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Passionate Marriage

Experts explain what it takes to keep good sex, passion, and intimacy in your relationship.

How to Reconcile Sex and Passion With Domesticity

"It is the dilemma of modern relationships: reconciling security and adventure -- eroticism and domesticity -- in the same place," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist in New York City, and author of Mating In Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. We live decades longer than we did a century ago, long past the reproductive stage of life. And we expect to have sex and passion, both for pleasure and connection -- not just reproduction -- for the rest of our lives, too.

"Expectations are over the top. We want security and financial support, and the best friend and trusted confidant -- and a passionate lover -- all in one," Perel has observed through decades of marital counseling. So is passionate marriage impossible? "Yes, as a sustained thing. Passion ebbs and flows," Perel says.

People have the mistaken idea that if there is "sexual chemistry" then good sex doesn't take work, says Schnarch. That's simply wrong. The chemicals don't make for good sex -- nor do they get "used up," Schnarch insists. To keep passion flowing rather than ebbing away in a relationship takes work -- on yourself as an individual and work together as a couple. And the best time to start is before the flames are out.

12 Tips for Maintaining a Passionate Marriage

1. Forget the "fusion fantasy" to create a passionate marriage.

"The fusion fantasy, or what is known as the idea that 'two shall become one' is lauded as the zenith of emotional bonding -- but it is the cause of lack of intimacy and passion," says Schnarch. "We go into marriage looking for someone to complete us, and that creates all the problems," he adds.

Instead, you have to be willing to grow as an independent, mature person -- what Schnarch terms a "differentiated person" -- to have a passionate marriage ... or even to have a healthy and happy relationship as a couple. "You are more capable of an intensely intimate sexual relationship as you mature and become more differentiated," Schnarch says.

2. Pursue your separate interests to sustain a passionate marriage.

Instead of jumping into activities together to create or revitalize a passionate marriage, it may be best to start with the personal passions that made you interesting and attractive to your partner in the first place. Take a class, play an instrument, go out with your buddies to a museum -- and bring back to the marriage a fresh sense of excitement and passion.

"It is sometimes too much closeness that stifles desire, not distance between you," says Perel, "Fire needs air. Desire is about wanting -- and love is about having. Desire needs a synapse to cross ... Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex."

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