"We hardly ever make love anymore."
"Our lovemaking seems like a chore for both of us."
"Our sexual relationship seems flat and boring."
"My wife/husband is rarely interested in me sexually."
I often hear these complaints from my clients. Yet, some couples deeply enjoy their lovemaking with each other even in very long-term relationships. What are they doing differently than the complaining couples?
Having worked with thousands of couples for the last 44 years, I'd like to share with you what I've learned about what keeps passion alive... and what doesn't.
1. Personal Power vs. Neediness
Neediness isn't sexy. By neediness, I mean that your sense of self-worth and sense of security and lovability are tied to how your partner treats you rather than to how you feel about yourself and to how you treat yourself. If your partner has to have sex with you for you to feel that you are okay, that may be a turnoff to your partner. Women especially want their man to be in their power -- not coming to them like a needy little boy. I've often heard women say, "When I visit my husband at work, I'm so turned on to him because he is coming from his personal power, but as soon as he gets home, he turns into a needy little boy and all the turn-on is gone."
It's not just women who want their partner to have their own self-worth. I've worked with many men who are not attracted to their wives because their wives are needy and demand sex to feel okay about themselves. And it's not just heterosexual couples who struggle with this. This same issue comes up over and over with my gay clients as well.
The issue here is whether or not you are taking personal responsibility for your own feelings and well-being. When you have learned to love and value yourself, then making love with your beloved is a way to express your love rather than a way to get love and validation.
2. Time for Connection
When people date, they set aside time for each other -- time to connect, to share, to learn and grow and have fun. Often, once they live together, they get busy and no longer set aside time to be together. Intimacy and passion do not flourish without time together to play, learn, grow, share and connect. Date nights or date days on a weekend work wonders!
Having fun together, playing together, being able to laugh and joke together, are vital parts of an emotionally and sexually intimate and connected relationship, and they take time. If you want your sex life to be fun and alive, you need to create time for fun and aliveness outside the bedroom. For example, some of my clients find that the only time they have great sex is when they are on vacation. That's when they have the time to connect, and connection is vital for passionate sex.
Relationships get boring when there is nothing new happening, and they flourish when each partner continues to learn and grow in the relationship. A boring relationship can lead to boring sex. Sharing your learning and growth with your partner can lead to the excitement and newness that you had at the beginning of your relationship, and that excitement and newness can then show up on the bedroom.
Good sex also needs some mystery. If your partner knows everything about you because you have stopped learning, growing and changing, boredom can set in. The mystery is in the newness!
Are you conflict avoidant? Do you see conflict as a problem rather than as a learning opportunity? Is conflict something you have to win, or are you willing to learn from it? People who avoid conflict by giving in or withdrawing, or people who attack and blame and have to be right and win, create an unsafe relationship environment where conflicts don't get resolved. Unresolved conflicts can create resentment, which may lead to a lack of being attracted to your partner. One of the quickest ways of losing your passion for your partner is to give yourself up to avoid rejection. This often leads to shutting down your feelings. You cannot shut down your feelings of heartache without shutting down your loving feelings, as these feelings reside in the same place in the heart. Opening to learning about yourself and your partner, rather than giving yourself up, withdrawing, getting angry or blaming will go a long way toward opening up your sex life to more fun and passion.
Often, what goes on outside the bedroom is reflected in your sexual relationship, so if there is emotional distance and resentment in the relationship, that may be affecting your lovemaking.
Most people like to be in control, but they hate being controlled. If one or both of you are controlling -- with judgment, criticism, anger, blame or neediness -- the other person may shut down to not be controlled. Even if you are only controlling in the relationship outside of the bedroom and not in the bedroom, this can affect the attraction. If you tend to be controlling in a judgmental way while making love, this may be a turnoff to your partner.
However, sometimes consensual control can play an exciting role in lovemaking. Frequently, one or the other partner finds it exciting to be controlled in the bedroom. This can bring spice to your sex life as long as it is consensual. The popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey series attests to this.
6. Safety, by Allowing Each Other to Be Truly Important to Each of You
Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey, aside from the raunchiness of these books, there is much in them about creating a truly loving relationship that maintains passion. One of them is that they fully opened their hearts to each other. They did not allow their fears of rejection or their fears of engulfment (the two common fears that often get in the way of creating a loving relationship) to get in the way of their love -- at least not permanently. Knowing you are very important to your partner can give you the safety to be free in the bedroom -- to experiment with things you've never done before, to let your partner in on your fantasies, to create some mystery such as special date nights where one partner is in charge of the day or the evening. Aliveness in the bedroom comes from aliveness in the relationship, which comes from the spontaneous flow that occurs when people feel safe with each other -- safe to be who they really are, knowing they will be accepted.
Feeling fully seen, accepted, valued and cherished are really wonderful experiences, and these feelings can generate the kind of safety that leads to intimacy, spontaneity and aliveness in the relationship and in the bedroom.
7. Staying Fit, Healthy and Sexy
Many people work hard to stay fit while dating and then let themselves go after getting married. Sexiness may include many things -- an inviting smile, being flirtatious with your partner, and alluring clothing, as well as a fit and healthy body. While love is much more than skin deep, it's definitely sexy to some people see their partner taking physical care of his or her physical health and fitness. Many of my clients have complained that their spouse was healthy and fit when they got married and isn't now. It's often not attractive to see your partner not caring about their physical health and well-being.
While these are the main ways my clients have brought passion back in their relationships, I'm certain there are many more ways. I'd love your comments about how you brought passion back in your relationship.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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