Maybe you’re sitting across the table from your significant other right now. You look up, catch his/her eye, and wish to all that is holy that you had that spark back. You know, that one from the early days of your relationship — when everything was sparkly and new and passionate and felt absolutely amazing.
Join the club.
Perform a random survey of married or committed couples, and you’ll find that a relationship that feels turbo-charged-with-passion every single day is what they’ll report they want.
But do they? Really?
Recent studies of sexual frequency indicate that for all our talk about sex in this country, the actual number of sexual encounters with a spouse is growing smaller over the past few decades. Some theories offered to explain this give a nod to the ever-widening entertainment choices we have: "Honey, normally I'd want to have a romantic interlude with you, but have you seen this kitty video on YouTube?"
The long and short of it, I believe, is this: Many of us actually prefer something far more predictable, dull and less fatiguing. Setting honest and realistic expectations may be the way to get to the core of the problem, and that can only be accomplished through honest communication. But it often depends on how you frame it.
Here’s an example from the dating realm: I once knew a wise woman with a terminal case of wanderlust who used to ask men she dated if they liked to travel. Every one of those boys said, "Yes, I love to travel!" But that response never jived with reality. Over time, she learned to ask, "Where have you traveled in the last few years?" Invariably the answer was a blank stare.
I want to think all of us could learn a lesson from her. Asking if someone interested in you wants a "passionate, smoldering hot romance" is almost guaranteed to get you a "Yes, please!" But remember that oftentimes, people want a married sex life that is "regularly predictable and convenient." Nothing wrong with wanting what you want.
Taking the “meh” out of marriage, therefore, may involve something our parents told us for years: Use your words. As unromantic as it may sound, I believe we should be conducting intentional interviews with our partners. We have to ask them what they felt was missing in their last relationships, why things didn't work out for them and what they are most missing out on now. We need to talk about sex and that “magic number” — the frequency one expects in a committed relationship.
Oh, and one thing to keep in mind: The average number of sexual encounters in married couples is 56 — per year! If that sleep number setting sounds just right, then be honest. If it doesn’t, share your magic number.
So if you’re sitting across from your partner right now and feeling somewhat “meh,” stop lamenting your lot in life and start talking. There's a good chance the conversation will result in reciprocal honestly, and you may just discover your spouse really wants just what you do and always has AND they are totally capable of giving this kind of love.
As long as you keep far away from the YouTube kitten videos.
Marriage and Family Therapist Steven Ing (stevening.com) has spent three decades teaching clients about how to intelligently manage their sexuality in both their personal and professional lives. Got questions about sexuality you’d like Steven to address in a future column? Tweet @StevenIngMFT or email him at askING@stevening.com.
Originally published in the Reno Gazette-Journal.