What's the real secret to making love last? Readers often ask me this question based on my research for "The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married." One common theme in relationships that achieve longevity underscore that this old saying appears to be true: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder".
Yes, time apart does seem to help keep the fires stoked.
I'm not just talking about regular girls nights out or taking separate vacations. Women and men often use the word "mystery" as an essential component of sustained romance and love. Many couples I interviewed keep that mystery alive through separate bedrooms and separate bathrooms that separate their sex lives and annoying personal rituals.
"Naked flossing and a jiggling belly is NOT pretty," one wife of 20 years told me. "Hardly puts you in the mood to want to jump someone's bones."
"I can come and go as I please," adds another veteran wife. "I arrive for lovemaking and leave for the snoring."
Here are some thought provoking insights on how two bedrooms can rock your love life from a husband name Al in Marin County. Al wrote me the below dispatch after reading my Huffington Post Weddings piece called "Help! I Hate My Husband" that talks about how irksome habits can swiftly extinguish marital bliss:
My beloved Mary is upstairs right now taking a private nap in her own bedroom. We've been together for 18 years and we credit the fact that we have our own personal spaces to the success of our stable and loving relationship.
We each have always had our own bedrooms and our own bathrooms. We sleep together when we want not because we have to and I consider this essential. We also remain much more private about bathrooms and nudity. Most of our friends, after living together for a while, begin to use the bathroom together and are often naked as they dress. From the beginning, Mary and I agreed that we would preserve the shyness we had as teenagers and remain discreet with our nudity around the house. This allows us to reveal our nakedness when we truly want to and preserves the sexy attractiveness of nudity for fun and frolic. Thus nudity remains exciting and does not become mundane.
When people first meet and fall in love they usually have their own homes with their own bedrooms and are discreet about nudity and their bathroom business. We have found that in preserving that original environment from which the love and passion sprung to be very, very sexy. Why copy archaic traditions that often lead to dysfunctional marriages? When nudity and bathroom activity becomes commonplace it seems humdrum rather than sexy.
Fun and sexiness and love dissolves over time if you have to give up personal privacy. It is very healthy for a relationship to be able to retreat into a satisfying feeling of seclusion by simply going into one's personal bedroom and closing the door.
My architect husband tells me that more clients are asking for separate quarters when designing new homes or in the re-design of older homes. The National Homebuilders Association predicted this trend in a survey conducted in 2007 in which a panel of experts was asked questions about "The Home Of The Future", one of which addressed separate bedrooms. The panel's prediction at that time was that the demand for dual master bedroom suites "would increase significantly for upscale new homes".
"When we released that survey we got responses from all over the world," says Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Homebuilders based in Washington, D.C. "People were wondering why American couples might not want to sleep together. It isn't about whether they love each other. Perhaps the couple has incompatible work schedules. One person is a TV anchor or a nurse and has to get up at 4 a.m. and the other is an attorney who isn't expected at work until 10 a.m. Maybe there is a health issue: the husband has a sleep apnea machine and the wife can't sleep with the buzzing all night. Or maybe this couple just wants to keep some mystery in their marriage.
"If you can afford it, the luxury of separate master bedrooms is certainly one way to keep that mystery."
For those who can't afford to build a new wing to steam up their marriages here's a cheaper alternative. Until her husband died after 60 years of marriage one wife used to undress behind a six-foot tall rattan Oriental screen splashed with florals that stood in her bedroom. She explains how she didn't want "sagging flesh to hang out. I always wanted to seem beautiful". So she would limit her exposures of nudity like Al advises, and emerge slowly from behind the folding screen, decked in a silk negligee as if she were a bride on her honeymoon.