When passion wanes and love lives on, you have reached the sexual boredom phase. Most intimate relationships begin with the rare propinquity that makes it possible for a man and a woman to take the first difficult steps toward joining their lives. It is sexual exaltation—not a shared interest in Chinese cooking or tennis or foreign travel—that makes pleasure out of the hard work of accommodating oneself to the needs and idiosyncrasies of another adult. When this exaltation wanes we often seek out guidance from others. My advice? Seek advice and guidance from sexual therapists, not your mom or dad.
The fading of this initial exaltation is commonplace of the couple experience. So commonplace, that few people are able or willing to acknowledge the intense pain that accompanies it. The best description I have ever seen of the state of mingled pain and confusion engendered by the diminution of passion appears in Philip Roth's novel, The Professor of Desire.
"Leveling off. Overheated frenzy subsiding into quiet physical affection. That is how I choose to describe what is happening to our passion during this blissful summer. Can I think otherwise-can I possibly believe that, rather than coming to rest on some warm plateau of sweet coziness and intimacy, I am being eased down a precipitous incline and as yet am nowhere near the cold and lonely cavern where I finally will touch down?
...Oh, innocent beloved, you fail to understand and I can't tell you. I can't say it, not tonight, but within a year my passion will be dead. Already it is dying and I am afraid that there is nothing I can do to save it. And nothing that you can do. Intimately bound-bound to you as to no one else!—and I will not be able to raise a hand to so much as touch you...unless first I remind myself that I must."
Essence of Eroticism
A highly plausible but deeply troubling intellectual analysis of the same phenomenon was presented by Simone de Beauvoir in her famous work The Second Sex. The essence of eroticism, she maintained, "is a movement toward the other . . . but in the deep intimacy of the couple, husband and wife become for one another the same; no exchange is any longer possible between them, no giving and no conquering. Thus if they continue to make love, it is often with a sense of shame: they feel that the sexual act is no longer an intersubjective experience in which each goes beyond self, but rather a kind of joint masturbation."
De Beauvoir also observed that the loss of erotic intensity is not necessarily the result of a hostile relationship between the partners but can occur just as easily in an atmosphere of mutual esteem. Here is the intractable heart of the matter: the problem of intimate boredom is frequently inseparable from the pleasure of intimate bonding. There is, after all, no problem when two people hate each other; they can simply split. But there are no easy answers for sexually bored men and women who love and respect each other and who want to continue being the most important people in each other's lives. This knowledge does not sit well with twentieth-century Americans. The American experience, past and present, has been animated by the belief that there is a solution to every problem. We are a nation of tinkerers, and we try to apply the fix-it approach to even the most complex psychological and emotional difficulties.
Movies create unrealistic perceptions of the best relationship. They make it seem effortless. Like it just happens if you are patient. But when it doesn't happen, most people give up. They forget what made it al so interesting in the first place. The sweat pants come out and it's all over.
But it does not always have to be that way.
Take My Advice
- Hug more often - Sounds hokey, but it works. It increases oxytocin levels in people and makes them feel closer.
- Clean up your bedroom - No one wants to have sex in a gross setting. Pick up your clothing, take the clutter off the dresser and straighten out the blinds or curtains for starters.
- Send a love text every so often - Try not to always be communicating about problems. Perhaps a simple, "Just thinking of you" text.
- Be sexually honest - Explain exactly what turns you on to each other, turn off the lights and get to work.
- Do unpredictable things - That does not mean buying tickets to the theatre, making the bed if it is not what you normally do will suffice.
- Schedule date night - Yes it is on every list you see like this so I will add...
- Don't cancel date night - Unless someone is in serious trouble stick to the schedule.