Yes, it is possible, says couples therapist Jean-Claude Chalmet. Here’s how to rekindle passion.
Remind yourselves of what attracted you
In my clinic, we ask couples to write down the most romantic and sexually exciting moments they remember from their first five years together — and ask how might they re-enact those now. Recalling those memories isn’t only a reminder of what attracted them, but also the effort they made for each other.
If sex is lackluster, the work begins outside the bedroom. A lack of connection, or intimacy, or understanding, or emotional maturity, or communication kills lust because indifference sets in. Inability to recognize your partner’s emotional needs — or your own — quenches desire.
Make time to get yourselves in the mood
Long-term couples can find it hard to sync up and psych up for sex. A subtle understanding that tonight something might happen if the stars align — rather than a high-pressure must-perform diary date — is a low-key but exciting route to passion.
Not feeling it? Often if you start the mood follows. If there are no psychological or physical barriers to sex, apart from lack of impetus and rarely prioritising your relationship (I’d rethink that one), try sleeping naked. Proximity can work. After all, if you want to exercise, you put on your gym kit.
Trust underpins lust
You’re not dropping your towel to the floor in front of each other without friendship, trust and feeling safe. There are no shortcuts to those fundamentals, and if any are missing, the bedroom will be lukewarm or cold. Respect lifts libido.
So if sex isn’t happening, be curious. Is it you? In my clinic selfishness is what most women complain about. Good lovers take care of their partners. Equally, don’t assume it’s about you. What might be going on for your partner, physiologically or emotionally? How might you support them?
Be brave and take risks
It can be hard to tell your partner of 20 years that you want to try something new or what is putting you off in bed. One thing women loathe is not feeling truly desired, as if they’re just providing a service: there’s no intimacy in that. Chances are, if there’s an awkward silence around sex, it’s unlikely both of you find it satisfying. And then sex dries up.
So why aren’t we talking? It’s not shyness, it’s shame. You have to be brave in a long-term relationship or marriage. If you fear exposing your vulnerabilities you will resent your partner, stonewall or leave.
Don’t assume the worst
It’s a myth that women don’t want sex as much as men. Very often both want it, preferably with each other. Noticing your partner also gives lust a chance. One long-married woman also revealed that “I know nothing is going to happen when he puts his antisnoring plaster on his nose at bedtime”.
A wish to make oneself attractive raises the odds. That requires self-awareness and self-respect. If we expect our partner to maintain certain physical standards, we must also apply that to ourselves.
Think about what’s stopping you
So why are you pretending to be asleep? If it’s the time commitment, maybe agree on a quickie, which can help retain a sense of humour and lightness around sex. Or is it that you aren’t talking enough?
Then perhaps it’s the relationship itself that requires time commitment. Maintain a sexual connection through kisses, touch, flirtation. But agree that a kiss is for its own sake — it’s not a promise of full sex — to avoid standoffishness.
Appreciate the joy of companionable passion
One can’t expect passion to be as high as it was when you met, but you can deeply fancy your partner. Funny how, if they show interest in you and make you feel valued, it makes them more attractive. I call it “companionable passion and familiar intimacy”.
Sex can be easy: there’s no pretense, nothing to prove, and while newness might be more exciting, familiarity can be profoundly satisfying. When you value something, you enjoy it more.
- The Sunday Times. How to have great sex in your marriage.