Sex with a long-term intimate partner who knows your innermost secrets – it sounds good on paper doesn’t it? Surprisingly, a common theme that arises in relationship counselling is that sex starts to lose its appeal as the bond between people grows. A love partner stops being a figure of desire in the bedroom and starts to feel like a good friend. Sex becomes routine, boring, without passion, mundane, a chore, tiring, or any number of uninspiring things. How can knowing more about your partner make sex less interesting? As love grows, why does desire sometimes shrink?
To answer some of these questions, we turn to the resident sex expert, Dr. Cory Hrushka.
To begin, is a decrease in desire the reason good sex goes bad?
I am not sure if sex necessarily goes bad in this case, but it definitely does commonly lose its luster, especially considering the impact that children, work, stress and other family business can have on the libido. Interestingly, some people start off this way because they marry their best friend. Commonly, this starts off with a really good relational component without the good sexual component. Inversely, some couples married their best sexual partner but never really spend the time investing on growing the foundation of their intimacy. Typically, though, as time goes on, many individuals become less motivated or even lazy as they now do not need to work for the sexual relationship, with their partners just learning to tolerate a lower standard. Commonly, in some relationships there is also just an expectation that sex should just happen and sometimes just does. This is sometimes known as duty sex. Duty sex commonly kills desire…and also adds resentment.
Some people also lose their willingness and/or ability to push the envelope into what we call passionate sexuality. They force growth within the sexual realm by pushing their partner to grow while also still “holding onto” themselves. In order for good desire to occur, there typically needs to be some form of frustration and commonly also a “chase”. The times when people marry their best friend or the intimacy frequently becomes “too safe” and by wanting to protect their partner from this boundary pushing/uncomfortableness they sabotage their own arousal and ultimately the sexual relationship.
You mentioned the need for frustration, but isn’t that a bad thing?
Being frustrated is not necessarily a good thing as we all need to have a safe and comfortable place to be, but safe comfortable sex is not usually too exciting/interesting even if it could be quite intimate. Sometimes patterns like this are related to the Wholesome person and Naughty person patterns. You want to marry the Wholesome person but sleep with the Naughty person, as they are usually considered much more exciting figures in that environment. The challenge in a pair-bonded couple relationship is the expectation to have high levels of intimacy with high levels of passion. What I would also like to add is that good passionate sex, every encounter, is not a requirement, but being able to have this occasionally is what gives us that desire and inspiring component.
Another famous author and sex therapist/psychologist, David Schnarch, commented earlier in his career on the idea that good sex therapy made bad relationship/couple therapy while good couple relationship therapy historically made bad sex therapy. Although the foundation of the relationship was the same, the way it portrayed itself was, and can be, noticeably different (i.e., in the bedroom, it is less exciting to communicate about things that need to be done and what the feelings regarding each other are, versus the much more exciting knowledge of the outside limits/rules in the bedroom and being able to go where one is wanting to go, to ultimately achieve the arousal and desire needed). Arousal is what is required for penises and vaginas to work well. Arousal is not required during a typical healthy couple communication engagement.
So how can someone find a healthy balance in their sex life?
Open communication about each other’s arousal templates is a good first step. Knowing what turns you on and what does not is important. Also, knowing what the rules of the bedroom (or wherever that sexuality occurs) are crucial. Additionally, trust in the other person being able to set and know their boundaries (and what not to do) as well as what they don’t want to be a part of, all while still being allowed to be pushed out of their own comfort zone, which is the final component. Remembering that part of this also requires trusting that the other person can handle themselves with you and being to go where you ultimately want to within their rules.
Although there is a complexity in the details that I am trying to explain, deep down it is quite simple. Nevertheless, it’s my intention to provide some framework for understanding the cause of decreased desire with a married best friend. Ultimately, it is really hard to have sex with your best friend. Be aware that there are many other things that may cause decreases in libido, as mentioned earlier. One other of these is called the supply and demand rule (i.e. someone who you live with is always available and therefore is no longer as appealing due to the availability of them). We commonly want we can’t have and therefore, in therapy, we sometimes create playful restrictions in order to increase frustration and desire in our partners.
There you have it – good sex and a good relationship don’t always go hand in hand. Human beings still need “the chase” (however each couple defines it) to feel that spark in bed. If you’re feeling that your partner is a wonderful friend or companion in life but you want that little something extra, creating a few playful restrictions around sex might be exactly what’s needed. For more information on this subject, the following website can offer some resources and the publications by Dr. David Schnarch are especially helpful.
By John Brown
Dr. Cory Hrushka, C.S. D.S.T. NCPC, NCCE
Senior and Forensic Psychologist
AASECT Diplomate of Sex Therapy/Sex Therapist and Supervisor