Ask Dr. Annie K: SEX AND FAMILIARITY
I have been with my husband for over 10 years and we love each other very much.. our sex life is not at all what it used to be, pretty much completely gone! I’m not sure if we’ve become to busy that we get wrapped up in everyday living that we forget to take time each together! Is this a sign that the “we” are coming to an end? How do we get back to where we were?
– Anonymous Reader
Thank you for this very intriguing and challenging question. One that many of us can relate to.
When you first meet someone, you are basically strangers. There is a chemistry, his or her every move turns you on, sex is great and the relationship flourishes. 10 years later, this same person, who you still love, is no longer a stranger. He’s the guy you share a home with, a mortgage and maybe kids. You know his smell, his snores, his sneezes, his habits. You share the same bed every night, you share responsibilities, you spend time with each others family. With time there is no place for sex, no mood for sex, no desire. How are you supposed to have crazy sex with the guy who, immediately after, may need to be reminded to take out the trash cans?
This is when familiarity breeds contempt. Not contempt by definition, but all of the trappings of modern marriage are killers of lust. The person becomes too familiar, too close. It becomes more like a business collaboration. With security, reliability and routine, there is a cost- a loss of mystery, intrigue and adventure. How do you rekindle that passion and fire when you have changed as individuals and as a couple?
I’m not going to give the Cosmo version, and tell you about lingerie or bedroom tricks (not to dismiss the role of lingerie and bedroom tricks ;))
Today there are expectations that people do things as a couple all the time. It is considered a sign of the happy marriage and it looks good on Facebook.
Paradoxically, the things that will draw you together as a couple require distance and separation. By stepping away from the entanglement you become more attracted and more attractive. This is done by focusing on yourself as a separate entity from the relationship. It is not two halves becoming one, it is two whole individuals coming together and creating something greater than the sum of its parts. I cringe when I hear “my better half”.
Health is a factor in the equation that we cannot ignore. Some are more challenged than others, but everyone is capable of experiencing some degree of intimacy. Take pride in your body, feel comfortable naked and accept your physical body at whatever level you are blessed with. This may mean working on getting healthier, paying attention and taking care of yourself. It is never too late, even if you have really let yourself go. Refer to Hula Hoops and It’s Just Like Riding a Bike posts. There may be a medical condition affecting your sex life. Many prescription and over the counter medications can have a profound affect. Refer to Why We Need to Talk About Sex post.
The ability to compartmentalize can be very helpful when trying to renew your sex life. That means finding time for yourself to develop your own passions and interests but also respecting the need to make time for the relationship. By changing things up, you become mysterious again. And your partner can do the same. Proposing a hike on a trail you have never been on, dusting off an old guitar to learn a song, taking dance lessons or flying off on your own to Iceland can all actually bring you closer.
Monogamy might not be a natural state, yet it is thought to make society and families work better. Bringing sex back into a committed relationship involves intention and imagination. The expectation that it will be “back to where you were” is a lofty goal. What we want in our 20’s is so different from what we want in our 50’s, yet many of us are with the same person; how do we reconcile that? It may not be the same, but it can still enrich and invigorate! Carving out the time, clearing your head of all the background noise and loosening up are the most challenging parts. Compartmentalize! Fantasize! Make it a priority. Do one thing at a time. Make a conscious decision not to multitask.
When we take care of ourselves, physically and mentally, it is easier to give and receive sexual satisfaction. You have both changed in these 10 years. Your sex drives naturally have an ebb and flow and may not be in sync. By asking the question, this tells me you don’t want a sexless marriage and there is no reason to have one. Don’t accept that as an option! Start using your imagination (sometimes less is more;) and let the dance begin.
Dr. Annie K