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Making Lust Last


WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Keith Ablow, M.D.

Good Housekeeping Magazine LogoRekindling Passion For The Husband You Still Love

 

People sometimes tell me they know a couple married 20 years whose sex life is still as good as it ever was. Here's what I tell them in return: "There are only three possibilities. One: This couple is lying. Two: They are telling the truth, because they didn't have good sex to begin with. Or three: Sex is all they really have together. They never connected emotionally."

I've drawn that conclusion by listening to the many dozens of husbands and wives I've counseled, almost all of whom have admitted that after 10 or 20 years of marriage, passion became elusive.

Sharing lives is different from sharing dinners and long walks and weekends away. When you were dating the man you ultimately married, you were both acting much of the time (consciously or not), putting your best feet forward in order to be attractive to each other.

When you were sick or had a bad headache, you probably pretended it was no big deal. So did he. Now when your stomach is upset, you feel free to tell him you're about to throw up.

When you had an argument with a close friend or your sister, you might have told him, "It really wasn't the best day, but it's getting better now that we're together." He might have smiled, taken your hand, and said, "Tell me what happened. I want to know." Now when he asks how your day was, you might just say, "Fine," and leave it at that. And he might be happy to leave it at that too.

Nobody would write that kind of dialogue into a romantic movie—unless it was a sad or serious one. But that's how married people generally talk because no one can always act adoring or keep up an air of mystery while sharing the same space with his or her spouse, year after year. Here are the truths about sex, as I've learned from years of counseling, for most married couples:

Love is constant; passion needs recharging

No surprise: Everything in the universe eventually demagnetizes when left in proximity to something of the opposite charge. Magnets do, and men and women do too. Some people fall out of lust in seven days, never mind seven years—or 17. Basic animal attraction is a force of nature that seems designed to make us mate—not mate for life. Relaxing in our marriages and freeing ourselves from the pressure of trying to impress our partners has a predictable outcome: Our partners are not impressed. The magnetic spell we once cast on them begins to lift.

Cozy is comfortable, but not sexy

To the extent that men and women become real to each other, they cease to be princes and princesses, gods and goddesses who inspire romantic fantasies or amorous worship. Since couples lucky enough to be emotionally genuine with each other share so many real moments, they need to pay special attention to creating magical ones—because great sex requires magic. I'd never suggest that a couple trade their warm, safe home life for better sex. Why keep your distance just so you can make love with abandon? I believe you can have a close marriage and recapture a good sex life—but only once you admit that reigniting romance takes creativity and a commitment of time and energy.

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