Clinical psychologist and sex therapist David Schnarch agrees that marriage, and the readily available sex that goes along with it, frequently results in partners wanting less instead of more. Schnarch makes a psychological rather than biological case for decreased passion, arguing that "the person with the least desire for sex always controls the frequency of sexual contact between spouses." Thus, if a man stops wanting sex because of fear (erectile dysfunction [ED], premature ejaculation, inhibited orgasm, fathering a child, intimacy issues), anger, or depression, and his wife becomes accustomed to and distressed by what she experiences as his rejection of herself, she will ultimately stop trying to reverse the trend. The converse is true as well.
The wife may be refusing the husband for her own reasons, until he no longer feels the effort is worthwhile. They might even be on a sexual seesaw, each taking turns being the one pursuing or turning away. Dr. Schnarch believes that there is a clear correlation between the increasing importance of one's partner to oneself and the unsettling discomfort of being vulnerable. The fear of losing a spouse, or having a spouse choose to leave, can result in decreased desire as a protective mechanism. The more complete the relationship, the greater the loss if it ends. That's why, he suggests, some people fi nd it easier to experiment in one- night stands or emotionally disposable affairs—there's no risk of being exposed, rejected, or considered deviant when the other person can't hurt you. Schnarch states: "We demand stability in marriage—and when we get it we complain things are always the same."
Familiarity Breeds Contentment
These are intriguing theories, but can anything be done to alleviate the boredom? There are no easy solutions to the monotonous sex that evolves in many marriages, but if the problem is just fatigue with the sex- by- numbers, don't-do- anything- surprising or don't-take- any- chances routine that married sex often becomes, then anything different usually works. (That's why so many couples have sex the minute they get to their vacation hotel room, jet lag or no jet lag. It's not the free time or the lack of day- to- day pressure; it's the change of venue, the different bed, sheets, and pajamas that liberate.) All those magazine solutions—lingerie, massages, erotica, fantasies, and sex toys—can help, for a short time, at least. There's a lot to be said for a silk camisole and high heels instead of a torn T-shirt and socks. The problem is, eventually you run out of ideas and money. Dr. Schnarch (and others) makes a strong case for differentiation, which is holding on to your own identity and looking to yourself for approval and validation, and not your spouse. We concur.
The constant, relentless, delicious sex of those first few months or years will probably never return. Individuality and separateness encourages passion and is probably imperative in retaining heat in your marriage, or restarting the fire. But we want to make an important point here: The constant, relentless, delicious sex of those first few months or years will probably never return.