How to stay sexually connected in a long term relationship has long been the holy grail of therapists and relationship experts. Between job stressors, caring for children and an abundant availability of online porn, actual connectedness can be hard to come by. Even when none of these factors play a role, it is simply a reality that the revved up libido of the first years of a relationship tends to taper off more or less dramatically.
“When the relationship is on the rocks, the rocks are in the bed”, writes Pat Love in her highly readable book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It“, which I began reviewing in my last post.
In one chapter, she focuses on the perils of how fear and shame are acted out through sex – or rather, not having sex.
What tends to happen in long term relationships, is that one partner continues to want to have sex, while the other seems to need less and less of it. (Of course, there’s also the couples who want the same amount of sex – or no sex all together.)
As Pat Love points out, one (often unsconscious) expectation on the side of the low-libido partner can be “I expect you to be monogamous – but don’t expect me to meet your sexual needs”. Low-desire individuals tend to not feel the desire to have sex until they are highly aroused, which means that in order to enjoy sex, it has to simply be done without overthinking or overanalyzing it.
In order to overcome the frustration of one partner wanting sex and the other not wanting sex, Pat Love suggests the ground rule of “you say when, I say what”.
The high-desire person may initiate, and the low desire person determines what kind of intimacy is practiced – whether it is touching, watching a sex film and masturbate, or having intercourse. The rules of the game can vary from couple to couple.
Another effective way to approach the stalemate can be the role reversal. The person who wants more sex is in charge of creating emotional intimacy, and the one who wants little sex is in charge of making sex happen.
This may sound like a lot of effort, but it gets easier as you go. Most of us are willing to put effort into our relationships with our children and families. Your partner is worth the same effort.