By Steven Lake
It happens to everyone at some point in the relationship. It might be at six months, a year, or seven years — but it is going to happen — guaranteed. Then what?
This is when most people wrongly attribute their lack of interest as “falling out of love.” Wrong. Falling out of lust would be more accurate, or into boredom, or as Ester Perel would say, a lack of novelty.
I am not talking hypothetically here. I am talking about my long-term relationships. I have had a couple of them. Currently, my common law marriage of 19 years, has had at least two moments of sexual disconnect. The path through these moments was the same in both instances.
But before I share with you how I managed these challenges let me recount what prompted me to write this article in the first place. In my counselling practice, and listening to young and older men alike, I kept on hearing about this lack of interest in having sex with their partners. These men loved their girlfriends or wives but the spark had disappeared and they were at a loss of what to do.
I recall one young man, about thirty years old, who has been in a relationship for close to three years. He said it was always at this time, in his past relationships, where he became disinterested sexually in his partner and would opt out of the relationship. At least in this instance, our young man is aware of his pattern and has chosen to stay in the relationship and see if he can recapture those sensuous feelings.
In another case, there was a loss of interest after having three children in quick succession. This is an old story, whether it is multiple births or one. For some men, there is a radical shift in how they view their partner after childbirth — from sexual partner to mother. Hard to make love to a woman who brings up mother images.
Another case, a man approaching retirement, suddenly lost interest, not in sex, he still had a libido and could masturbate, but could not perform with his wife.
These are three different scenarios, each with their own unique qualities but all sharing some common elements: sex drive still intact, love their partners, just not interested in having sex with them.
So what is the solution? There are probably many solutions, but what worked for me was this. First, I had to acknowledge that something was up, or down in this case. Ignoring the issue just perpetuates it. Second, it was not due to tiredness or stress or too much to drink (many of us have performed under those conditions in the past, so why is it problematic now). Third, and most important, I had to re-discover what used to turned me on about my partner.
Let’s continue with this last item and assume that your partner has not changed much physically or how he or she engages in the world. This is the easier scenario. You just have to look and see the beauty of their physicality, personality, spirituality, etc.
For me, being physically oriented, I had to remind myself how much I liked her breasts, her arms, the small of her back, her nose, her hair and her astonishing beauty when she lay on her back, eyes closed, after making love. I had to look, really look with fresh eyes and have gratitude for the gift that this woman was and is to me.
If you are bored with what’s happening in your sex life, odds are, so is your partner. This is where communication comes into play. This is tough for many of us especially around the topic of sex as we feel vulnerable. And who wants to say “Hey honey, I’m really bored with our sex life and you don’t turn me on anymore.”
That may be the truth, but it doesn’t promote safety and openness. A better approach might be, “Hey honey, I need to talk about something personal, it’s scary for me to talk about, but I love you and want our relationship to continue growing.”
Now let’s turn to the more difficult scenario. Your partner has changed. Or the relationship dynamics have changed. Or they have aged. Change is a part of life as anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship can tell you, those nights of crazy love-making don’t go on forever. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great sex, you can. It just means that it is different – it changes – sometimes even for the better.
Accepting change is the challenge. We might not like it. We might not be able to change the changes. My partner has changed, I’ve changed, damn, the whole world has changed and nobody warned me. We might have sex-ed classes in school but they didn’t teach us about evolving relationships, especially as it relates to sex and sexuality.
The men I work with break down into two broad groups in this area. One, young men (25-45) who don’t know how to focus their sexual energies on their partner as the grass looks much greener on the other side of the fence. Two, older men (50-70) who are confronted with physical changes for themselves and or their partners. Both groups have issues with boredom. Sex has become predictable, unchanging, flat – you get the idea.
There is a relatively new therapeutic modality called ACT, which stands for acceptance and commitment therapy. I love the name of this therapy as the answer to this issue lies within the title – acceptance and commitment.
If we are accepting the changes within ourselves and our partner, committing to understanding what is happening, and working with our partner to achieve mutually satisfying intentions and goals, we are more likely to achieve a positive outcome.
A last point to ponder. Being disinterested sexually with your partner may be a reflection of being disconnected in other areas of your lives. The lack of sexual interest may be just a symptom, not the problem.
I wish you all the best in breaking down the barriers of boredom and reconnecting with your partner.