Suzi Godson says that it is completely natural that sexual interests will change as you age.
Q. My husband and I used to have a fun, varied sex life. I would dress up in sexy underwear and we sometimes used sex toys.
After a few years of marriage, our love life has become predictable.
I don’t want to force him to do anything, but I miss our experiments. What can I do?
A. The early years of marriage are the biggest challenge. Several studies have established that marital happiness and sexual frequency decline most rapidly in the first 10 years.
Research used to suggest that this decline was U-shaped and that, after the initial fall, happiness levelled out and then increased again as children left home.
Data from much bigger, more recent studies suggest that marital happiness declines steeply, and then either levels out or carries on falling.
It’s not an optimistic analysis, but the conclusion is that as couples are forced to deal with the conflict that is part and parcel of all long-term relationships, they experience gradual disenchantment.
It is also true that many couples marry with often unrealistic expectations and are then, inevitably, disappointed by the mundane realities of routine day-to-day life.
The demands of juggling professional, familial, and domestic obligations invariably mean prioritising things that are urgent or important, and putting everything else, including sex, on the back burner.
It is rarely a conscious decision, but there is a gradual but noticeable decline in sexual intensity.
It is also completely natural that sexual interests will change. Tastes do too. But when one half of a sexually experimental couple suddenly decides to become less adventurous, his other half deserves an explanation.
Unfortunately, the first casualty of sexual differences seems to be the capacity to talk about what is going on.
I’ve lost count of the couples I have encountered who would rather suffer in silence than risk confronting the elephant in their bedroom.
Conversations about sex feel risky because couples are afraid that talking will reveal things that they didn’t want to know, or that it might expose their own vulnerabilities.
Raising issues that could be interpreted as criticism also leaves you vulnerable to attack, so sometimes it feels easier to say nothing.
Unravelling hidden subtexts is core to understanding the dynamic of any sexual problem and often, when couples do pluck up the courage to address their differences, the real issues are nothing to do with sex at all.
For example, have you considered that your husband’s rejection of experimental sex may be his way of making a statement about marital maturity; that he feels threatened by your continued interest in role play and sex toys because he interprets it as a less serious attitude to commitment?
And are you sure that you are not hankering after it because, back then, you were certain of his sexual desire for you and now you are not?
Talking and, more importantly, listening is the first step towards a degree of mutual understanding.
It is generally easier to have difficult conversations when you are away from your usual routines.
It is also sensible to have them when you are sober and unlikely to say anything that you will later regret.
Escaping to a neutral space will help you to put everything in perspective and make you both a bit more objective.
Your husband may simply tell you that he is too exhausted by the demands of daily life to expend unnecessary energy on sexual shenanigans, but, if that is the case, you can at least confirm that you both still desire each other and extract a compromise that will meet your needs too.
Acknowledge that time commitments will generally restrict you to conventional sex but, once a month, agree on a play night with toys and treats.
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