Sexual feelings and loving feelings are not automatic but needn’t fade.
We marry our sexy true companion. In the beginning of our storybook romance, sexual chemistry is strong and we make love every chance we get. This amazing person meets our needs without being asked. We marvel at how they know what our needs are. In sexual bliss, our lover attends to our body, strokes us, kisses us, glories over us. The sense of oneness feels like symbiotic perfection. We are flooded with physical sensations that overwhelm us and reassure us. We’ve made the right decision until sexual desire begins to fade.
Under the in-love umbrella, frequently, women believe their sexual feelings originate in their partner. He turns her on. She imagines she will always be turned on. Men believe that their sheer charisma sparks the chemistry between them. He believes sex will always be spontaneous. She will satisfy him entirely. And vice versa. Each thinks the other will want to do it just the way he/she wants it.
Unconsciously, we’ve married for other reasons as well. One favorite rationale for couples is – you be stable; I’ll be exciting; together we’ll be everything. An ageless theme – you be rich; I’ll be beautiful. A modern twist – You’re the best looking person who will have me. A practical reason – it’s time to get married and you’re the likeliest candidate. Mostly, we marry thinking the other will love us unconditionally simply because we’ve deigned to pick them. In reality, we marry in hopes of what we will get out of it.
And for a time, we are peas in a pod. Until our bubble bursts and the first clash of differences interrupt paradise. Suddenly, we wonder if our partner could possibly understand us. They are alien. Our Camelot comes crashing down around us. Our stable partner is a dud in bed. Excitement looks messy. Wealth evaporates in a downturn of the economy. Beauty ages and nags. There are better-looking people than our spouse all around us. We wonder if marriage is even the right course for us at all. Our unconscious agreements and expectations have underlying conflicts that prove faulty. Our partner doesn’t want to just give and nurture us. They dare to have needs of their own. They must be selfish.
Sexually, each is shocked at the unveiling of the differences. She doesn’t want sex at the same time he does. She doesn’t want it as often. He balks at her requests for romance and seduction. He’s not as attractive as she thought. She takes forever to come. Other people look more exciting than our partner. We are both disappointed that the other is not so thrilled about making love our favorite way.
Our sexual feelings wane. Nothing is as frightening as feeling nothing for a spouse whom we’ve invested ourselves in, had children with, looked to grow old with.
Worriedly we may think the only solution is starting over. For those of us who want depth of relationship, the problem with starting over is that it is required every so often. Finding the needle in the haystack means having sharper and sharper eyes, something that is harder to do as we age. But the thought of staying together in a sexually stale relationship causes despair. Some split the difference and have an affair deciding for excitement in one place and stability in the other risking the consequences of breaking their own moral code. Others change their moral code and decide for an open relationship and try to manage multiple complex relationships all at once often after the inability to sustain intimacy with even one. Some take their erotic selves into fantasy-only with romance for titillation or porn for instant orgasm. Many decide sexual vibrancy just doesn’t last and life seems grittier.
Sexual feelings and loving feelings are not automatic. Not having them for someone who we’ve chosen with relatively good judgment probably means we are in the power struggle stage of the relationship. Normal healthy relationships go through three stages: falling in, falling out and falling back in love. When sex goes off-line we panic that we’ve fallen out of love and there is no road back.
Sex is one battleground where couples fight over how close to be and how much distance is necessary for the survival of the self. To be close sexually means I must be secure in my independence. When we make love and merge souls, I must know that I can come back inside my own skin whole without having lost too much of me to you. Repressing sexual desire is an easy way to corner the market on somatic independence. If I don’t need you, then you can’t control me.
To get back sexual feelings we must be willing to re-idealize our lover. Dropping our criticalness that obscures much of what we liked in the first place, we begin to see the other’s virtues, perhaps their sudden attractiveness across a crowded party, their kindness, their aliveness in the presence of others. We must risk asking for what we want directly. And we must commit to giving love in the way that the other receives it best. We must acknowledge separateness and enjoy differentness. Interest is not just being caught by what glitters but rather an investment of depth and intention in who the other really is.