Rick Miller LICSW

Unwrapped

Sexual Connection at Any Stage

If the butterflies are gone, does it mean I don’t love him?

Posted Feb 05, 2015

Sorry folks, if you are in a long-term relationship and you tell me you are no longer attracted to your partner, I may wonder if what you feel is exactly what you feel. Just recently I had a client who, in discussing his 12-year relationship with his partner, spoke of how the level of his attraction had diminished. It made him question his love for his partner.

When people first meet and feel an intense attraction, the brain releases neurochemicals—dopamine and norepinephrine—that are experienced as euphoria and extreme happiness.  Over time these experiences are assimilated into a larger context and sometimes this can be interpreted as loss of feeling toward the other.

In a long-term relationship, true bonding is necessary, which is felt differently than the neurochemical rush first encountered.  This is a deeper love that includes trust, compassion, security and cooperation.

The challenges for relationships over the long-term are well-known but certain ones are especially pronounced in the gay male community. For example, the gay male subculture emphasizes sexual freedom. Perhaps this is particularly important when suppression has been the norm growing up and historically. What does this mean for gay men in partnership? Men in committed relationships may feel that they are missing out on opportunities, or they may think that they ought to be as attracted to their partners as they are to the guys they see online. 

It’s common for gay couples to use pornography as the third man in their sexual encounters, but the excitement may come at a cost: it may reinforce a fear of not being as attracted to the actual partner. Pornography serves as an external aid, whereas intimacy and bringing pleasure to a partner and focusing on the physical sensations that will serve as an important bridge between two people internally.

What is truly realistic to expect after being together for many years?  Having butterflies in your stomach may no longer be the central experience. But perhaps that is replaced with simply feeling good in each other’s presence and enjoying the mutuality of sex and closeness.

And feeling sexual may take some work, a little nurturing. Plan for time alone together, enjoy the uniqueness of each other’s company, stoke the embers, design special dates, and enjoy what is right now, instead of worrying about was.

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