10 Ways to Hold His Interest Forever

September 16, 2009

She'll Take OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark

She'll Take OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even though his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”

Rebecca – age 8

Congrats, you’ve reeled in the big fish! He’s hot, he’s available, and he is definitely very interested. You’ve gotten under his skin and inside his head. You are giddy with it. When he kisses you, you get that “bottom dropping out” feeling. You think about him a thousand times a day. You have never, ever felt this way before. It is perfect.

You want things to stay this way forever, but you know they won’t. Throughout history, the greatest love stories have often ended tragically. Love that burns with a white hot heat tends to flame out. Could Cathy and Heathcliff have ever been happy together? Doubt it. Would Romeo have loved Juliet when she was 40, perhaps missing a few teeth? Or would he still be jonesing for fourteen year-olds? How to you make it through that “crazy in love” phase and emerge with a real relationship rather than the ashes of spent passion? How do you build something that will last, perhaps even a lifetime?

Next week, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary. Yikes. He’s a keeper, for sure. I won’t bore you with all the usual suggestions about how to make a relationship last, sensible though they may be:

  • Never go to bed angry.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Communicate.
  • Set aside time for the two of you.

You can get that stuff everywhere else, in books, magazines, and a thousand different sites online. It’s all true, and important. But I’ve learned some things along the way that have made my married life more enjoyable; better than average, I’d say. Here are the 10 reasons I believe my husband is still crazy about me after all these years:

1. The most important sex organ is the brain.

In the beginning lust is all you need but, over time, the hot sex comes out of friendship and the emotional connection you’ve established. You’ve got to get your brains involved, no two ways about it.

  • Talk about the things that are important to you.
  • Ensure compatibility in your interests, your values, your priorities, and your senses of humor.
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree and debate.

It’s the brain that falls in love, it happens entirely above the waist.

2. Don’t analyze him, ever.

Go with your gut every single time.

  • He’s acting weird.
  • Who is that girl who wrote on his wall?
  • He didn’t text back right away.

Just stop. If there’s a problem you’ll find out soon enough. If something’s missing, you probably already know it if you’re being honest with yourself. Analyzing guys’ behavior is really an attempt to reassure ourselves, and as such it is notoriously inaccurate. It taints everything because it changes your behavior. Which then changes his behavior, and before you know it, you’ve thrown things off with your neurotic obsessing. And asking friends for advice? Doesn’t work, because if they love you they tell you what you want to hear.

3. Maintain your independence.

This is perhaps the most important advice I can give any woman.

  • Protect your alone time. What, you don’t want any alone time? Yes you do, because that is just pathetic.
  • Invest time and energy in your other friendships.
  • Cultivate your own interests.

No matter how in love you are, you need to know that if you were alone again, you would be FINE. You have a life, and he is a part of it. He is not your everything. We all know those women who are so gaga that we say, “Boy, if he effs it up she’ll be CRUSHED.” Don’t give anyone cause to say that about you.

4. Forfeit control of him.

Get control of yourself. You cannot change him. You can’t control events, but you can control your responses and actions. Conduct yourself with dignity and grace. If he screws up, let him know, clearly and calmly. If he keeps doing it, he’s trying to tell you he doesn’t care enough. Let him be who he is, and that may turn out to be someone who loves you.

5. Hold back a bit.

Never surrender every part of yourself to any man. This is related to maintaining independence, but it’s more than that. When you share everything you’re thinking, you rapidly become boring. You want him to be filled with wonder. Wonder that you’ve chosen him, and wonder about who you are, down deep. Wonder about what you’re thinking, and what you’ll do next. The two of you are not meant to become one. You are meant to be a separate, functioning human being with private thoughts.

6. Be prepared for the tough times.

There will be times when he’s incredibly annoying. Or difficult. For months at a time. You will be fine, but something in his life will suck. You’ll be supportive and loving, but over time you’ll want to say, “Enough already!” You will find him unattractive, maybe even repulsive. You won’t be able to stand the sound of his breathing. Ride it out. Look for the moments when he is his real, old self. No matter how disconnected I feel from my husband emotionally sometimes, I love the way he looks when he heads out to work. So spiffy and British looking. (His mantra is Dress British, Think Yiddish.) Focus on those moments and they will get you through.

7. Understand that you will have lots of sex when you don’t want to.

Yes, you have the right to say no. Use it sparingly. Once when I was sick, my husband started in with the spooning, and I said, “Don’t even think of parking here.” (He cracked up.) Right now, you both want to have sex all the time. That can last for years. But seriously? Men want sex all the time, forever! They want it when they have a fever, or a backache or when you wear anything other than a flannel nightgown to bed. No, I take that back. They even want it when you look like a grandma. They want it more than you don’t want it. So have it, pretty much all the time. Oh, and do try to muster up some enthusiasm, but not so much that he’ll want to keep going all night, zzzzzzzzzzz.

8. Go crazy with the compliments.

We all need positive feedback, but men are like little kids. They are so easy to please, just by letting them know how much you appreciate them.

  • He didn’t just grill dinner, he produced the best grilled fish you’ve ever had in your life.
  • It’s Sunday morning and he looks so sexy doing the crossword puzzle.
  • He made an effort with your friends, and you were incredibly proud to introduce him and show him off.
  • It’s amazing how musical he is; he knows more about music than anyone you’ve ever met.

We all want to feel special, and it is such an easy gift to bestow on someone!

9. Be the Yin to his Yang.

Your partnership is 50/50 overall. But when you look at each area of your relationship, it might be 90/10 or 40/60 in some ways.

  • He gets nervous traveling, so you’ve got the logistics under control.
  • He’s a bit reserved with new people, so you make a special effort to bring him out of himself in social situations.
  • He’s brilliant, but not political, so you give him your take on what’s really going on at the office.
  • He loves baseball, so you learn the language of trades and ERAs and who’s on the DL.

That’s the way it should be. He’s doing the same for you, and it all evens out in the end.

10. Keep growing.

  • Challenge yourself.
  • Do new things.
  • Be memorable.
  • Read.
  • Learn about the world around you, so that you will have interesting things to think about and discuss. Doesn’t matter whether it’s health care reform or the latest romantic comedy.
  • Make room for interesting people in your life, and let go of the toxic friendships that make you feel diminished.
  • Take chances.

It’s easy to get boring. Same old, same old. Don’t let that happen, you’ll have time to be boring when you’re dead. If you’re lucky, you’ll be remembered even then as a character who left her mark on the lives of others.

Girls, did I leave out something that’s worked for you? Guys, is this what you want in a relationship?

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  • Rebekah

    I think a big one is BE NICE!! or BE KIND!! When my ex and I were going through our divorce I asked him once what his biggest gripe was about me, and he said “You weren't very nice.” Ouch!

    The simple act of just being nice and kind can change someones whole demeanor. Even when things are starting to get heated or he had left his underwear on the bathroom floor…again, you don't have to get nasty and mean. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

  • susanawalsh

    I agree, that's major. It seems like common sense but I suspect it's a VERY common complaint. I give you enormous credit for asking him that, though. And for being willing to think about his answer.

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  • http://FT.com/ VJ

    Just some more random thoughts & comments on the same subject from another 'long married'. I do agree Rebekah above. It's a good start. Now here's my take on all of this: (SW is in “quotes', my comments below that):

    1. “The most important sex organ is the brain”.

    Yes. And you're all in Big trouble for this one too. No 2 brains ever work quite alike. Not hardly. You may imagine they do. You may desperately want them to do so. But they really don't. And it's often not even close. This is why clear & consistent communication is essential. Like talking to the dog actually… Repetition is your friend. No really! If we all treated each other as well as we treated our treasured pets? Humanity would come out ahead in the end. By country miles too.

    “In the beginning lust is all you need but, over time, the hot sex comes out of friendship and the emotional connection you’ve established. You’ve got to get your brains involved, no two ways about it.”

    The hotter sex? Comes when your brains are 'lesser involved' too. Ditto for some of the kids too BTW. This is where the drinking plays a part also.

    “Talk about the things that are important to you.
    Ensure compatibility in your interests, your values, your priorities, and your senses of humor.
    Don’t be afraid to disagree and debate”.

    Yeah, cause they'll be Plenty of time to disagree & debate too. No, Really!

    “It’s the brain that falls in love, it happens entirely above the waist”.

    Fine. But if it's not happening 'below the waist'? We've got to be able seek other venues. Just saying…

    2. “Don’t analyze him, ever”.

    I'm sorry, this is constitutionally Impossible for anyone with at least 2 X

    “Go with your gut every single time.”

    Well most of the time, maybe.

    “He’s acting weird”.

    Because maybe he just IS weird. Period. Get used to it. It won't stop. Not now, not ever, most likely. Sorry about that!

    3. “Maintain your independence”.

    “This is perhaps the most important advice I can give any woman”.

    Sure. Because no matter how in love you are now? Statistically, you're still more likely to spend most of your life single or 'uncoupled', again according to the US Census.

    4. “Forfeit control of him”.


    5. “Hold back a bit”.

    Never hold back your love or loving concern however. That's critical.

    6. “Be prepared for the tough times”.

    THINK ABOUT, ANTICIPATE & PLAN FOR THE TOUGH TIMES! This is the single greatest failure of adulthood today. And it's not hard to do either. All you have to do is be able to listen, be aware of your surroundings, read up on what's going on, and be able & willing to act accordingly, and sometimes quickly too. It can and will save your life sometime! It saved us a bundle by being Out of the market when it crashed.

    7. “Understand that you will have lots of sex when you don’t want to.

    Yes, you have the right to say no. Use it sparingly.”

    Really good advice here. Know also that you'll also Not have lots of sex when you Want to sometimes. For many different reasons too perhaps.

    8. “Go crazy with the compliments”.

    “We all need positive feedback, but men are like little kids. They are so easy to please, just by letting them know how much you appreciate them”.

    YES! And this is true for Everyone! Man, woman & beast. There's a mathematical formula for it too. Pay at Least 5 compliments or 'goodin's to the spouse for every one Downer or Neutral comment. That works. Clinically proven too.

    “We all want to feel special, and it is such an easy gift to bestow on someone!”

    Again it'll work on Anyone, and it's always good to remember this simple 'good' fact.

    9. “Be the Yin to his Yang”.

    “Your partnership is 50/50 overall. But when you look at each area of your relationship, it might be 90/10 or 40/60 in some ways”.

    Sure, but this can be a bit changeable for different occasions & situations too. And sometimes that needs to be recognized instantly between you also.

    10. “Keep growing”.

    No need to remind anyone of this. Statistically, you'll be gaining 10lbs a decade (if you're lucky to be only 'average'), so really? You're growing all the damn time. Hon.

    “Be memorable”.

    Please. Do not tell a spouse to BE or Become this. They Are nor Are Not. Becoming memorable Alone? Not typically to be recommended. Skilful at conversation? Perhaps. Skilled at the arts? Certainly. Memorable? Not quite cracked up to what it used to be!

    Some possible additions I'd suggest:

    11.) Try to tell the truth when & where possible. The people you love? Need the truth as you humbly see it and offer it for their appraisal. Not 'nagging' or 'harping', but gently & sparingly where needed. Again, sometimes an honest assessment of the situation at hand is positively essential to the operation. As in 'No Hon, we cannot and should not ford that stream in our sedan. We'll have to turn around'. Or 'No Billy, you cannot and should not jump off that roof into the pool'. Or 'I'm really not comfortable here, we need to go, now'. And yes, this can be simple & quite complex too. 'The market is Nuts right now, nothings making sense, it's a Huge speculative bubble and we're really not safe in it'. The wife heard this regularly for the past oh, 5 years. It worked & saved us.

    12.) Never give up trying to communicate important needs, wants, desires, dreams or aspirations. Or even on simple everyday matters. Sometimes it takes awhile to 'get through'. Or to be fully understood. It may take years in fact if we're unskilled or just haphazardly unlucky. This is why Patience & effort will & should pay off in the end.

    13.) Sometimes the world is not redeemed by love. Sad but true. Sometimes love just is not enough. Sometimes this is hard to recognize, but you'll need help, and you'll perhaps need to get it from someone outside too. Often this has to do with a crisis of some sort involving Medical, Money, or Legal issues that are out of your immediate control & beyond your ability to cope with. Never be afraid to ask for help to endure & overcome these often tragic & unfortunate circumstances. Never think you struggle alone with your troubles.

    14.) Never be afraid of expressing your love & appreciation for your partner. In every way & venue you can, for as long as you can & as much as you're able with all your heart & spirit. If they are worthy of this, it will be returned in kind, if not more so. Life's short, this is one of the good parts. Enjoy it while you can!

    But all good thoughts here and very insightful. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

  • susanawalsh

    Awesome advice from another veteran! Thanks for all the good thoughts.

  • hambydammit

    I have nothing to add. Great post!

  • susanawalsh

    Yay, high praise from a tough customer! 😉

  • Anni

    I like this post and my favorites are the ones about maintaining independence and continued growth, but I'm not happy with number 7. It may be reality, but I don't like it. So, okay, he will want it all the time. But is there something that can be done so that she will want it too? That she would actually be enthusiastic about it, forever?

  • susanawalsh

    Anni, this is a tricky point. Obviously, I am speaking from my own experience here, and everyone is different. My internist once told me that many of her women patients are disappointed that their husbands are no longer interested in sex. Stress and depression both dampen the libido, for example.

    I do believe that from an evolutionary standpoint, men are more compelled to have sex, and women are more selective about having sex. That doesn't mean we aren't enthusiastic. I'm still enthusiastic (blush) but there are nights when I'd rather sleep or read a novel, or watch a movie. I think that most men would give up those things most of the time for some booty.

  • Anni

    Susan, the problem I have is that my own experience confirms what you seem to be saying: that over time the interest to have sex with your long term partner diminishes. Maybe it happens more often to women than men, maybe not. My question is, how do you cope with it?

    In the circumstances where one partner wants more sex than the other, I guess using the right to say no sparigly, helps to maintain the relationship. But at what cost to that person? I think the cost in some relationships is higher than others. Is it about choosing the right partner or is there something else one can do?

    And maybe monogamy just isn't for everyone like one article (http://www.thesite.org/sexandrelationships/coup…) suggests? I found the part about natural variation quite interesting. I am not trying to say that having several partners is the solution, just there could be different answers for different people. (And I do remember from an earlier disussion that you weren't particularly supportive of polyamory. I just find this topic interesting and to be honest, still don't know what to think of it.)

  • susanawalsh

    Let me try to explain this a bit more. I think over time, that “gotta have it right now” feeling does diminish, that crazy “in lust” feeling mellows into something else. But that something else is wonderful too. It's incredibly wonderful to know someone that well, and to know what pleases them. There are fewer surprises and discoveries, but there is enormous intimacy and acceptance. I think it's just the nature of human beings, it's not a matter of choosing the right partner. After 25 years, the sex is not going to be like it was when we were in our 20s. I do still have the hots for my husband after 25 years, though.

    Re polyamory, I have to say it is definitely not for me. I am a monogamist through and through. However, I don't presume to know what is right for other people. What I object to most is how hip and fashionable it's become in the media. That, and also how feminists are spending time and resources promoting alternative sex practices, when they could be doing work for women that I think is more important. Instead of having celebratory sex worker carnivals on college campuses, how about working to end child sex trafficking? But that's just my personal opinion.

    In any case, I do encourage you to explore what might be right for you. There are many accounts out there of couples thriving in open relationships.

  • hambydammit

    Someone said evolution. I heard it across the interwebs. There are two effects at work in long term monogamous relationships. Women and men have different evolutionary goals for sex. Men are fertile pretty much until they die, and every time they have sex, it's theoretically possible that they're increasing their genetic legacy. Thus, whether it's the same partner or not, we would expect that men would always want sex.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. You know how I say over and over that humans aren't built for long term monogamy? The Coolidge Effect is a prime example of this. Across damn near every species tested, males show continuously high sexual performance and interest — provided there's a steady stream of *new partners.* Humans are no exception. Male interest and performance in sex diminishes steadily with one partner. Incidentally, a return to an old partner tends to generate the same “old flame” given enough time and/or partners in between. Thus, we often see the couple that breaks up, tries other people, and keeps coming back together saying it's “just like old times.”

    Females have a limited reproductive window, and once they have reproduced, they turn a great deal of their attention towards childrearing. There is so much physical energy invested by a female that she cannot afford to flippantly toss off her childrearing duties. Each pregnancy is, for all intents and purposes, one to two years of her reproductive window closed off because of one sexual encounter. Furthermore, women's reproductive viability drops off sharply in their late 30s, right around the time most first marriages are hitting their tenth anniversary (if they made it that far).

    The point is there are good reasons on both sides why partners lose interest in the “same old same old” after time. For men, they're literally squandering opportunities to increase their genetic heritage. For women, the biological need for sex decreases sharply.

    It's interesting to note that where monogamy has been enforced, prostitution has been the most popular. In England during the Victorian Era, men hung out at brothels the way they hang out at pubs today. There was a wink-wink nudge-nudge acceptance of the fact that married men used prostitutes. The wealthy went to brothels while the poor snuck around back alleys, but most men did it. Wealthy Japanese men have always managed to have attractive young live-in housecleaners. In Greek and Roman records, it's remarkable how the price of young female slaves rivaled or exceeded that of strong young men, even though slave work was brutal and physically demanding.

    So I say all that to say, yeah… keeping monogamous sex interesting is a challenge, and yes, you're fighting against your biology. That isn't to say it's wrong to do so. Biology doesn't have right or wrong. It's just saying that you have to make your choices. We can generally get anything we want, but it's almost impossible to get everything we want.

    Anni, one of my suggestions for dealing with diminishing unequal sex drives is to try to take sex off of any pedestals you might have it set upon. Yes, it's amazing when it's perfect, and it's an incredibly intimate shared experience, but sometimes, it's just fucking to get your rocks off. Sometimes, it's just stress relief. Many women think of sex as a gift to their husband. (They're also the first women to divorce court, incidentally.) If you've committed to a monogamous sexual relationship, I think it's important to get over that idea very quickly. As Susan said, yes, you're a human with your own rights, but if you expect your husband to stay faithful and interested, you have to put out most of the time when he wants it. It doesn't demean anyone to do something that increases and maintains a relationship.

    Of course, it goes the other way. Men ought to be held to the same standard. Obviously, men have certain… um… prerequisites to being physically able to have sex, and it's harder for us to fake it when we're not into it, but we still have tongues and fingers, and we can drive dildos as well as you can (with some practice).

    Here's another thing for both men and women — sexual unpredictability. Most of what drives the Coolidge Effect is genetic novelty, but we humans can fool ourselves with our brains sometimes. The women I've known who were most successful at keeping men interested were the ones who took it upon themselves to stay unpredictable and interesting sexually. If your man knows you don't like afternoon sex because it interrupts your routine, shock him by going to him at the office, or whatever, and give him a blowjob right in the middle of the afternoon… just because. When you go out of town, wear something you'd never wear in town. Tease him, then don't tease him when he expects it. Then, when he's given up, tease him again. (I mean sexual teasing, of course.)

    Finally, you mentioned polyamory, and even though it's not Susan's bag, it's worth looking at the easiest possible solutions in this realm. The Bunny Ranch is legal. They are regularly tested for STDs and have papers to prove it. They make a lot of money for what they do, but you get a lot in return. Your man gets to mess around with a new woman, and you know she's not going to call him or try to steal him from you. You can watch if you want. Better yet, you can help. Very few men in their right mind are going to turn down a double blow job. I'm not saying it's definitely a good idea, but this kind of thing is not nearly as rare as you might think.

    If you have any bisexual tendencies, maybe a threesome is in order. It can be soft (no sex) or all the way, but the point is, you're tapping into a man's genes to awaken his sex drive. Now, I have to say that even with my guarded suggestion that some form of mild poly might help, I need to stress that bringing new people into the mix sexually is NEVER, EVER, EVER a solution for a non-sexual problem that already exists. In other words, if you're not having sex because of something non-sexual — money, religion, children, etc — adding another level of complication is not going to help. These kinds of things are for people who are otherwise very happy, but just want some sexual spice.

    In short, the reason variety works so well between monogamous couples is that men in particular crave variety. They want lots of different sexual partners, but you can approximate that effect by literally becoming several different partners. Be a slut. Be a debutante. Be a porn star. Be a girl next door. Dominate. Submit. Keep him guessing. It's literally not the same as letting him have lots of partners, but if you're going to be monogamous, you have to be comfortable with the fact that you're going to have to replace lots of women. That's a tall task, but it's worth knowing that's what you're up against.

  • hambydammit

    Hmm… Susan, I just reread your post, and am wondering what sex trafficking has to do with celebrating voluntary sex work. That's like saying we shouldn't promote construction work so long as slaves are made to work construction somewhere in the world.

  • susanawalsh

    No, I didn't mean to conflate the two issues. It just so happens that both have to do with women providing sex for money. What I mean to say, as someone who came of age in the time of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, is that there are many rights women can choose to fight for. There are plenty of bread and butter issues here in the U.S., and their are many global issues around health as well. Sex trafficking is one example, genital mutilation another. Not to mention women getting stoned to death for adultery in some countries, or murdered by family in “honor killings” after having been raped. There's a very long list of important issues we can and should attend to. So the Women's Group on campus spending one whole semester planning a week-long sex worker carnival seems tragic, even immoral to me. (Like they do at William and Mary each year.) Why on earth should we be celebrating porn stars or sex workers? With taxpayer dollars! Give me a break! Sex-positive feminism caters to entitled, bored, selfish women. Yeah, I'm a liberated female, so I can choose to let you asphyxiate me and give a mind-blowing orgasm. Can you really claim that should be a top priority? If you have a look around, at sites like feministing.com, the worst conceivable thing a woman could endure is a heteronormative lifestyle.

  • hambydammit

    I'm not familiar with these week long carnivals, and I would certainly object to tax dollars being spent on such a thing — not because of the content, but because I don't want to spend my tax money on anybody else's carnival, no matter what it's celebrating. I don't think that's the government's job.

    I guess the way I look at it is this: Some people try to do good by increasing good. Some people try to do good by decreasing bad. Both are necessary, if you ask me. There are so many things that are bad in the world, we could spend our life finding fault with practically everyone on the planet for not doing enough to end this or that atrocity.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that if feminists want to celebrate autoasphyxiation orgasms and porn workers, I give them full blessing, as long as it's being funded by people who would like to celebrate such things. If asked, I'm pretty sure most of those folks have some evil they are committed to eradicating, and I'm not going to judge them just because it's not the flip side of something they like to celebrate.

  • susanawalsh

    Fair enough. Different strokes for different folks, and that applies to both political causes and sex, I suppose. There's room enough for all of us to do our thing. I confess, I am a tad defensive – I've had some negative feedback and backlinking from advocates of sex-positivity, who see my view of relationships as regressive for women. But that's my problem – it takes a thick skin to be a blogger, as you know!

  • Anni

    Thak you, Susan.

    Hamby, I'm not one of those who thinks sex is a gift to my partner. I think it is a gift to both me and my partner. I want to want him, but what do I do if I don't? Of course I can – as recommended above – just do it anyway when he wants. If it happens once in a while, then it's fine I guess. I'm not saying that a woman should never ever have sex unless she really wants it. I think it's perfectly okay to do it when he just wants it more than she doesn't. But what concerns me is that this seems to be aggravating situation. First, you don't have this crazy “in lust” feeling any more, then you just do it because he wants it more than you don't, what next? It just seems that only having sex which I don't really want in order to maintain the realtionship, would be missing out a lot. I love this crazy “in lust” feeling. This doesn't mean that I don't want this intimacy and acceptance that Susan described and which comes later. But is it possible to have both?

    The following is in response to what you said about variety. I recently spoke to one of my guy friend who is in a very happy relationship. He said, like you did, that in his opinion, humans are not meant for monogamy. He told me that even though he doesn't want to, he still is probably going to cheat on his partner one day. I asked why and his main reason was variety. I pointed out that it's possible to create variety with his partner. He replied, “Yes, but it's not the same.” I guess for some people, even though it's not the same, it will be enough. And for others it's not enough.

  • hambydammit

    Anni, I totally get where you're coming from. There are two different situations we're talking about here. First, one partner has a lower sex drive than the other, and wants it less, but when they do want it, the lust and “magic” is still there to some degree or another. The other is where one partner has lost most or all of the lust, and is simply fulfilling a contract by putting out.

    If you're totally “out of lust” with your man, you've got to answer some hard questions. Two people can maintain close “special friendships,” including marriage, without sexual chemistry, but it's foolhardy to think that either or both of you won't find someone who does push the buttons at some point. Are you so attached to the other stuff that you could be in a semi-platonic relationship, with the understanding that any extracurricular activity would be safe, discreet, and just about sex? If you're not, and you don't feel like you could handle him cheating… well, you've answered your own question. (Susan would say you already knew the answer to this question, and she'd be right.)

    There are married couples who know the sexual relationship is over but maintain the contract out of friendship, comfort, financial expediency, or other reasons. I know a couple right now who does this. She's told him his sex life is his own, so long as he doesn't embarrass her or flaunt it in front of her. They've got a business together, a house neither of them wants to lose, and lots of intricate financial intertwinings. (I'm suddenly thinking of Bill and Hillary Clinton for some reason…) It doesn't make sense for them to get divorced, and frankly, she doesn't care anymore if he's doing someone else. She doesn't want him, but they're still quite valuable to each other, and still “like” each other. They just don't have sexual love or lust anymore.

    I'm going out on a limb and guessing that you're not at that place. I don't know how old you are or how long you've been together, but the tone of your posts sounds like you're missing something beyond just sexual desire. That's just my guess.

    As for the variety thing — no. One person doing lots of interesting thing is not the same as multiple partners. Anyone who claims otherwise is selling something. However, it's an effective way to stave off wanderlust when the temperature gauge has gone down a few notches, but there's still plenty of heat. It's not an instant solution to a dead sex life. By the same token, getting a Bunny Ranch girl isn't either. Both of these things are pick-me-ups for otherwise healthy but slightly stagnant relationships. The harsh reality is that sexual chemistry is very hard to regain once it's lost. The Coolidge Effect that I mentioned only works with distance. In other words, sometimes the way to get somebody back is to let them go now.

    There are no easy answers. It's hard being monogamous, but it's hard trying to be something else, too.

  • Anni

    Hamby, you are right, I already have an answer. I have been posting with my last long term realtionship in mind. That relationship ended a few months ago, and my low sexual interest in him had a lot to do with it. In that relationship, towards the end, I used to have lots of sex when I didn't really want to. It was a bit draining and no amount of talking about it helped, but I still didn't act until I finally met someone who does totally push my buttons and that's when I realised what I had been missing. But it wasn't always like that in my last relationship. In the beginning it was completely different, I used to want him pretty much all the time. Somewhere along the way that changed. I think the real question that I'm trying to answer is why did I lose interest and how to avoid that from happening in the future with someone else. And I thought that trying to learn from someone in a happy long-term relationship would be a good idea.

  • susanawalsh

    Anni, I'll just reiterate that losing interest in sex with a person altogether is very different than having sex less frequently over time with a person you love. When you've been together a short while, even a few years, the sex may be a primary focus.

    Spending 25 years with someone you love is altogether different. Love grows and changes, becomes more familiar. Less lusty, perhaps, but the desire is still very real. I'll tell you one thing: there's no way you're going to grow old with a man and be ruled by your libido throughout. I value many aspects of my relationship with my husband; sex is one of them. And I know he feels the same way. But when you've been in the trenches with someone that long, raising children, weathering career crises, caring for elderly parents, and all the rest of it, lolling about in bed all weekend is just not in the cards. And that's OK. Nothing's missing, it feels perfectly right.

    Expecting sexual tension to remain ratcheted up for many years is unrealistic, and I believe it sets you up for certain disappointment.

  • bblove

    Ah Susan, it's like you said everything I want to say … It seems so simple, but it works. I'm in a new relationship and I'm finding the very best and smartest thing is to seem busy and happy when we're not together. I don't bombard him with text messages when we're both going through our days and on the nights we don't spend time together, I make sure he knows I'm still busy and happy … be it yoga, watching a movie with my dog next to me, going for a run, having dinner with a friend. Independence is necessary. You don't want the person you're dating to think you spend each night waiting for his or her call. And it also means if it doesn't work out, you won't suddenly have a huge hole in your life. In this new relationship this has worked wonders for me in dealing with a man who has never been in a real, serious relationship and is a bit guarded. Once I casually asked what he didn't want in a relationship and he said: “A dependent.” Yep … And just between you and me, if I did end up spending the night on the couch watching The Rachel Zoe Project and waiting to hear from him, I make something up 😉

  • susanawalsh

    bblove, will you be my poster child? I give you sooo much credit. What you're doing is really smart and really hard. NOT giving is very, very difficult for generous people. Also, I love it that you asked him what he didn't want – that's brilliant. Talk about cutting to the chase. You learned much of what you needed to about him in that two word answer. I think it's great that you have your eyes wide open about his past experience, and that you get it that he is guarded. You're dealing with a skittish colt, taking one small step at a time. Re the white lies, duh! No woman in her right mind would fess up staying in and waiting for a call. Altho, I gotta say, you and that dog of yours are unbelievably cute on the couch – he might really like that visual.

  • susanawalsh

    bblove, will you be my poster child? I give you sooo much credit. What you're doing is really smart and really hard. NOT giving is very, very difficult for generous people. Also, I love it that you asked him what he didn't want – that's brilliant. Talk about cutting to the chase. You learned much of what you needed to about him in that two word answer. I think it's great that you have your eyes wide open about his past experience, and that you get it that he is guarded. You're dealing with a skittish colt, taking one small step at a time. Re the white lies, duh! No woman in her right mind would fess up staying in and waiting for a call. Altho, I gotta say, you and that dog of yours are unbelievably cute on the couch – he might really like that visual.

  • bblove

    men get claustrophobia. it's why so many are scared of marriage.

    it's like being trapped in an elevator — it isn't that the elevator is so terrible, it's the idea that they might not be able to get out.

    i would love to be your poster child. 15 years of dating, i think i almost, maybe have it.

  • susanawalsh

    I agree about the claustrophobia. And the only way around it is to do exactly what you are doing. Demonstrate in the relationship that there are plenty of windows and doors allowing him to go in and out. That's where the “Forfeit control of him.” is essential!

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  • susanawalsh

    Hey, max191, thanks for the feedback! Please come back again – or feel free to subscribe.

  • RANA

    I am engaged n getting married soon, the article is beneficial. Thank you.

  • Stephanie

    Whoa there, gals. There is no thing to support the claim that sex and sensuality decline in quality or quantity with the passage of time.

    Starting a relationship at 30, now 58, I can tell you we are hotter than ever and as in lust with each other as ever. To make it better, we have cultivated a relationship where we have a daily menu, can dynamically flow from giving and taking to pure f*g to gentle intimacy to passionate lovemaking to cuddling and back again with hugs and giggles, too, sometimes all in one session. We still look for opportunities for quickies, plan time together, and have developed a list (almost a book, actually) of our own techniques.

    Our relationship has had lots of ups and downs, but our promise to be there for each other physically and sexually has been an anchor that has been our salvation on several occasions. We have talked about starting seminars and writing a book (Or more)… but let me just assure you that our depth and breadth of love and lust is even better than it was during the first fireworks in the beginning.