I read this interesting article in the Times by Suzi Godson.
The longer you have been in a relationship, the less sex you have, and it has nothing to do with age. The steepest decline occurs in the first 12 months of a relationship, so 60-year-olds who have been together six months are often having more sex than 30-year-olds who have been together for six years. A study carried out in the Eighties, which involved getting newlyweds to keep diaries, found that during the first month of marriage couples were having sex 17 times. Twelve months later that figure had reduced to eight.
Like many other things in life, sexual excitement is predicated on novelty, but sex and commitment have a paradoxical relationship. Distance and “separateness” create the erotic attraction that pulls you towards each other, whereas closeness skews perspective. Habituation makes couples lazy too. In the beginning you will drive across town at midnight in the rain just to kiss each other good night. Ten years in, it’s a different matter.
The relationship expert John Gottman compares the maintenance required to sustain sex and intimacy in a long-term relationship to home improvement. Even if nothing significant happens, everyday wear and tear eventually takes its toll on the woodwork, the tile grout and the carpet. Investing in the people we care about is much the same. You may feel that you can’t force yourself to “want” sex, but sexual desire is both a drive and a motivation. Drive is biological and we have little control over it, but motivation encompasses your emotional state, the quality of your relationship, and social contexts, such as the length of time you have been together or whether or not you are too busy fancying other men to paying attention to the one you are married to.
The psychiatrist Stephen B Levine describes the ordinary spectrum of sexual desire’s intensity as ranging between aversion, disinclination, indifference, interest, need and passion. Sexual desire is not static. Nor is it linear. It changes and becomes less or more intense over time. It often reflects our longing for something that we do not have. That “thing” may be novelty (attracting a new partner) or security (holding on to the partner you have). In that context, rekindling sexual desire within an existing relationship often happens in response to big life changes, key events or the threat of losing the handsome, adorable man you have spent 20 years building a life with.
I think it’s worth questioning what it is that you might be longing for after 20 years. After all, much of our sexual behaviour isn’t about the actual act of sex at all. Perhaps your husband doesn’t make you feel desired or desirable, which would explain why the attentions or thoughts of someone new feel more powerful and seductive.
If what you really want is to be seduced and adored, tell your husband how you feel. After all, he, more than anyone else, has a vested interest in meeting your needs. The best way to make yourself “feel” sexual desire for your husband is to have sex with him, even if you are not in the mood. Sexual desire is often responsive, particularly in women. This means that women often only begin to tap into feelings of arousal when already engaged in the act.
Go with it, because the chemical release you experience at orgasm provides both immediate pleasure (dopamine) and longer-term benefits (oxytocin). Numerous studies of the hormone oxytocin have shown that higher levels in the bloodstream after orgasm lead to increased trust, heightened sexual receptivity, more intense orgasm and reduced cravings. In simple terms, the more sex you have with your husband, the more you will want to have sex with him.
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