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Passionate Marriage

Experts explain what it takes to keep good sex, passion, and intimacy in your relationship.
By Susan Seliger
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Cynthia Dennison Haines, MD

Don't believe the jokes you've heard about passionate marriage: "I never knew what real happiness was until I got married, and by then it was too late." Or "The longest sentence you can form with two words: 'I do.'" Max Kaufman and H.L. Mencken, while always funny, missed the mark on marriage -- at least as far as sex and passion are concerned.

Sex researchers have found that passionate marriage is alive and well; in fact, marriage is where the best and most satisfying sex is happening in America. Married couples have more sex, more varied sex (including oral sex) -- and more emotionally and physically satisfying sex -- than singles. When sex works well, it can add a great deal to how happy couples feel about their lives -- as much as a 15% to 20% increase in satisfaction, according to Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, and lead author of The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, a compendium of the most comprehensive survey data on sexual practices in the United States.

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When passionate marriage works well, it works very, very well. However, when it doesn't work well, it's awful. "When sex works badly, it can take away 50% to 70% of marital satisfaction," says Laumann.

Don't Settle for Less Than a Passionate Marriage

Yes, there is a lot at stake in trying to create or sustain a passionate marriage. But it doesn't mean your marriage is in trouble if you are feeling less passionate or if sex is less exciting than when you first met each other. That is inevitable -- infatuation fades and "sexual boredom is a given in marriage," says David Schnarch, director of the Marriage and Family Health Center in Evergreen, Colo., and author of Passionate Marriage: Sex, Love, and Intimacy in Emotionally-Committed Relationships. "Normal sex is doing the leftovers -- whatever is left over when he says he's not comfortable doing that, and she says she isn't comfortable doing the other," Schnarch explains.

But you don't have to settle for less than a passionate marriage. With careful attention and a little creativity, you can keep the home fires burning.

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