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When the Thrill Is Gone

You can still rekindle passion and improve your sex life in a low-sex marriage.
By Sean Elder
WebMD Feature

Generally speaking, magazine articles about how to improve your sex life -- especially in marriage or a long-term relationship -- contain the same advice: candles, hot baths and soft music are often invoked.

That may be because these “better sex” stories are a staple of women’s magazines. I don’t know about you, but candles always make me think of church, baths are something my mother made me take, and soft music reminds me of going to the dentist. Definite turn-offs all.

But how do you regain the passion in your relationship when you feel it's slipping away? Is it possible? Or when that train has left the station, is it too late to bring it back?

“A lot of people get to that point and have to decide what to do about it,” says Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist in Fair Oaks, California. “Novelty is sexually interesting to most people -- not always to the point that they will act on it, but the idea has a little bit of a thrill to it, for men or women.”

Does Novelty or Predictability Make a Sex Life Better?

In dealing with people who have been married or together for a while, she has found that familiarity breeds -- if not contempt -- then at least too much familiarity. “Sometimes with a long-term partner, a person feels like they know every freckle on that other person’s body,” she says. The solution may lie in exploring the unfamiliar -- though not necessarily.

“For some people, predictability is very exciting,” cautions Weston. “You have to figure out if you’re a ‘surprise’ or ‘predictability’ person. If you’re a surprise person, asking your partner to surprise you is a good first step. If you’re a predictability person, and there is something predictably bad or neutral about your sexual experience, getting some changes in there can be a positive thing.”

Too Much Togetherness Can Kill Passion in Marriage

Those same darn women’s magazines often offer intimacy as the tonic to save the foundering sex life. You’ve drifted apart, the logic goes. Take interest in his life, his work, his recreation -- even if it’s watching retired athletes yelling at each other on cable. But there is a fine line between being cared for and being crowded -- and the latter is definitely a buzz kill.

“Sometimes too much closeness stifles desire,” says Esther Perel, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Manhattan and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. “Separateness is a precondition for connection. When intimacy collapses into fusion, it is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire," she tells WebMD.

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