of such goal-orientated coupling.

Mrs Muller, of Charlotte, North Carolina, readily admits that the couple failed in their attempts to perform every single night of the year, due to various business trips and New Year's Eve when her husband was "overserved" with drinks and found himself unwilling to knuckle down to his task. But they still notched up 26 to 28 times a month, not bad for a working couple who had been together for eight years and well above the married average of 66 a year. "I would have told anyone before the gift that we had a great marriage. I was married to a great guy and I like to think I was a good wife and there were no problems in that department," she said. The couple agreed a set of ground rules and insisted on keeping within the "spirit of the gift" allowing them to cry off in the event of a genuine headache.

Mrs Brown added: "Sometimes we missed a day and it was never mandatory. But we set a definition of sex that we felt comfortable with although I'm not going to be too specific about what that definition was." The Browns, who, according to their publishers, "literally screwed their way through months of a cold Colorado winter", worked hard at changing the venue to keep them on target. They checked into hotels of varying star ratings, visited an ashram, took to the great outdoors, but centred most of their efforts on that most traditional of arenas – the marital bedroom, which they dubbed the "sex den" in a bid to keep the allure alive. They also used a variety of props including candles, lube, a box of dressing-up clothes, some sex toys and even Viagra – just in case they needed to augment their natural abilities.

Those seeking visceral details of the couple's exploits will be disappointed with the contents of the book. "It is very much G-rated – really pretty clean. I didn't want my parents to be offended," Mrs Brown said. Her husband added: "I wasn't sure if I'd be comfortable writing about it, but by the end of this thing, it was just this wild, kind of madcap adventure. It was a really colourful romp, so I knew we had a good story."

The book has now been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a possible film adaptation.

Both couples report similar benefits from their endeavours and say they now enjoy greater levels of intimacy, not all of it sexual. "We touch more," said Mr Brown. "We would have entire days and maybe had a peck at the end of the night, and that was the only time we touched. During the 100 days, it wasn't just the sex; we were hugging each other, and that has carried on." His wife,a marketing executive, agreed: "What we really learnt is that we have to take care of each other more and pay attention to each other in ways that we haven't since the early days of our marriage."

Yet despite the glowing endorsements, British relationship experts seem reluctant to encourage couples to pursue the same strategy to rekindle their flagging sex lives. Paula Hall, a sexual and relationship psychotherapist, warned there could be "potential dangers" with some using sex to mask underlying problems of communication. "My anxiety is that this may make the couple more functional, but wouldn't necessarily make them want to have sex, that it wouldn't actually increase desire, but that after a hundred days they would say, oh, thank God it's over," she said. She added that a process of "gradual desensitisation" would be more appropriate with couples slowly restarting their physical relationship.

Dr Michael Perring, founding member of the British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy, was equally sceptical. "This claim sounds like an eye-catching phrase but I would have to see what they really did," he said.

"There is nothing inherently dangerous in having sex every day, except that it may be time-consuming. The view is that sex is good for a person." Dr Perring said there were many people who wanted sex every day – the problem was finding a partner who could keep up with them.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas