Sex and Why You're Not Having it

 

5 Ways to Rekindle Your Spark Today

The Sexual Landscape of Most Couples Today

Many couples that come in to me for help, come in with sexual desire issues. They understand that their sexual relationship with each other is not quite what it used to be, but don’t know how to fix it.

Some believe “if only my partner would change, we wouldn’t have a problem.” Many people subscribe to the new car theory of relationships, assuming “if I only was with someone _____ (more attractive, more sensitive, more ambitious, more involved with the kids, etc) I would be happier.

The reality is that everyone reaches sexual desire issues in a relationship if they stay together long enough. It is actually a sign that things are going right. Yes, if we are together with one person long enough- we will hit a tipping point, where our self-growth must take place in order for us to move forward. Problem is- many of us don’t want to put in all that effort of changing ourselves and would rather just change our partners.

Sex as a Matter of Life & Death?

Freud conceptualized our internal conflict as coming out of two things; eros and thanatos. In Greek mythology eros was the personification of love, sexuality, life energy, and reproduction, while Thanatos was the personification of death. So in essence, when we aren’t having sex- we’re dying.This is why, if you leave sex and passion out of your relationship for a long time, you may find yourself subconsciously “stirring the pot.” You might be drumming up fights for no reason, dragging out baggage from the past, or to a larger extreme- engaging in an emotional/sexual affair outside of the relationship.

We all share the common need for eros, passion, life, and sexuality. The problem is- our partners soon create an atmosphere that seems counterproductive for achieving that.

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Til’ Death Do Us Part
When we take our vows- we make a commitment to our partner to love them unconditionally, forever. So, as soon as we do this- we regress back to what we know- childhood. What other relationship provides us with the expectation of unconditional love and security forever?

Now we are presented with a problem. How do we sustain a robust sexual and erotic dynamic in a relationship that now is akin to the one we got from our parents?

When we trade the insecurity, uncertainty, and instability that comes with new love for security, safety, and stability that is our implicit agreement in marriage (or long term partnership/companionship)- we lose eros. We lose the erotic, anticipatory will-he-come-back-tomorrow, type force that is present early on in relationshipsCan We Have it All?
My answer is “yes, but it doesn’t come as easily this time.” There is no magic “spark” or “flame” that can be flipped back on like a light switch. It takes concerted and repeated hard work. The work must be put back in to cultivate a relationship with your partner that goes beyond being roommates. However, I have seen that transformation take place with many couples.

Here are 5 ways you can begin recreating the spark again:

1) Remember when we used to spend hours listening to our partner? Now after riding the bull of life- we are lucky if we get two seconds of eye contact before turning out the lights. Try to give your partner 10 minutes of uninterrupted listening time. Ask questions, be curious, be genuinely and authentically interested in what they are trying to convey.

2) Bad communication = bad sex, but better communication doesn't necessarily translate to better sex. If we want more eros- we must focus on eros. First why do you want more eros? Set your values. Then, set aside time in your week to focus on this. Maybe its a massage, maybe its writing your partner a flirty email, maybe it is just giving your love a heartfelt compliment.

3) Be the change you want to see in your relationship. If you want someone who takes better care of themselves- toss your flannel pj's and start wearing better nighties. If you want someone who has more patience, begin to practice patience yourself.

4) Take out the trash. As David Schnarch puts it "we must be willing to call out the worst in ourselves from the best parts of ourselves." Sit down and identify how you yourself have been contributing to dulling the spark and make a commitment to change it.

5) Take the S.o.M.A six week signature relationship building course (cheeky right?)

The JLo Effect

After watching Jennifer Lopez and recent on again off again boyfriend Casper Smart's video, I was mesmerized. JLo is captivating. The beats, the rhythm, the CGI effects, taut tummies, flowing hair, and golden bronzed bodies all moving to the celebratory beat that JLo gets to "dance again." 

It doesn't take a genius to figure out Ms. Lopez is not referring to the fact that she is dancing again, but that she is passionately having sex again with a boy, 18 years her junior. Some of the lyrics of the song go:

(YEAH MAKE LOVE TONIGHT)
So many ways wanna touch you tonight
I'm a big girl got no secrets this time
Yeah I, love to make love to you baby
(YEAH MAKE LOVE TONIGHT)

[Jennifer Lopez: Chorus]
If this would be a perfect world
We'd be together then
(LET'S DO IT DO IT DO IT)
Only got just one life this I've learned
Who cares what they're gonna say
(LET'S DO IT DO IT DO IT)

The song is a tempting look into the life of many celebrities. A constant euphoric high of adoring fans, larger than life personas, yes-men entourages, unending funding for the "best" things life has to offer. So why would that stop at marriage? Why not just throw the husband out with the bath water if he isn't making you feel like everyone else is? 

Jennifer Lopez has jumped from relationship to relationship with the false belief that one day she will find her happiness inside of another person. When the novelty slows down, when the passion stops, when the mundane duties of daily living overburden the excitement that comes from new love- J Lo gets going. 

Unfortunately, so do many others. This video, although captivating - can send a false belief to millions. It wasn't Wesley Snipes (1994-1995), Chris Paciello, Tommy Mattolla, David Cruz1995-1996, Ojani Noa (Married) 1996-1998 (Divorced), Joaquin Cortez 1998, Puff Daddy/P Diddy- 1998-2001,Chris Judd (married) 2001-2003 (Divorced), Ben Affleck- 2002-2004, Marc Anthony (married) 2004- 2011 (Divorced) that caused her to "not dance," it was she, herself that did this.

Are we really to believe that 24 year old Casper Smart is such a dynamic charismatic personality that he finally made JLo "dance again?" or is it more that JLo couldn't handle the emotional load that marriage actually requires? 

Marriages are "people-growing machines," as David Schnarch puts it. The actual presence of arguments, decreased love-making, and discord is not a sign that you are with the wrong person, but that you are actually right on track. Marriages are designed to call out the best in us to identify where the worst in us gets us stuck. 

People don't like that their partners all of the sudden are people and not the idealized imagos we developed when we first met. How dare he want to go play golf on our weekend? What does she actually do during the day while I am slaving away at the office all week? Why wouldn't he stick up for me when his mom told me how to raise our child?

The idea that we must first become whole before becoming someone's other half, couldn't be more true in JLo's case. She must first be able to stand alone and define her own happiness before she can ever truly pick out the right complement. When you are in a long term relationship and feel that you are no longer "dancing," it is your responsibility to fill your dancing card- and not with a list of potential new suitors, but with a list of activities that can serve to re-invigorate you, re-ignite you, and re-kindle the passion and vigor you once felt for life. If we are bored, we are usually being boring people. 

This all being said, I do believe there are certain people that for numerous reasons have truly grown apart. I have witnessed clients who, after raising children with their spouses, wake up to realize the person sleeping on the other side of the bed is a stranger. Somewhere along the way they lost touch, they stopped communicating, they stopped caring. Many times one partner is so tunnel focused on being "right," that they miss the boat completely on being "happy." They may go to bed at night feeling justified, redeemed, or "right," but they are now sleeping alone. 

Further, I do not endorse trying to "communicate" more when one partner is being unfaithful, using drugs/alcohol, or is being abusive. There are certain limits that one should not put up with in order to maintain a marriage.

Many clients will ask me, "how do I know if we have a shot?" I will often ask "do you want to have a shot?" Most may not know the answer to that question, but they can say "I want, to want to have a shot," and that is where we start. 

When we are confronted with yin to our marital yang, the jealousies, the resentments, the emotional distancers, and pursuers, the negotiations, bargaining- we must again remind ourselves that marriage is truly a verb and a commitment to cultivating your best self, your most evolved self. When the going gets tough and we get going- we cheat ourselves out of all of the many beautiful ways our selves and our relationship with each other can develop beyond our wildest imaginations, if only given the right nutrients- patience and love. 

Does Your Relationship Still Have That New Car Feeling?

One of the most salient themes I notice doing therapy , is that couples stop being nice to each other at some point along the way. They toxify their relationship by using stonewalling, defensiveness, criticism, and/or contempt- and then wonder why their partner is “no longer the person they married.” They do and say things to their partner that they wouldn’t dream of doing to anyone else. They are nicer to their dry cleaner than they are to their own partner.

The very first task I usually ask couples to do is to put consciousness back into their relationship and practice being kind to each other. Instead of reactively, lazily, unconsciously slipping into their knee-jerk dynamics- I ask couples to take a few moments pause before responding to their partner.

To illustrate how we beat down our relationships over time- I’ll often use the new car analogy. Think back when you first got your car. It probably smelled really nice, and you washed it every week. You wouldn’t dare let fast food, pets, trash, or even a bottle cap hit your floorboard. 

However, as time passed- maybe you dropped a french fry, or spilled coffee that you didn’t clean up right away. Maybe you let your sweaty gym bag stay in the back a little too long. Over time, you begin to hold less and less value for your vehicle and allow it to wear and tear. 

This is unfortunately how many of us operate in our relationships. We let a biting quip, a venomous tongue, or a biting insult fly out of our mouths. We make our loved one feel small so we can feel tall. We push our partners buttons better than anyone else, and then over time we wonder why they’ve “changed?” 

An important question to ask yourself in cultivating relationship health is “would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?” We can choose to be the scorekeepers, fostering a tit for tat culture where no good deed of ours goes unpunished- or we can begin to be the change we want to see in our relationships by doing good first. Instead of letting the dishes just sit in the sink so he really gets that he should have taken out the trash- maybe you do both this time? Spiritually, and relationally- you will get way more back than you ever bargained for before.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Why is it that familiarity breeds contempt- yet absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Many of my couples in come in begging for excitement, refreshment, and the spark back in their relationships. We all wrongly assume that if we spend every last waking and ending moment with our partner- that we will become more attached and more in love. However, the relationship that cultivated love between ourselves and our parents (or primary caretakers) is not the same relationship we need to keep the passion alive.

In other words- safety, attachment, dependence, and predictability are an express-train to marital/relational hum-drumville. In order to recreate the excitement and connection we once had with our partners- we must introduce elements of novelty and spontaneity. Think about when you first met. You weren't guaranteed that he (she) would always be there or call every day. There were things in your life that you probably didn't share every bit of with your partner and vice versa.

In my upcoming blogs- I will continue to help you with new ways to induce life and the "spark" back into your relationship. For right now- start with a date. No, I'm not talking about dinner and a movie. Do something together that gets you out of the comfort zone and carries with it an element of fear. Here are 10 date ideas to get you started:

  1. Bowling
  2. Rollerskating
  3. Surf or Stand up Paddle lessons
  4. Improv, Comedy, or acting classes
  5. Rock Climbing
  6. Picnic under the stars
  7. Laser Tag
  8. Hiking in a mutually unexplored (but public) area
  9. volunteer
  10. Hang gliding

By introducing novelty back into your routine, you can begin to see your partner in a different light. Maybe you start to realize how much your partner's presence brings you comfort in unfamiliar situations, maybe you are reminded of how cute your loved one looks when they are vulnerable and trying out something new.

Tit for Tat

I see a lot of "tit for tat," come into play in my office. Many couples come in and start off the therapy session by naming a laundry list of things their significant other has done or has failed to do. They sound "armed" with evidence supporting their sometimes selfish, withholding, and toxic nature. I watch as the other partner squirms in their seat, getting noticeably more and more angry and frigid.

One of the best parts of my couples therapy is asking each of the partners to identify what it was that initially made them fall in love and what it is that is keeping them still holding on. The climate immediately begins to change. The twinkle and spark goes back in each others' eyes, and their postures begin to melt. The smiles come back and so does the laughter. It is from this place, that I am able to effect the most change and the most motivation to change with the couple.

I ask couples to go back to the beginning. When every text, every phone call, every mention of the other person's name would send a little electricity through their veins. Back when they didn't keep score and they just gave unconditionally. We learn that we get so much more back by no longer keeping score of what we've gotten back. When we give unconditionally and our only goal is to make our partner feel completely loved and valued- an extraordinary thing begins to happen- we begin to feel valued ourselves.