So many patients I’ve helped have said, “I’m not attracted to my partner anymore.” I hate to say it, but this is normal. When we are in disillusionment, our partner seems more toad than princess or prince.
Most of these people have married relatively-to-amazingly attractive partners. I know; I’ve met them.
But when we have fallen out of love, we’ve exchanged our rose-colored glasses for dark fault-finding ones. Sometimes a person’s narcissism cannot forgive small flaws in their lover. It is intolerable to see human changes in the other which spoil the Dorian Gray self-illusions. And I’m not referring to changes like gross obesity or of letting oneself go.
What’s Really Behind Partner Attraction
Our culture insists that sexual happiness comes from being with someone very attractive, which breeds narcissism. But for many, suddenly not being attracted to our chosen spouse is a defensive, unconscious structure designed to protect us from the vulnerability of love.
Sexual attraction is fragile. Interrupting sexual desire seems inarguable. I can’t have sex with someone I’m not attracted to! It’s hard to see how the change really needs to happen in us, not in the other person. We don’t want to give up the illusions of falling in love and we wish for that symbiotic feeling. We’re not willing to expend the effort to see the other as real and still good, which is what achieving good sex will take.
When You’re Not Attracted to Your Partner Anymore
When we fall out of love, we’re judging with a double standard. We think we’ve married the Grinch. Our partner is selfish. They want to spoil our joy.
In fact, these feelings clearly identify a couple’s power struggle. He or she is the Grinch and ugly. We, on the other hand, are the benign, attractive—if not heroic. As Popeye says, “I yam what I yam [and they knew this when they married me. Why should I consider changing when everyone else likes me as I am?].”
No longer flexible like we were when we were falling in love, we find ourselves in lock-down. We either withdraw in silent opposition or attack the other for their inadequacies. Controlling and limiting our partner’s selfishness becomes our modus operandi. Meeting our partner’s demands amounts to self-annihilation. If we change to be the way they want us to be, we won’t be ourselves.
Their differences alarm us. How can we be intimate with someone so alien?
- Sex every day? We outright refuse. I’d have time for nothing else, we argue. Why are you asking me to change my lifestyle?
- An hour for arousal? Why can’t she be like me? If she loved me, it shouldn’t take so long. She’s different.
- Romance? But we’re married now. Taking time, energy and money belongs to “falling in love.” You’re trying to rob me of my resources.
- You want what? I guess, I just keep forgetting that she/he likes that.
- I don’t want to do that dirty thing. You’re too different.
- Seduction? But I’m shy. Or I’ve tried that and won’t try again.
How to Find Your Partner Attractive Again
Whether your partner isn’t attracted to you anymore, or you’re no longer sexually attracted to your partner, feeling sexual again requires a minimum of three things:
- We have to forgive them for being human. They are not the perfect, all-giving, inexhaustible resource that we wanted. We must accept that all human love comes with limitations. And we must see our own warts. We, too, can be difficult to love; perhaps we are the very reason that they are exhausted.
- Enduring sexual attractedness takes an effort of re-idealization. Living with someone—with anyone—takes the shine off. We think we’re not attracted to a partner in part because we see them sick, on the toilet, elbow-deep in dirty diapers, tired, cranky, demanding. We age.
No one can live up to a first impression. But at some point, we have to look to find the more stellar aspects. They are not the beast or the beauty — they’reboth. Seeing beauty does take work. It’s a commitment to put on clear glasses that see both good and bad, and then choose to focus on the good. Try to see what others see.
- Love them their way. If it doesn’t hurt and isn’t against your moral code, find a way to embrace their sexual ideas. It doesn’t break the bank to organize a picnic, write a poem, or find their favorite song. Practice touching your spouse 10x a day if affection makes them feel secure. Listen with attention and focus. Ask questions that get them to expand their ideas if love is spelled t-a-l-k-i-n-g. Look up and smile when they come into the room.
Partner Attraction Reminders
If you notice your partner is no longer attractive or attracted to you, you’re not alone and you don’t have to give up. Be honest, forgive flaws, and break into new ways of showing love. Once you both feel seen and secure, that sensual flame will inevitably reignite.