I frequently get requests for tips about relationships from freelance writers. My most recent request was to provide a few simple suggestions for keeping passion alive in the face of our hectic, career and children laden lives. The question got me thinking. Some people believe that having children, busy careers, family and community commitments and personal hobbies are valid reasons for allowing passion to run dry. But in the words of a famous philosopher, Rosanna Rosanna Danna, "There's always something." In my work with couples, I insist on the importance of keeping sex alive by making it a priority. How? Here are five tips for keeping love and passion alive:
1.Decide that sex needs to be a priority, that without it, intimacy on all levels drops out. Desire is a decision. If the passion has fizzled, decide and discuss what needs to be done to bring back more zest. Make a plan.
2. Schedule sex. Stop thinking that planning sex eliminates spontaneity. It's truly planned spontaneity.
3. Flirt. Remember back to the early years of your relationship when you had pet names and compliments galore for your spouse. Recall how you'd dress up and make sure you were looking hot before you got together? What ever happened to those sweatpants-free days? Go back to what you were doing when things were hotter between you, even if you're not totally in the mood.
4. Stop being so kid-centric. Nowadays, we place our kids right smack dab on top of a pedestal- running them to lessons, practices, school functions, friends' houses, orchestrating elaborate and expensive birthday parties, and making sure they have whatever their little hearts desire. While it's true that our kids deserve a prime focus in our lives, I always tell couples that the best thing they can do for their children is to put their marriage first. If they don’t, when the nest empties, they will be two strangers who have led separate lives. The divorce rate has leveled off in every age group EXCEPT the newly empty-nesters, people who have often been married twenty to thirty years! No matter what, go out on dates. Make sure you have weekly child-free times together. Put a lock on your bedroom door. Unless a nightmare or an unusual circumstance occurs, put your children to sleep in their own bedrooms. If they sleep with you on a regular basis, it will destroy your love life. Teach your kids about the importance of marriage by living rather than just espousing it.
5. And last but certainly not least, adopt the Nike philosophy and, "Just Do It". If I had a dollar for each time someone in my practice said, "When my spouse approached me, I really wasn't in the mood to have sex, but once we got into it, I really enjoyed myself,!" I would be extremely wealthy. For countless people, I've observed, sexual desire doesn't just happen, you have to make it happen. One man in my practice said, “Every time I approach my wife, she doesn’t seem too interested, but once we get into it, she really seems to enjoy herself. I wish she would just write on her hand, ‘I like sex’ so she remembers it for the next time.” (Wouldn’t a tattoo be better?) After seeing this pattern so often, I decided to do some research and came across the work of Dr. Rosemary Basson who has validated my observations and helped shift the way I think about sexual desire forever. We’ve been taught that sexual desire has four stages- desire (this occurs when we have some random lusty thought out of the blue), arousal (this occurs with physical stimulation), orgasm (this is self-explanatory, I think), and resolution (when our bodies return to their normal resting states.) However, this paradigm has limitations because for millions of people, stages one and two are reversed; that is, they must be physically stimulated before their brains signal that they are really want sex. In other words, arousal occurs before desire. The trouble is, these arousal-before-desire folks constantly compare themselves to their more highly sexed spouses who have sexual fantasies every 15 seconds, and then end up feeling as if there’s something wrong with them. They think they have low or no desire. They believe they are passionless. But the truth is, these folks are just wired differently from their partners. And once they learn about this difference and take it to heart, they stopped feeling flawed. They remember the sirens within. They keep in mind the wisdom of nudging themselves to be more responsive to their partner’s advances, even if they’re not totally in the mood at the time. They remember that, sometimes in life, things just need a little jumpstart.