Why would a nice Christian lady from the South write a book about having sex with her husband for 365 nights in a row?
365 Nights author Charla Muller answers for herself and her spouse: “One of the reasons we chose to share our experience is because it’s such a common experience to so many. If you’re married, no matter where you live, you’re negotiating intimacy.”
Charla, a 42-year-old public-relations consultant and mother of two, looks and acts like any mom next door. She is, as she says, “sturdy,” with bobbed brown hair and a toothy smile. She’s not the person you might expect to make nightly spousal seduction her first priority. Which is part of her appeal—and proves that you never know what’s going on in your neighbor’s bedroom.
Charla grew up in Asheville and still has family here. She now lives in Charlotte with her husband, Brad, a marketing executive with a manufacturing firm, and their children, ages 7 and 9.
Her book detailing the couple’s year of living sexually was released this summer by Berkley Books. 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy is already in its fifth printing.
Betsy Thorpe, editor and co-writer, says that sales of the book reflect its universal theme.
“It speaks to everyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship—everyone who has ever experienced the fizzle of sexual attraction and tried to find a way to reconnect.”
Motivation and ground rules
Charla says she wanted to give Brad “a 40th birthday present that he’d never forget.”
She realized that children, work and household chores had cut into their sex life, and, “It made me sad to think that the one thing that we share with each other that we don’t share with anyone else, I wasn’t making a priority,” she says.
So she offered Brad the “gift,” as she calls it, of scheduled sex, every day for a year.
“This gift was my personal—very personal—way of showing Brad how really committed I was to our marriage,” she writes in the book.
No, the Mullers didn’t succeed in actually having sex every single night of the designated year.
Charla writes that once Brad accepted her offer (which he didn’t right away, to her surprise), the couple discussed certain ground rules. If one of the two were traveling or sick, they’d miss a day. Television could never trump sex. Charla also offered Brad the option of taking a pass on daily sex, which he did—on a few rare but memorable occasions.
Because she was the gift-giver, Charla decided she would not decline sex with her husband at all during the year. Although 10 months into the experiment, she admits that, had she been in Brad’s shoes, she “would have passed about 200 times now already.”
Charla estimates that by Brad’s 41st birthday, the couple had connected physically 28 or 29 days every month of the year.
And no, sex didn’t necessarily have to include actual intercourse. In the book, Charla says, “For the purposes of viewing this as a team sport, we did have a rather liberal definition of what counted as a connection, but it did require active participation from both parties.” In other words, both needed to be awake.
A story about marriage, not sex
A self-described “Every Gal,” Charla was nervous that 365 Nights would embarrass her parents, Charles and Charlene Price of Biltmore Forest. She says they were initially surprised by the book’s subject matter, but “they read the book and realized that it’s not about sex. I wrote a book about marriage and intimacy, not about sex.”
She also didn’t plan, initially at least, to write a book about her unusual experiment.
“When she gave Brad this, there was never any intention of there being anything else,” says Charla’s childhood friend, Asheville resident Missy Reed. “Obviously, this has become much bigger than just Charla’s gift, but she didn’t plan it that way. One of the reasons the book’s so good is you can tell that every bit of this was straight from her heart.”
While the topic of sex every night for a year may seem salacious, the book truly is “G-rated.” While Charla discusses the communication, planning, and even negotiation involved in scheduling what she calls “the deed,” she offers minimal details about the couple’s actual sex life.
Even so, the book has attracted national and international media attention for its subject matter, including articles in The New York Times, People Magazine, Redbook and, closer to home, the Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh)News & Observer. Newspapers in Ireland, England, Australia, Argentina and India have spent ink on the book. Charla has appeared on The View, The Today Show, CNN, and a variety of radio shows around the country.
“The media attention has been a double-edged sword,” she says. “The topic is getting media attention, but it doesn’t reflect the actual content of the book. Maybe I should sit on a radio show and repeat again and again, ‘It’s not about sex, it’s not about sex.’”
Brad adds: “We’ve been surprised by the media attention and, particularly broadcast media’s attention on the sex part. Too often the focus is the seamy side and they don’t take the time to get to the intimacy and improvement to our marriage.”
Hard work gets results
Charla says she’s no more of an expert on marriage than her mailman, but she wrote the book because “what I learned was too important not to share, too life changing to keep to myself.”
Paul Fleischer, clinical psychologist with HealingWorks in Asheville, says, “I think she’s right on. She really connects with the gender differences around sex and intimacy issues. And she came up with a creative and unique way of addressing those issues that worked for her marriage.”
“When sex becomes about power instead of about intimacy, couples often have problems. That’s what’s useful about this book—not the particulars, but the general guidelines to ways to prioritize sex and intimacy within a relationship,” he says.
Charla admits that a year of daily sex was a difficult goal.
“I don’t think most couples should do something this wild and wacky,” she advises. “Certainly, if you’re in a bad marriage, this won’t work. I had a great marriage before, and now it’s even better.”
Both Charla and Brad feel that positive changes resulting from their experiment included increased communication and a decrease in tension about sex.
“Sex permeates a relationship more when you’re not having it,” Charla says. Brad adds that the year “took that particular issue completely off the table.”
“The times when we aren’t in sync with each other are much rarer now,” he says.
“This experiment eliminated the rejection factor,” says Stephanie Citron, an Asheville clinical psychologist who has counseled couples for more than 30 years. “Women usually don’t get how much men feel rejected when they say ‘no’ again and again.”
Citron adds: “I find it interesting that sex brought them closer. The research is that couples who have sex more often have happier marriages, but we don’t really know which came first—which leads to which.”
The birth of a book
When the book contract arrived, and lay unsigned on the Mullers’ kitchen counter, Charla asked her husband if she really should write a book about their year of living sexually.
According to Charla, Brad said, “If you can do it in a way that honors our faith and our marriage, go for it.”
“I think I did it,” Charla reflects today. “Hopefully, this book gives women everywhere an opportunity to talk with their husbands about their sexual relationship and elevate the discussion in a meaningful way.”
Since the book’s publication, Brad says he’s often on the receiving end of macho locker-room-type banter from his guy friends.
“I don’t think it’s from envy or jealousy, but from healthy respect for Charla,” he says. “Respect that she was willing to offer this and follow through on it.”
Asheville roots and branches
Charla grew up in Asheville, attended First Baptist Church and graduated from Asheville High in 1985. After college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she moved to Charlotte.
She’s a frequent visitor to her parents’ home in Biltmore Forest. In fact, her gift started and ended in Asheville, as the Mullers always spend the Fourth of July here, and Brad’s birthday falls on July 3.
Thus, the couples’ year of intimacy begins in Charla’s childhood bedroom, which she says included a “giant high-school nightshirt tucked in a drawer” emblazoned with the words “My Diet Starts Tomorrow.” Despite the memories, the kids in the next room, and the houseful of extended family members, Charla reports, “We did make our kickoff a little flirty and romantic.” Such is the stuff of making long-term sexual intimacy work. And the start of an experiment that changed a marriage.
Charla’s currently on book tour primarily throughout the Southeast so she can stay close to home. She’ll be speaking and signing books at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café on Aug. 14.
While Charla says, “It’d be lovely to write another book,” she’s currently spending her extra time promoting 365 Nights.
Otherwise, her life’s gone back to that of a typical part-time working mom and wife, except with more sex. As Brad says in the book’s afterword, “Sex every day is not a sustainable model. But neither is sex hardly ever.”
Anne Fitten Glenn can be reached at email@example.com.
who: Charla Muller reads from 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy
what: A book about a married couple’s experiment of sexual intimacy every night for a year
when: Thursday, Aug. 14. 7 p.m. (Free. www.malaprops.com or 254-6734)
One couple reacts to 365 Nights
Kelley and Stephen Wolfe were happy to discuss their reactions to 365 Nights with Mountain Xpress. Kelley, a childhood friend of Charla’s, works as a licensed sexologist in Asheville.
“The subject of the book initially made me laugh,” Kelley reports. “I thought that sex every day for a year is not for me, but it made me very interested in the book and got me thinking about our sexual frequency.”
Stephen says that if Kelley offered him 365 days of consecutive sex: “I’d go through a flush of emotions, all the way from flattered to inadequate. It seems like too much for me.”
Kelley jokes that if the Wolfes wrote a similar book, it would be called “133 Mornings.”
“Or sex about every three days,” she says.
Like the Mullers, the Wolfes believe that scheduled sex works well for long-term relationships. The couple schedule two dates a week that include making love, usually in the mornings when their two kids are in school. They’re both self-employed and are often at home during the day.
The Wolfes also have taught their children that Mom and Dad need private time.
“We lock the door and the kids know not to interrupt unless a limb falls off or there’s a fire,” Kelley says, laughing.
Stephen adds that the book’s really gotten him thinking about what in the world he could give Kelley for her birthday.
“This book’s really raised the bar for gifts to your spouse,” he says.