Revealed: 'I am the woman who took on the 30-day sex challenge'
When she wrote an anonymous diary of a month of sex with her husband in Weekend, Gillian FitzPatrick sparked a national conversation - and even a hashtag. Today, revealing her identity to prove that #30days30nights can really be done, she reflects on the reaction to her experiment
'The more you get, the more you want," wrote one female reader in an online post. "I hope all the hubbies don't read this!" joked another. "Showed it to my Mrs," one gentleman commented. "Got a sideways look and a 'pfffft!' Not very promising."
After committing to 30 days of sex with my husband, I subsequently published a diary of my experiences in this magazine last month. The article was printed anonymously - in part to save my blushes but also because it was designed to serve as an ageless, faceless experiment that could help to revitalise any relationship.
The response has been monumental. When I decided to unmask myself to the friends who had been nattering enthusiastically about the diary, the reaction was generally one of surprise - and admiration. "Fair play; good on you," they chanted. Most of them asked for more detail; nearly everyone wondered if I'd really completed the 30 days (I had).
Read about Gillian's challenge here: What happened when one Irish woman committed to a month of sex with her husband
Once the piece was posted on independent.ie, it really took off, garnering thousands of hits. The thought of so many readers having access to such intimate details was daunting, but I also felt a sense of pride. Because, undeniably, this was a topic that spoke to people of all ages. Much of the commentary was, of course, light-hearted; hundreds of optimistic spouses tagged their loved-ones on the 'Irish Independent' Facebook page. But more serious matters emerged too - namely the husbands and wives who were devastated to witness their partners' libido dwindle to nothing. Just as sex can bring us together, the lack of it can drive a stake through relationships with devastating effects.
I'm certainly no relationship expert now, but so taken was I with the 30-day sex challenge that I am more than happy to share my experiences - in fact, I feel duty-bound to spread the word!
Popular Cork radio station 96fm began its own version of my diary. Using the hashtag #30days30nights, the presenters encouraged listeners to take on the challenge themselves while keeping the station up-to-date on their progress.
Last week, I went live on air on the station's 'Opinion Line' show. Working through those initial few nerves that come with speaking to a live audience - not least when the topic relates to something so intimate - I was able to offer my reassurances that committing to 30 days of sex is not only entirely workable, but also highly enjoyable.
We all know that daily sex is beneficial for all sorts of reasons: stress levels reduce, sleep quality increases, you're better able to manage your weight, you've a tougher immune system and improved mental wellbeing, your energy levels soar - in fact, the list is pretty comprehensive.
The one thing that I'm taking from this is that it's good to talk. And let's be honest: on some level we're probably all a little prudish when it comes to intimacy. A recent study of 2,000 people, for example, found that three out of four of us will only have sex in the dark. The reasoning ranged from being too embarrassed to show a "sex face" to a partner (14pc); to - oh dear - opting to imagine a favoured celebrity instead (5pc).
Meanwhile, University of Manchester research just released last week shows that many older men and women are having regular sex well into their 70s and 80s. "Trying to impose youthful norms of sexual health on older people would be over-simplistic and even unhelpful," the university said in response to its findings.
How very true: I've learned that sex is not just about toned, silky bodies that boast all the advantages of youth. Real sex is a bit more...well, raw. It's a lump here, a bump there. It can be hilarious and awkward - sometimes both at the same time. It's rarely, if ever, perfect - nor should we strive for it to be so. What I think we should all aim for in lieu, however, is far more of it. Because as the daily responsibilities that life brings accumulate, it's far too easy to dismiss sex as unimportant, or worse still, irrelevant.
There was some suggestion online that this 30-day programme could become something of an annual tradition for the people of Ireland. "A bit like Lent - or Ramadan," as one commentator phrased it. And so to that I say, until next year!
Top tips for intimacy
1. Relax: Sex shouldn't be a big deal. Prioritising regular action in bed means neither party is under pressure to provide fireworks every time.
2. Anticipate: If you know that daily sex is on the agenda, your mind can really wander in advance to get you in the mood.
3. Be confident: We all have body issues, but feeling shame or embarrassment can kill libido. The simple act of being naked with your partner can boost your self-esteem.
4. Pastures new: Everything needs to be jazzed up every once in a while. Regular sessions let you try new things.