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When the Thrill Is Gone

You can still rekindle passion and improve your sex life in a low-sex marriage.

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Don’t call each other ten times a day, she cautions, and don’t ask each other about every little thing. “These questions turn intimacy into surveillance.”

Dealing with Alienation and Anger in a Low-Sex Marriage

Sometimes a man’s lack of desire is really about something else. “In those situations there is often something going on that is unexpressed or unknown, says Mark Epstein, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and the author of Open To Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life.

Most often, Epstein says, that lack of attraction stems from anger. Perhaps your anger is misplaced; perhaps you are angry at her because you are not attracted to her. You can get to the source of your anger and beyond in therapy. But getting down to getting down is the relationship equivalent of advanced physics.

“You have to be able to experience conflicting feelings, or difficult feelings,” says Epstein of the rapprochement process. “If you are holding yourself back all the time, you don’t have to face what you might be feeling. But if you get close to her in bed, if you get aroused, there might be a lot of conflicting stuff that comes up. You want to be with her, you want to make her happy -- but you are angry with her.” To get past the anger, and on to the fun part, you have to be willing to let down your guard, and let love in.

Improving Your Sex Life: Anticipation Instead of Spontaneity

There’s nothing wrong with candles and baths -- or, for that matter, lingerie and scented oils. “Those are all stand-ins for the little signals most couples have,” says Epstein. “Most couples’ signals are subtler: being in bed and awake at the same time, reaching out to one another on a weekend morning, making some gesture.”

You may pine for the days of spontaneity that you enjoyed when your relationship was young -- making love at odd hours, in the least likely places, just because you felt like it. But if you have small children, and two careers, and the usual laundry list of responsibilities, the chances of you spontaneously hooking up without some planning are about like the chance of your playing in the NBA -- when you’re over 40. And white. It takes a little doing to have a passion in marriage.

There is nothing wrong with planning to have sex, is there? Thinking about it ahead of time might just get you in the mood, just as thinking about what you’re going to eat before you go to a good restaurant only whets the appetite.

“People have to get in the habit of making time to be sexual in the same way they make time for everything else that’s good in life,” says Weston. “Some people will just sit and let the hours wash over them in front of the TV rather than do something that takes a bit of energy and a bit of intention. You have to kind of get conscious about what you’re doing.”

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