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5 Pieces of Advice for Maintaining a Monogamous Relationship Without Going Crazy or Dying of Boredom

Many claim to have the secret to lasting passion -- but who has it right?

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Put sex on the calendar

So unsexy, I know, but it’s reality. As Perel found in interviewing what she calls “erotic couples,” they all share an understanding that “passion waxes and wanes.” As she explains in her TED talk, “They have de-mystified one big myth, which is the myth of spontaneity, which is that it’s just gonna fall from heaven while you’re folding the laundry like a deus ex machina.” It doesn’t — and often enough it requires planning. “Committed sex is premeditated sex,” she says. “It’s willful. It’s intentional.”

As sex therapist Marty Klein once told me in an interview, “When we’re young, we don’t have to develop the skill of planning for sex, of being patient, of waiting for when it’s going to be the right time … How many 40-year-olds who have any sort of a life do anything spontaneously? I mean, look at you and I, we wanted to have a conversation and we had to plan it. We didn’t say, you know, when you’re in the mood, give me a call.” In other words, you shouldn’t necessarily wait for the mood to strike.

“Eyes-open sex”

Many couples have sex in the dark — either with the lights off or behind tightly closed lids — but Schnarch recommends going into it with your eyes open, literally. This “is not simply a matter of two pairs of eyeballs staring at each other,” he writes, “but a way to intensify the mutual awareness and connection begun during foreplay; to really ‘see’ and ‘be seen’ is an extension of feeling and being felt when touching one another.” This can be terrifying, he says, but “bravely pursuing eyes-open sex in spite of these misgivings helps couples not only learn to tolerate more intimacy, it increases differentiation — it requires a degree of inner calm and independent selfhood to let somebody see what’s inside your head without freaking out.”

“Candor and caring”

Journalist Daniel Bergner spent several  years investigating female desire, and the lack thereof, for his book, “What Do Women Want?” So when I interviewed him for Salon, I asked for the wisdom he’d gleaned from his investigation and he offered this: “The simple thing is, I sometimes think we have to be a little braver about just caring more. Caring, and being open about caring about sex, with one’s long-term partner sounds like it should be easy, but I think often it’s not because you can fail and you can feel hurt. And so I do think that candor and caring are important and then signing up to welcome distance back into relationships might well be the root to maintaining passion.”

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There you have it, five not-so-simple tips. So to the reader who wrote me: I too would like to “do a little bit to help relationships last,” just so long as it doesn’t involve personally abstaining from sex for nearly two weeks. But if it works for you, a very genuine, “Mazel tov.”

 

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow@tracyclarkflory on Twitter.

 
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