12 Jun Sexual Apathy
Angela says that she feels “sexually bored” and has decreased desire. At age 33, she says, “We have a routine. I take a shower. I go to bed in my underwear. I lay on my side. My partner rolls me over and begins to kiss me. Within a minute, my partner touches my ‘parts’ and not long after that, we’re doing ‘it’. The whole episode is done in about 15 minutes.” By no coincidence, she yawns after her last sentence. Her eyes look dull, as if she is describing how she washes and folds the laundry (which might be what she’s thinking about as they are doing “it”). How many of you share this story? How many of you can predict your partner’s moves?
Something occurs in long term relationships that often stops the evolution of sexual exploration. After awhile, you become comfortable and familiar. You begin to rely on your daily routine. This is a necessary component of a healthy relationship. We need some predictability with our partners because it creates reliability. It let’s us know, yes, my partner is dependable and here to stay. It demonstrates commitment.
However, seasoned therapists Marcia and Brian Gleason, write:
“The great paradox of long-term relationships is that, in some very important way, we actually feel less safe and experience a sense of greater danger in self-exposure. This is because our partner becomes increasingly important to us; the stakes are higher. Thus, sex is most often avoided, not because of stress, lack of time, built-up resentment, weight gain, smelly armpits, or marauding kids, but because it feels safer to sidestep all the vulnerability associated with desire. To express desire is to say you are important!”
The Gleason’s also write that the commitment of your long-term relationship lays the ground for your pleasure, excitement, conflict, risk-taking and vulnerability to grow. Your demonstrated commitment to each other frees you up to explore, get wild, go outside the box and give of yourself fully.
How does this apply to Angela? She and her partner have many healthy reliable routines in their relationship but the predictable sex feels unhealthy. She is bored and experiences unfulfilled desire. Before she talks with her partner, Angela can gain understanding of herself by answering, “Why have I shut myself down sexually?, What stopped me from stating my needs? What am I afraid of?”
Esther Perel beautifully states, “Cleverly, our bodies remember what our minds may have chosen to forget, both light and dark. Perhaps this is why our deepest fears and most persistent longings emerge in intimate sex: the immensity of our neediness, the fear of desertion, the terror of being engulfed, the yearning for omnipotence.”
After Angela explores her fears, apprehensions and anxieties in expressing her desires, she must come clean! If her relationship is to survive and her sex life to thrive, she needs to speak the truth to her partner. She must share her full experience with her partner, discuss her fears, fantasies and desires, even if they are considered taboo. No more being rolled over. No more duty sex. Together, they can build a sex life that fulfills both of them.
These conversations can feel downright scary. Reveal my deepest sexual desires and fantasies? Some people would rather have a tooth pulled. Yet it is a side of ourselves that most people do not know. Who better to share this with than our committed lovers?