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Sex and Passion: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do sex and passion seem to fade in a marriage, even when two people love each other?
  • Answer:

    It may be the dilemma of modern relationships: reconciling security and adventure, eroticism and domesticity -- in the same place. "It is sometimes too much closeness that stifles desire, not distance between you. Fire needs air," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. And "eroticism thrives on the mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected," Perel says. So break out of your comfort zone and try something new, or a little daring -- then see what your partner does in response!

  • Do we expect too much of marriage - sex and passion forever?
  • Answer:

    "Expectations [for a passionate marriage] are over the top. We want security and financial support, and the best friend and trusted confidant, and a passionate lover -- all in one," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist and author of Mating In Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. "Sometimes our relationships crumble under the weigh of our expectations. The idea that marriage is for everything is doomed. We ask one person to do what once an entire village would provide."

  • Why do men and women often seem out of sync in sex and passion?
  • Answer:

    "I want to challenge the idea that the women want intimacy, men want sex. That is not correct," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. "Both want intimacy. Both want fun. And sex."

    "But for women, desire arises on the lattice of emotion -- female sexuality is more diffuse, more contextual, and more linked to the quality of the relationship. Women want to talk first, connect first, and then have sex. For men, sex is the connection. Sex is the language men use to express their tender, loving, vulnerable side. It is their language of intimacy."

  • Do men and women have different ideas of what a passionate marriage is?
  • Answer:

    "I hear women say in my office that desire originates much more between the ears than between the legs," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. "For women there is a need for a plot -- hence the romance novel. It is more about the anticipation, how you get there. It is the longing that is the fuel for desire. The story ends when the impossible lovers get together. Men are not big fans of the romance novel. They have less of a need for a plot."

  • Why does having a baby often dampen desire even in a previously passionate marriage?
  • Answer:

    One of the most intriguing obstacles to desire is caretaking. This can be true for both men and women, though it mostly affects women. Caretaking makes you think about others. But that makes it hard to experience the freedom and autonomy for desire.

    Desire is rooted in autonomy, freedom, and selfishness. It's about owning the wanting. If you can't be selfish you can't have orgasm -- but it is selfishness in the most positive terms. When you have good sex you are inside the other -- and inside yourself. If you can't be inside yourself, you cannot be in touch with desire and sexual pleasure.

  • What can couples do to rekindle the sex and passion in their marriage?
  • Answer:

    "Try something new," says Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.

    "Desire is numbed by repetition; eroticism thrives on the mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected," Perel says. So "flirt with your partner. Teasing and flirting to create anticipation is seductive. Flirting comes from the French fleuret -- the tip of a sword -- with which you tease about what could be. That is a massive turn on," Perel says.

    Physical activity is also a good thing to try, if you like that sort of thing. "If you hate physical exercise, I don't suggest it. But if you like it, I suggest going a step farther than when you would normally stop," Perel says.

     

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 26, 2012

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