I feel I’m missing out on fantastic sex with my husband

We all assume that sex should be spontaneous, yet planning and scheduling, is an unparalleled form of foreplay.

¦ I met and married my husband quite young. He was, and has remained, the only man I have ever slept with. We have been together 11 years and our sex life is fine, but not amazing. When I hear about people having fantastic sex with their partners, I wonder what I have missed and whether I will ever experience that intensity. My marriage is happy but I worry that a large part of my life has been lost. >> Marrying the first man you have sex with does limit your opportunities to experiment, but it also eliminates a lot of heartache and disappointment — and, God forbid, the odd sexually transmitted infection.

It is also worth pointing out that, after more than a decade of monogamy, very few couples have as many good things to say about their marriage as you do, so the first thing to say is that you are doing well. But, yes, you are right to feel entitled to “fantastic” sex.

There are countless ways to change the sexual script in a long-term relationship, but one nice trick is for both of you to make a list of six achievable sexual challenges each. Then you swap lists and take it in turns each month to be responsible for making the other person’s dream come true. We all nurse the assumption that sex should be spontaneous, yet planning, scheduling, booking hotel rooms and generally putting effort and energy into creating our sexual experiences is an unparalleled form of foreplay.

It is also worth asking yourself how you would define the amazing sex that you feel you have missed out on?

Obviously, it is a very personal thing but, for me, the intensity you describe is generally bound up in newness and novelty and occurs primarily in the early stages of a relationship when you are head over heels in lust.

It is an anxious, almost drug-like state, involving butterflies, sexual hypersensitivity and extreme emotions. It is also allconsuming, exhausting and unsustainable. You cannot live in that kind of heightened state and get anything useful done, so by the time the love fog clears and you settle into a gentler form of intimacy, it feels comfortable, a relief even.

The decline in sexual intensity creates a space in which you can both focus on work, nest-building, making babies and all the other stuff that tends to be part of the natural trajectory of secure commitment. You can’t feel passionately exhilarated and comfortably bonded at the same time. This means that if nature takes its course the people you hear about who are having fantastic sex will, one day, find themselves in exactly the same situation as you, so there is no point making comparisons.

We all have a tendency to judge ourselves against other people, but comparisons can have a direct effect on our self-esteem. A few years ago a couple of PhD students in the US and Holland carried out a neat experiment on the relationship between images and self-perception. Participants who viewed pictures of an attractive face rated themselves as less attractive on a seven-point scale, and people who viewed a picture of Einstein rated themselves as less intelligent.

The danger with amorphous sexual dissatisfaction is that it sets up a negative stereotype. You tell yourself that the sex you are having with your partner is dull, and those beliefs then become your reality. If, for example, you had spent the past 11 years dating, you would probably have had some incredible highs, but you would also have had a corresponding number of desperate lows — and with each passing year the stable, loving marriage that you currently enjoy would have seemed like an increasingly attractive option.

Ultimately, you can only have amazing sex with an amazing partner, and you have one of those already. Continue to make the most of him.

¦ Send your questions to suzigodson@mac.com


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