The waxing and waning is not cause for alarm, compatibility is key, and the possibilities are endless.
We woke on opposite sides of the bed, the blinds casting slants of sunlight directly in our eyes. In the early hours our daughter had woken us both, whining and climbing over our entangled bodies to wedge herself in the middle. She lay open mouthed and dreaming now. I sat up and smiled to myself; last night had been on fire. As I gazed at the curve of my husband’s muscled shoulder, arm thrown up over his face, I thought how sex after all these years was not anything I’d been afraid it was going to be: not boring, not remote, not lacking. It was still one hell of a good time.
There are a lot of ways sex and long-term relationships can be enemies, of course, and my husband and I have had our dust bowls. No one gets out of here alive, the saying goes, and no one maintains a long-term monogamous relationship with a perfect record of sex. Personal circumstances play a huge role in the way a couple’s sex life plays out, but there are generalities that fit many of us out there at one point or another.
Sexual Compatibility Is About Your Beliefs
Sexual compatibility isn’t just about how “hot” the sex (initially) is; it’s also about your mutual understanding of the level of importance of sex in a relationship, your shared understanding of what you each owe each other, and your hope for what the future looks like. Some people feel that sex can never be “owed” to another person, that in fact that very idea is unhealthy. Others—like my husband and I—look at it as a biological necessity and a practical way of maintaining a happy relationship. We’d never force sex on one another, and of course we can say no, but we both believe that long dry spells aren’t good for us as a couple, and we act on that premise. We have the same idea about how we want our future as a couple to look, sexually (as in, we don’t see sex becoming less relevant) and that gives us both a feeling of security that, for 13 years now, has played out.
The Wow Factor Does Wax and Wane
Life interferes with all our plans: our plans to sleep, plans for dinner, plans for what we will accomplish, and sex. No matter how hot your sex life is, inevitably, life interferes, and your yes becomes meh. Illness, loss, family troubles, a bad mood—sometimes you just go through spells where you aren’t feeling it.
As Abigail Burd, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker in San Diego, California says, “It is easy for couples in long-term relationships to miss the sex they had in the hot and wild beginning. Part of the excitement early on is the drama of not knowing if the other person really wants you. For most of us in happy long-term relationships, we are secure in our knowledge that our partner wants to stay together, but it can come at a cost in the bedroom. “
For my husband and I, accepting that our sexual mood is a thing of flux helps take the pressure out of the equation. This allows plenty of space for your lust for life to rebound. The way we’ve dealt with the boredom that day-to-day life can bring is to allow space for it, not give it too much weight (why stress over what’s perfectly normal?) and simply keep exploring. Luckily, sex can be reinvented between two people, over and over.
Sexuality Is an Endless Spectrum
Of course, this isn’t just true for people in long-term relationships, but what makes it significant for couples of many years is that knowing that sexuality is a much broader spectrum than most of us imagine, and exploring that spectrum increases your odds of a continuing hot sex life. Role playing, women-friendly pornography, nudist camps, sensual massage, the Kama Sutra—there are endless options to explore over the years.
Sensuality is part of sexuality, and finding new ways to become more sensual can heighten sex. Sting and his wife Trudie Styler have famously practiced tantric sex, for instance. This may not be for you, but the point is that there’s something is for you, and finding out what it is along with your partner can be exciting as hell. When intimacy combines with a new aspect of your sexuality, the thrill is not gone. It’s just begun.