Dear Neil: My husband and I were married at a very young age — he was 21 and I was 19. We’ve now been married 25 years and have successfully raised a loving family. We are currently empty nesters in our mid-forties. In the past two years, our jobs have changed and we both are working from home. We get along wonderfully, spend every weekend together and we share many of the same interests.
But the spark between us has died romantically. I don’t feel that wanting like I have through the years. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that we’re almost never apart. Can you help?
No Longer in the Mood in Colorado
Dear No Longer: Sexual drive for females often follows — rather than leads — their arousal. That means that instead of the whole sexual experience being driven by your libido (as perhaps it used to be), it may now be driven by thinking about sex, allowing yourself to get interested, by making the decision to be sexual, by being receptive to it and by being creative with sexual play. That means helping yourself get there instead of waiting for desire to overwhelm the show.
If arousal comes first, before you start to feel sexual, (and an estimated 30 percent of adult women find this true), then it is unwise to wait for yourself to feel erotic before you engage in sexual activity. So try this:
First, as you wisely guessed, eroticism between you and your husband may need more separateness. Since you both work at home, finding things to do separately after work or on weekends (a yoga class, a bridge club, a self-interest class) may heighten your interest in reuniting with each other and feeling more aroused. Oftentimes, passion needs some distance, and desire needs a little bit of mystery.
Second, it is perhaps more important than it used to be to be sensually and erotically playful with each other. Cuddling, snuggling, sensuous full-body massages, touching, kissing — not to mention prolonged foreplay — may assist you in getting in the mood, and it almost certainly assists you in feeling closer to each other.
Third, one barrier to taking off your clothes may be how you feel about your body — or how attractive you feel. Could a negative body-image be in your way? If so, do something about that issue because you are not going to feel a lot of desire if you feel self-conscious and unappealing.
Fourth, try adding something romantically different: a weekend getaway someplace new, rent a sexy video, wear lingerie, experiment with a couple of new positions, try leaving “naughty” voice mail or text messages. If your sex life has become routine and feels ho-hum, of course it will be harder to be excited about.
Fifth, are you still routinely sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with each other? Sometimes familiarity leads people to quit being curious about each other (I already know how you feel about most everything). But building a shared dream, exploring new interests or discovering new adventures together is stimulating and interesting. Sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings is one of the things that helps us feel close and connected.
Finally, see if you can introduce an element of novelty, creativity or surprise to the act. Try being a seductress and take the sexual lead, dress up (rather than undress) for the occasion or try an unusual time of day. Try making it less familiar and predictable, so you can defeat that same-old same-old mentality.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website, www.heart relationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.