It’s about a lot more than just getting it on.
Anyone who’s ever been in love remembers those nights of barely sleeping, losing count of how many times you’ve had sex, and becoming aroused all over again every time you brushed up against the object of your infatuation. But as time goes on, that tends to happen less and less. Sometimes you’re too exhausted to want to get it on, sometimes there are kids involved that have to be bathed and put to bed, and sometimes you’re just not into it.
In a longstanding relationship, or any marriage past the newlywed phase, it’s normal for a few days to go by without having sex – maybe even a week or two, depending on the circumstances. But if it’s been so long that you can’t even remember the last time you got down and dirty, beware: your relationship could be on its way out.
If you’re in a sex-starved marriage, you probably know it – and you probably already know it’s not good. But maybe, just maybe, you think it’s normal. Maybe you think sexual attraction is bound to fade, and it’s not a big deal. Here’s why you couldn’t be more wrong…
Let’s get physical (and emotional)
There’s a lot more to sex than just the physical part. Sure, the phrase ‘making love’ is a little cringe-worthy, but there’s something to it. Having an orgasm feels good – and masturbating every day might make you feel like a million bucks – but it’s a totally different thing than having sex with someone you love.
Why is sex so powerful? When we have an orgasm, our brains release all kinds of chemicals, including oxytocin, the so-called ‘love hormone.’ But it’s not just chemical. When we have sex, we’re at our most vulnerable; we are usually, literally, naked. Letting someone else see you in that state, and experiencing intense pleasure together, is in itself a bonding act. Relationship expert to the stars Audrey Hope says sex is a powerful combining of energies.
“Everything is energy, and so in the act of making love, you combine energies. Imagine for a moment trying to keep the relationship close without that watering. It’s like a plant that gets no care or water.”
And Hope says sex is the first thing to go when relationships hit rocky periods.
“It’s always an alarm. If you are angry, resentful or hurting from your partner, you won’t even want to sleep facing each other. Sex is a language,” she explains.
And if you’re not speaking it to each other, you’re in trouble…
Familiarity breeds contempt?
In the early days of your relationship, you couldn’t keep your hands to yourselves. So what happened?
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is a licensed clinical therapist who founded The Marriage Restoration Project along with his wife Rivka. Together, they run private marriage retreats to help couples stay together – and not just together, but happily together. He says couples should expect that initial heat to fade.
“The passion of intimacy during the romantic stage of a relationship is normal. It’s also normal that when the romantic stage dissipates and the neurochemicals that were flooding your brain and dulling the pain receptors begin to decrease, that you won’t be as excited about your partner.”
Any type of pleasure, explains Rabbi Slatkin, loses its novelty when it becomes constant. He also notes that men and women approach sex differently.
“While for men it is more physical, for women, there is a strong emotional component,” Slatkin explains.
And when you feels safer and more emotionally connected, you can usually be more present for physical encounters.
The power principle
Sex is powerful: it can make us a little crazy. Licensed marriage and family therapist associate Melody Li works with couples in private practice in Austin, Texas. She says that in troubled relationships, it’s common for one or both partners to withhold sex from each other.
“Sometimes it’s intentional, as punishment, and sometimes it’s not – for example, not feeling in the mood.”
But, she says, when couples stop having sex, they lose out on something that could potentially help heal their relationship.
“When sex is pushed aside, feelings of resentment and loneliness can build up, causing further disconnection. Couples begin the count the weeks and months they haven’t had sex and see it as an indicator of the health of their relationship.”
Getting back on track
So, if you and your SO are already caught in that vicious cycle of not connecting physically, and then not connecting emotionally, how can you turn things around? Once resentment and hurt have built up, reaching out might seem like the last thing you want to do. But, says Li, that’s exactly what you need to do.
“I sometimes encourage couples to engage in sexual intimacy even if it sounds irrational and vulnerable.”
That’s because the chemicals released by your brain and body during sex can foster a sense of closeness, which in turn creates an opportunity to tackle relationship issues in a safer and more open environment.
Rabbi Slatkin even recommends actually putting sex on your calendar, to remind yourself of its importance.
“Although it may not sound so spontaneous, by removing distractions and getting fully present, it’s possible to reawaken this aspect of your marriage.”
Sex, he says, is essential to a successful relationship, serving as a barometer of your emotional connection. “It is not something to be ignored.”
And according to Hope, “daring to show your partner the real you at all costs” is the secret to love. And the real you? She isn’t wearing any clothes.
Images via favim.com, wifflegif.com, self.com, hulu.com, giphy.com.
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