Linda: Keeping sexual passion alive and healthy is a critical aspect in the process of sustaining an enduring and fulfilling partnership. It is the failure to do so that is a frequent factor in the breakdown of marriages.
While most of us realize that the extraordinary magic of initial infatuation wears off with time, there is little understanding of the ways in which it is possible to continually regenerate the vitality that is often lost when couples settle into the ordinary reality of daily life.
When work, child-rearing, home-making chores, and other family responsibilities dominate our attention, pushing sexual intimacy into the background, we run the risk of creating patterns that leave us feeling sexually unfulfilled, frustrated, resentful, and vulnerable to temptations outside of our primary relationship.
It is possible to keep sexual excitement alive, even in the longest of long-term relationships. There are a variety of ways to cultivate the ability to engage in sexuality as a sacred practice in which our hearts and spirits as well as our bodies are stimulated and inspired.
Many couples feel that they have to choose between ordinary or routine, which usually translates into “boring” sex with the same partner, or run the risk of jeopardizing their marriage by having affairs. Neither of these options is viable to the couple that has a partnership that is dedicated to mutual growth. Because there are few available models of couples who have elevated sexuality to an art form in which over time they experience a heightened, rather than a diminished connection in the sexual union. Most of those who have done so don’t talk about the details in public. Too few of us are even aware of the reality of this possibility.
The sexual experience can be broadened as well as deepened, regarding the focus of the erotic beyond genital contact and extending it throughout the body. The elements that make our initial sexual contacts with a new lover so compelling have to do with experiencing the excitement and aliveness that is inevitable when we encounter the unknown. We can extend the experience of the new and compelling aspects of sexuality far beyond the infatuation stages of relationship. We can illuminate patterns in which habituated tendencies may have hardened or dulled the experiential edges of our sexual enthusiasm. We can identify ways in which these patterns can be recognized and effectively dissolved.
Unconscious patterns of resistance and hidden fears and anxieties may be the source of physical and emotional blocks to more deeply connected experiences. Exploring subjective associations with sexuality that may be interfering with our ability to surrender more fully to the experience of openness and vulnerability. We can work more skillfully and sensitively with each other in creating a safe, trustworthy, and stimulating sexual environment within our relationship.
A study conducted at Dartmouth by David Blachflower in conjunction with Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwich in England, (2004. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study," Scandinavian Journal of Economics) drew on a sample of 16,000 people. They found that sex factors so strongly and positively in happiness. Those who reported no sexual activity are noticeably less happy than the average person. Greater income does not buy more sex or more sexual partners. The typical American has sexual intercourse 2-3 times a month. Married people have much more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated. The findings of the study are clear: the more sex, the happier the person. They estimate that increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by adding an additional $50,000 in yearly income for the average American.
The happiest folks are those having the most sex. A lasting marriage equates to happiness generated by getting an extra $100,000 per year. The point system that the happiness researchers use shows us that a coupe having sex four times a week has a large effect on their happiness, accounting for half of the effect of their marriage on their happiness. Both women and men in their research derive a great deal of happiness from sex, the statistics show only very slight evidence that men enjoy sex more than women.
A healthy marriage depends on a loving sexual connection. It is often the case that sex is more important to one of the pair. And that person is smart to understand that if sex is important to their partner, that it’s important to the relationship, and find a way to stretch into their world of the erotic as much as possible. Even if a low-desire partner is stretching into the higher-desire partner’s world to pick up the frequency of sexual contact that would not be enough. Their partner would sense that it was more of a going through the motions that would leave them feeling empty and dissatisfied. So to address the question of “How important is sex to a fulfilling marriage?” the answer without any reservation is “VERY.” To be truly fulfilling partnership, there must be enthusiasm. Stay tuned for some ideas about how to bring the passion level up.
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“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” —Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate.