Doin’ it daily

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.”

How did they get such big smiles? For one year, mom-next-door Charla Muller gave her husband Brad the gift of daily, rejection-free sex. Her book, 365 Nights, examines the effect of her gift on their marriage. Photo by Pat Staub

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 afjones@bellsouth.net.

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
where: Malaprop’s
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.

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31 thoughts on “Doin’ it daily

  1. Dionysis

    I bet those people who have taken legal action against spouses for denial of ‘conjugal rights’ don’t consider sex in their marriage a ‘gift’ by the woman (or vice versa).

  2. Christine

    Did you really read the book? I did and could barely finish it. The writing, or rather “co-writing” is so cliche and so dull that I found it difficult to keep my attention.
    In addition, I really questioned the motive: A GIFT? Sex as a gift? What planet does this Charla woman live on?
    I thought the whole thing was a stunt, and I thought the title was misleading once it was revealed that they actually never define “sex” and don’t actually do it 365 days. But, that’s understandable given that Charla is in PR. Say no more, say no more!!!

  3. Paul -V-

    To Anne Fitten Glenn & Xpress Editorial Staff: I’m a fan of yours – but did this book merit so much ink?

    Don’t get me wrong: No paper should be expected to feature hard news on the cover every week, and a certain amount of fluff is entertaining.

    But is pimping a book featuring the sex-life of a former PR flak, who couldn’t even write the thing by herself, really the best Xpress could do?

    I read through a few chapters of ‘365 Nights’ at Malaprops. It is narcissistic dreck. While it will play well on Oprah and the morning-talk show circuit, and probably launch Muller’s motivational-speaking career, it is hardly literature worth dedicating a front-cover to.

    To be clear: I don’t have a problem with the book’s subject matter. I’m all for anything that increases intimacy between loving couples.

    If Xpress had treated ‘365 Nights’ like any other book, I would not have even bothered writing this comment.

    But I’m irked that Xpress staff gave Muller so much copy-space for such a mediocre, trivial, book. She is obviously is a brilliant self-promoter – and you fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

    This week the Mountain Xpress is merely an infomercial for a 2nd-rate motivational speaker pretending her sex-life is inspirtaional literature.

  4. Dionysis

    “But I’m irked that Xpress staff gave Muller so much copy-space for such a mediocre, trivial, book.”

    After having thought about it some more, and then re-reading the piece, I am in complete agreement with you. This kind of third-rate vanity work surely does not deserve this much print space. Really now, does anyone think this will be of real interest to, much less value to, anyone?

  5. I think this book is intended for a less open-minded crowd than usually hangs out on our blogs. It’s easy to forget that there are tons of people out there who are reluctant to talk about sex in almost any context. This book is for them, not the rest of us.

    For what it’s worth, in the interest of trying to serve a variety of readers, we’ve also run cover stories on the Sweet Potato Queen. Her work, if anything, is less interesting and personal than Mrs. Muller’s, I’d say.

  6. Paul -V-

    “does anyone think this will be of real interest to, much less value to, anyone?”

    Demographic break-down for ‘365 Nights’:

    1) 50-something, white, housewives who are looking for something new to do with their husbands, but are unwilling to cave in to requests for a 3-some.

    2) 40-something, white, Christian, housewives who never had an opportunity to experiment sexually before they got married – and are hoping constant sex with their flaccid husbands will make up for all the missed opportunities.

    3) 30-something, white, housewives who dream someday they will be writers, go on book tours, and have their peers cluck admiringly at them.

    4) 20-something fans of ‘Sex And The City’ who are surprised that a woman can make money selling a sex-diary that ignores the TOGTFO rule.

    5) Apparently, Stephan and Kelly Wolfe.

  7. Paul,
    What’s with dissing middle-aged white housewives? There are a heckuva a lot of the”demographics” you list who do read Mountain Xpress. And some who write for the Xpress as well.

  8. Joan

    Oy. I read this book. It’s dreary. And, yes, Charla has an ego the size of her “glamour shot”. A much, much better read on the same subject is: JUST DO IT by Douglas Brown. Now that’s a story that’s well written and a delight to read.

  9. Paul -V-

    Anne-Fitten:

    One day, you are going to write a national best-seller. I don’t know what the book is going to be about, but dollars-to-donuts, you are going to write it yourself, it will not depend on a cheap gimmick, and it will appeal to most thinking adults.

    I’m not dissing housewives. I’m satirizing the banal nature of ‘365 Nights’, and the kind of people who this book it targeted to. Namely: Women so unimaginative, that the idea of regular sex with their spouse is a radical idea.

    There are many excellent books that appeal to the “housewife” demographic which deserve attention. For example: Jill Conner Browne of “Sweet Potato Queen” fame is delightful – which is why I didn’t complain when she made the cover. I’m not the biggest fan of her work, but I recognize genuine talent when I read it.

    And, to be fair, there are many crappy, over-rated, authors that appeal to husbands. (*cough* Lawrence Block *cough* *cough*)

    Off topic side note: When you Google “Man has sex for a year” you get a list of sex crimes. When you Google “Woman has sex for a year” you get Muller’s book and a list of advise columns.

    I’m not sure what that means, but perhaps it’s worth exploring with the cover-story on the Mountain Xpress?

  10. Rebecca Bowe

    The thing that genuinely confused me about this article was why she said that had she been in her husband’s shoes, “she would have passed about 200 times already.” Really? Was the sex that bad? Perhaps practice doesn’t make perfect after all.

    For his next birthday, I think she should give him a copy of, “She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide To Pleasuring A Woman,” by
    Ian Kerner, Ph. D. According to the description on the Good Vibrations Web page, it includes “helpful euphemisms about car mechanics.” Maybe that would, uh, rev things up a bit.

  11. [b]Namely: Women so unimaginative, that the idea of regular sex with their spouse is a radical idea.[/b]

    Fair enough, but put yourself in that person’s shoes for a moment. Say you aren’t a particularly imaginative person — never have been, and have no real means to become so — but your sex life with your spouse is suffering. Can you see how this would be helpful to them?

    There are millions of women who fit that description. It’s the basis of the sex industry, really — just browse the “sexuality” section of Barnes & Noble sometime, and you’ll see plenty of variations on the theme — and I don’t see why this topic isn’t fair game for an alt-weekly to cover. She’s local, the book is doing great and plenty of people will find it interesting.

    Just not those of us with imagination, willing partners and healthy sex drives.

  12. Rio

    I haven’t read the book, but I can see where this really could connect with the the average middle-aged woman. It’s commonly known that romance novels are the ones that sell the most and it’s a huge industry. Women are looking for something – vicariously or not. I have no idea if this author dealt with this topic in a helpful way, but I can see where women want to find better ways to connect with their partner and would read anything that might offer ideas. Too many marriages are lived in isolation, and I am thankful for anyone who is trying to help these situations.

  13. Also, I must say, that while I don’t know tons about the personal lives of all the commenters here, I am seeing a number of you commenting who are still child-free, some unmarried, some not having been in long-term monogamous relationships (I’m talking 8 or more years). Just saying.

  14. Paul -V-

    Steve:

    1) Muller is no longer local. She’s been living in Charlotte. However, it wouldn’t matter if her name was Ashely Asheland and was born in the bell-tower of City Hall – the book stinks.

    2) Muller didn’t actually write ‘365 Nights’. She’s a flak who had a good idea, got a publisher to re-write her notes, and hired a decent photographer for a glamor-shot.

    That might be good enough for USA Today, but not Mountain Xpress.

    You do make a good point about the women I lampooned earlier. Looking back, it was unreasonably cruel. I shouldn’t be so harsh to the target audience.

    I now have a case of “trolls remorse”.

    May whoever buys ‘365 Nights’ experience magical, amazing, sex – complete with unicorns and cotton-candy clouds.

  15. [b]I now have a case of “trolls remorse”.[/b]

    You shouldn’t. You made some good points, and the book certainly wasn’t written with, say, me in mind. (I’d probably go with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story about returning a golden arrow to an elf queen or something.)

    I was just trying to give some explanation for why we went with the story.

    And if you want to crack on the book, visit the forums. Bugg has given us plenty to ponder: http://www.mountainx.com/forums/viewthread/394/

  16. Martha

    Edgy Mama:

    So exactly what are you saying?

    Bad writing is bad writing – no matter how smug and self-satisfied the author, or audience, is.

    People who have never been bakers can enjoy books about bread. People who have never traveled can enjoy books about China.

    The POINT of a good writer is to draw people in and help them understand something beyond themselves.

    Your theory that people who have never been a long-term relationship don’t appreciate this book demonstrates that Charla Muller failed at this basic task.

    I’ve been married for 15 years with two kids. After seeing the book on the cover of Xpress, I went to the book store to read a bit of it.

    At first, I didn’t know why I didn’t like it. It just struck me as “wrong” somehow. (Not morally wrong – this isn’t a pornographic work.)

    But now I understand: It was the smugness of the whole work. It drips with a holier-than-thou attitude. As if only people who follow a certain social norm can experience the kind of intimacy the author enjoys.

    365 Nights is, like Paul said, “narcissistic dreck”. Charla Muller struck me like a stereotypical, upper-middle-class woman, who’s never needed to get real job. She’s so wrapped up in herself she never bothers to appeal to the reader.

    Anyways – that’s my opinion.

  17. brebro

    So, would the corollary to this wife’s “gift” to her husband be a husband giving his wife the “gift” of not having to engage in the presumably odious chore of having sex with him for a year?

  18. Grace

    Hi,

    Did you know that Charla lied on national TV? Charla and Brad were on CNN in July. Here’s the transcript:
    HOLMES: … the deed. You were doing it every day.

    C. MULLER: Yes.
    (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0807/19/cnr.03.html)

    And, on ABC’s The View,”Joy asked how they defined sex and they said it was intercourse each time.”
    (http://www.watchingtheview.com/the-view-july-7th-recap-a-day-of-hot-topics/)

    I don’t have the official transcript from The View, but I did see it and they clearly stated that they were having intercourse every day.
    And, yet in your article she clearly states:

    “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. ”

    So, curious that Mrs. PR not only spins her book to you hook line and sinker, but is also lying about the contents.

    Certainly makes me wonder if the rest of the book isn’t riddled with lies, too. Doesn’t it make you wonder?

    And, don’t you think it’s strange that she’s parading all over the South acting as the “author” when, in fact, she’s the co-author! How odd is that? But, I guess it’s just as odd as a woman who has to have a co-writer to write a book about her alleged sex life with her husband.

    I say it’s time to expose her…Who wants to contact Vulture at New York Magazine?! ;)

  19. Paul -V-

    Grace:

    Meh.

    I really don’t wonder if the book is full of lies – I’ve got better things to think about.

    Let Muller enjoy her 15 minutes of fame. She’s doomed to be remembered for a mediocre book she didn’t even bother to write.

    That in itself is punishment befitting the crime.

    The only reason I’m irked is because ‘365 Nights’ is being pimped on an otherwise fine local paper.

    Otherwise, this subject does not interest me much.

    Grace wrote: “I say it’s time to expose her…Who wants to contact Vulture at New York Magazine?!”

    Jealous much?

    You really need a hobby. Try regular sex, I hear it’s a lot of fun.

  20. Hippygal

    Grace and Joan…hmmm…perhaps you are friends of the Browns of “Just Do It”? Do you people just google Charla and try to comment on every forum that talks about her? What a pitiful exsistence! Suprisingly, I agree with Paul V on this one – get a life!

  21. not curious

    as a lesbian, the devil on my left shoulder is whispering ‘ewww, those heterosexuals, I don’t care what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms as long as they keep it to themselves.’

  22. Chad Nesbitt

    GeorgeTheBastard said,
    <>I bought a copy of it as a Christmas present for John Edwards.<>

    Now that’s funny! LOL :)

    Great article.

    Chad Nesbitt

  23. I’m curious to know how “wild and crazy” did they get. Role-playing? Outdoors? Different entryways?
    Toys? Actually, I’m not curious enough to read the book to find out.

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