To this day, no-one fully understands why in the early stages of dating, couples want to rip each other’s clothes off—yet the longer they stay together, the more that urge fades. What we do know: that this happens often—like, really often. And there are so many factors at play with erotic cravings in relationships—and why they ebb and flow—that it makes analysing the phenomenon difficult.
For starters, sexual desire is an elusive and complex thing. It’s mental, physical, emotional, and contextual. It also occurs differently in women than it does in men. And we all have this story in our heads that if sex with a partner starts out hot, it has only one place to go: down. That belief in itself may be limiting us more than we realise. Sexual interest isn’t just a spontaneous motivation to have sex—it’s an energy between two people that can come about in many ways, including gradually over time.
All that said, I do have some theories about why you and your partner’s hunger for each other may die down as your love progresses—and how to get it back. Allow me to explain.
WHY THE LUST STARTS TO Fade
As you fall for one another, you’re forming a deep attachment. Love makes you worry about, feel responsible for, and rely on your mate for emotional security and support. It’s almost as if, in a way, you’re becoming best friends or family. That can sound ideal, but when you start to view each other like this, it can be hard to also remain sexually interested. In other words, what you’re seeking emotionally in your bond may not match—and may even compete with—what turns you on sexually.
Consider this example: I once saw a couple in which the man did everything. He booked every ticket and made all the plans for himself and his wife. She was grateful, but this eventually made her feel like she was being intimate with a caretaker and that, in her mind, was totally taboo.
This brings up another point. As you two begin to focus on a shared life together, you may each start to lose your sense of what you want. You might no longer prioritise your own needs, which feels considerate, but is also incompatible with sexual desires, which are often wild, free, and at times, selfish.
When this happens, lusty urges can be replaced with mechanical, scripted, or orgasm-centered sex. You and your lover may treat intimacy as fulfilling a duty instead of as pursuing the other person to experience intimacy and pleasure.
The Problem WITH BEING TOO CLOSE
When clients come to me with this issue, it can seem counterintuitive. They are usually very affectionate and even cuddly with each other. And yet, they never have sex.
I often say to them, You are already so close, you have nowhere else to grow. Of course, emotional intimacy is a wonderful thing, but it’s just as important to be your own person within a romantic bond. Real intimacy and good sex demand our ability to relate to our mate as someone who exists separately from us and our own needs. So it’s crucial to re-establish your individuality in order to access and prolong your sexual cravings for each other. The goal is to balance both our need for closeness and our quest for separateness.
HOW To stay hot for each other
The good news? Twosomes often think they know each other inside and out (which makes them stop being curious), but there’s always something to explore or discover. Every day, for an entire week, try telling your partner something about you that they don’t know, and vice versa. Even though this game is not overtly sexual, seeing new sides of one another can pique your curiosity, which can stimulate lust.
If you want a sexier challenge, create a new, private e-mail account for you and your mate, then set a rule that you can use it only to send each other flirtatious or NSFW e-mails. You can even give yourselves different personas to further separate your erotic life from your everyday one. (A couple of days ago, a friend shared with me that, instead of asking how her work trip was going, her husband simply sent a message that said, ‘Promo code: desire’.) It doesn’t need to be a big production, but it should be enough to feel playful, which can trigger arousal.
If you begin consistently engaging in these little acts that promote your individuality and interest for one another, it will help you keep the desire alive in your relationship.
Esther Perel is a relationship therapist, New York Times best-selling author, popular TED speaker, and the host of the podcast Where Should We Begin? Her next project, an e-course for couples looking to keep their spark alive, launches later in 2018. Learn more at estherperel.com
or follow @EstherPerelOfficial on Instagram.
Does your so-so sex life mean something more?
When your partner tries to seduce you, you feel kind of repulsed or disgusted.
[ ] Yes [ ] No
You and your SO have little to no emotional intimacy with each other.
[ ] Yes [ ] No
One of you uses the lack of sex as a weapon against the other.
[ ] Yes [ ] No
If you answered mostly Yes,
you and your partner may be experiencing problems that are deeper than just a lack of physical intimacy. Have a meaningful talk about your relationship to determine the real issues.
If you answered mostly NO,
you will likely emerge from this time stronger and still compatible. Heat things up by trying out
experiences that reveal new sides of each other.