She Said, He Said: Keeping home fires burning can require a bit of fuel
Dear Lori and Jeff,
When I started dating my wife I couldn’t keep my hands off her. She was the most attractive woman I’d ever been with and she still looks amazing to me even after six years of marriage and two kids. The problem is that I’m losing interest in having sex with her. I still have strong desires but just not for her. I’m worried that I’ll pursue another woman and screw the whole thing up. What’s wrong with me?
On the Edge
Dear On the Edge,
Lori and Jeff: We’d like to start out by acknowledging that you’re not alone. Author Jack Morin calls this dilemma the “love-lust split,” where it’s difficult to feel an erotic, sexual connection with someone with whom you’ve also created a relationship of comfort and security. This split can create an aversion to sexual intimacy with your partner — like it’s crossing some forbidden line — almost as though it’s wrong to be sexual with your wife, who also is your best friend and the mother of your children.
Jeff: Stepping back a bit, it may be helpful to understand that we all typically go through three phases of romantic love. When we first meet someone, we are drawn together through an experience of lust — an impulsive, physical connection fueled by a yearning for sexual gratification. As we get to know them a bit more and become attracted to their personality and begin to contemplate merging our lives with theirs, we often can’t stop thinking about them and want to spend as much time with them as we can. We then become more attached and bonded — experiencing a more secure, grounded and lasting connection.
This is the quandary: Can attached, deeper love and raw, physical lust exist under the same roof? While, at times, it may seem like the only answer is to have affection and security at home and erotic fulfillment somewhere else, it’s important to know that affairs can eventually create the same kind of situation for you. Once an emotional bond is established with a new lover, the whole cycle begins again. Instead, challenge the belief that sex is some kind of betrayal to the emotional loyalty required by your marriage. Find the courage to bring your erotic and sexual self back into your relationship.
Lori: This is not just an issue for men. Many women start out in relationships red-hot and ready to go at a moment’s notice, but over time can find their libido lukewarm at best. One of the key ingredients for can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other sexcitement is intrigue. Early in relationships there is mystery, curiosity and a smidge of emotional danger that comes with not fully knowing each other. All of the little unknowns create space that you still want to lean into — you want to know her more. Fast forward a few years of spending every day together, and it can feel like that space, along with the mystery and your curiosity, has disappeared. You can begin to believe you know everything there is about your partner (including some things you wish you didn’t know), and there’s no more excitement or drive to learn about her through sex. One way to bring that healthy space back into marriage is to remember you won’t ever fully know your partner, including her deepest thoughts, fantasies and desires. If that isn’t enough to turn up your heat, consider how others may see her. It’s easy to take your partner’s attractiveness for granted, and imagining her being hit on by another man can be a healthy reality check.
Lori and Jeff: While the idea of shiny new playmate can seem appealing at times, psychologists and marriage experts agree that the best physical intimacy anyone can have is in a long-term emotionally committed relationship. Real love lays the foundation for great sex.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.