The fairytale says we meet, fall in love and live happily ever after. It certainly didn’t include being so bored in bed, it’s more fun masturbating than having sex with your partner. Can lust last the distance?
It’s not designed to, but there are ways to trick the system. This is Part 1 in a two part blog that explains why the honeymoon has to end; Part 2 offers some all important solutions to this age-old problem.
If you had to choose between being absolutely and totally in love and having a deeply satisfying, pretty sensational sex life, what would you settle for? It’s a choice no-one thinks they’ll ever have to make – and sure as hell never wants put in front of them – but, I have to be honest, all the recent research (rather depressingly) tends to point this way.
Don’t jump off the cliff just yet – there are things you can do to circumvent this – but the first step does seem to be accepting that love and lust aren’t quite the chummy bedfellows we thought they were. In fact, they’re more bitter enemies.
Here’s why: When we fall in love with someone, we ‘merge’ with the other person. This makes us feel all safe and snuggly and at peace with the world and our partner. Eroticism requires ‘separateness’. What is desire if it’s not unfulfilled anticipation? Desire surges to its most powerful, wondrous peak when we first meet and want someone, simply because we’re unsure if our feelings are reciprocated.
Reciprocated love kills lust
Once it turns out they’re just as besotted as we are (be still our beating heart!), the distance that was between us disappears (be still our beating groin – not quite so fab) and all the uncertainty, edginess, anxiety and jealousy that kept us in that feverish, longing state is suddenly removed. Novelty, risk and separation all up the desire factor. We want quite the opposite in love so actively seek out exactly what will destroy it.
Even worse, we can’t even blame each other for this because it’s not the fault of either sex. As Esther Perel, author of the ground-breaking book Mating in Captivity points out, “Any ideas that cast women as longing for love, essentially faithful and domestically inclined and men as biologically non-monogamous and fearful of intimacy should have been dispelled a long time ago. Social and economic changes circumvented traditional gender lines a long time ago”.
Having said that, just to make life even more difficult, each sex does bring their own particular foible to the table.
Men’s brains have problems lusting and loving
Men, for instance, are rubbish at lusting and loving simultaneously for partly biological reasons. The male brain releases high levels of vasopressin when deeply in love and that, in turn, decreases the level of testosterone, the hormone responsible for sex drive.
But it’s not just that.
Loving her, means worrying about her well-being. The pursuit of pleasure requires us to be selfish little sods: become too absorbed with your partner’s pleasure and you’ll lose desire for them. When this happens, men often think they’ve fallen out of love but quite the opposite has happened. They love her so much, the act of caring is too heavy a burden of responsibility.
Desire and lust makes you want to do filthy, sometimes quite degrading things to your partner. If she’s sitting on a pedestal or love and respect, the two don’t sit easily together.
‘Sex without sin is like an egg without salt’, said the famous director Luis Bunuel. Take away the ability to sin and you take away desire.
Female desire is influenced by emotions
Meanwhile, her desire follows another, equally disastrous, path. Female desire is often linked to how think we think he feels about us. In the beginning when he wanted to slam us up against the fridge and sod dinner, we’d be like ‘Fabulous! He must really fancy me. That cellulite-reducing cream did do the job! How hot am I!’
Six months on, he’ll do the same thing and instead of our eyes becoming hooded with lust, they’ll narrow with suspicion. Instead of thinking ‘Great!’ we’re liable to think ‘Why?’ Is he having sex with us, or having sex because he just feels like sex? Who’s he thinking of when he’s doing it? Is it leftover lust from eyeing off that new girl in the office?
Then the ‘sex is dirty’ thing kicks in. Like, he can’t possibly be thinking about us as a potential mother of his children if he’s suggesting doing that! And that’s without even touching on the how we feel about our body thing.
It wouldn’t occur to men to think ‘Jesus! The old beer gut’s looking a bit large today. Better not shag the Missus’. But one unflattering reflection in return for a fleeting glance in a mirror on the way to the bedroom and it’s like someone put a pin in the female desire balloon.
Feeling unattractive. Hormones. Emotional history. Insecurity. Not liking your partner much. Genetics. These are just a few of the things that transpire to rob us of lust.
You need a lust for life and sex
Our baseline personality also plays a part, as does life experience. Sexual desire is a lust for life as well as sex. If you’re boring or the rest of your life is boring and uninspiring, why would you leap into bed with energy and enthusiasm, a wicked gleam in your eye and a cache of sex toys clutched in your hands? You need to be excited by life to be excited by your partner. Most short-long term relationships move through three stages: lust/infatuation, romantic love and attachment.
The third stage is designed to be calmer, to provide us with a sense of stability so we can mate and procreate. (Which, let’s face it, is sort of the point even if we like to forget it is.)
It’s around this stage that what you never thought was going to happen to you does: you’re – dear God! – bored! So bored in fact, masturbating is more fun than having sex with your partner. At least then you can watch some porn or play out that fantasy about seducing the next-door neighbour’s 21-year-old. Suddenly, you find yourself in love but not in lust and that leaves you, well, confused. This isn’t right! This isn’t what happens in the movies!
Panic, panic, panic…
Panicked, we either cheat, leave or settle for what we think is our lot: sexual despondency.
The fact is, we’re built to fall in love but not to stay that way. Only three percent of mammals are monogamous, the rest have serial sex or a lifetime of one-night-stands.
For those of you who are still reading and not swinging from the rafters, the thing is, I’m not really telling you anything you don’t already know, simply explaining why. We all know nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, this just gives a little insight as to why this might be. And if we know why, we can usually fix it.
Knowledge is power. It might be common but it’s not inevitable that your relationship will follow this rather dire passion pattern.
You’ve already done the most important thing you can do to fight lust that lags over the years: reading this blog.
Knowing the facts means you won’t worry you’ve chosen the wrong person or that there’s anything wrong with either of you.
This is crucial.
The next thing to do is take practical measures to trick Mother Nature – which is exactly what I’m going to tell you in next week’s blog.
How to have lust that lasts (Part 2) reveals the all-important solutions next week.