By Pamela Madsen
Despite being a published sexuality expert who works with countless women and their partners, I’m always my own best case study. I have written and been public about many parts of my own sexuality. Most of my sexuality has occurred in a long term, mostly monogamous marriage of more than 30 years.
I give lectures and have been interviewed on the lack of passionate sex in long term relationships (including my own), and what we can do about it.
Last night, I realized that I do still have a pretty sexy marriage. That seemed funny to me because not too long ago, my husband and I gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about having less sex in a long term relationship. That is still true. But things keep shifting for us, and the couples that I am working with. Sex and passion keeps slowly getting better. So what is up?
Tip One: Stick Around a Little Bit Longer Than You Think You Should!
We all know that boiling point, when we think we can’t take it anymore. But there is a gift that comes from sticking around, not throwing your cards on the table and walking away. When you allow for some time, and the understand that relationships can shift, you can often be surprised with what you have.
Tip Two: Long Term Relationships That Remain Sexy Have A Lot of Erotic Privacy
My husband and I have our sex life together, and we have an agreement that allows each of us to have a certain amount of erotic privacy and independence in our marriage. It is has slowly been evolving since I wrote Shameless.
Erotic privacy may mean different things to different people. It may mean the privacy to look at pornography and not share some desires with our partners. It may mean the possibility of exploring ourselves within agreed upon boundaries without our partners.
Tip Three: Have Willful, Non-Spontaneous Sex
My husband I and have been exploring this tip for the past year, and it is working for us. I strongly suggest buying a massage table, and setting up a separate place for willful, non-spontaneous sex adventures! Massage tables allows you to explore giving and receiving touch in a new way. It allows for some newness and surprise which is always a good thing to spark desire. There are many great books out there on giving and receiving sensuous massage, and it can be a great way in for sexy in long term relationship sex. Massage tables can get us touching each other again.
Tip Four: Understand That Sexual Desire Ebb and Flow
In my marriage, we have known and understood that our passion had an ebb and a flow. Sometimes it is hot, and sometimes it simply vanishes like the sun on a cloudy day for months at a time. But that didn’t mean that our relationship was broken. Life is not a romance novel.
If you are willing in part to stick things out, and not expect every need of yours to be fulfilled by one person, I think there is lots of hope for passion in long term relationship. You need to create the space for sex. Review Tip Three!
Tip Five: Sex Starts With Your Relationship with Your Own Body
For me personally, (and for the majority of the women that I work with), I had to learn who I was erotically. That was pretty vulnerable work and took time. I also think that it’s an evolving practice and I’m still doing it. It has involved me taking many different paths to my own self-discovery. My husband needed to give me the privacy and the space to go explore that. He had to trust me enough to know that I would indeed come home to him. This takes a lot of trust, and it’s not always easy to do. But if you can go there, it is key!
I share my personal journey in my book Shameless, but there are no short cuts in getting really clear about who you are first.
It is only when we are clear about who we are, that we can truly deepened in relationship and take on the hot desires, and willful sex that is needed for long term relationship to make it through the years. Remember, we change over time. Who we were erotically when we entered our love relationships may have shifted. We need the time to take stock!
So, last night my husband threw some spontaneity at me, and some willful sex. He created a space of the erotic where there wasn’t much desire. And we danced. This morning, I decided to give a listen to my colleague Esther Perel’s TED Talk about passion in long term relationship, and she does it spectacularly well!
“In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire? With wit and eloquence, Perel lets us in on the mystery of erotic intelligence.” Give a listen to Esther.
We can all have passionate, often sexy long term marriages and relationships. But first we have to unlock ourselves. Make room for our own self-discovery, and then make room for our lovers. We need to learn how to give our relationships air.
Create space while knowing that there is some security. It is the secret surprise to passion.
Pamela Madsen, M.S. is an integrative life coach specializing in women’s issues: sexuality, fertility, body image, wellness and rejuvenation. Pamela is also author of the best selling memoir, Shameless (Rodale, Jan 2011), and founder of The American Fertility Association. Her websites include PamelaMadsen.org, www.backtothebody.org and www.thefertilityadvocate.com are breakfast essential for reporters, writers and policymakers.