Intimate love — 02 December 2011
Is a loss of passion inevitable in marriage?

Many people believe that passion naturally fades within marriage. Either they accept it and live with this loss, rile against it by holding the mate responsible, justify seeking it elsewhere or despair and abdicate their sexual yearnings as the price for marital stability.

There are effective ways of maintaining or restoring sexual pleasure within a long term committed relationship.

Most couples share intense romantic love during courtship. The physical attraction is fueled by the partners’ exceptional admiration, adulation and the illusion of perfection they ascribe to each other. The psychological message they hear is described by the psychoanalyst, Nancy Chodorow, “I shall be loved always, everywhere, in every way, my whole body, my whole being- without criticism, without the slightest effort on my part- is the final aim of all erotic striving.”

This assumed ‘promise’ of unconditional love fades quickly when partners  withhold actions and words that reinforce the feeling of being uniquely special. When one is no longer idolized just for being him/herself, effort is required to muster a sense of total lovability that facilitates passion with abandon.

Our culture promotes the idea that finding the ‘right mate’ is a goal leading to a happy union. Actually, most people pick an appropriate, attractive and desirable mate but quickly abandon reiterating their delight with their choice. Not hearing or seeing acts verifying one’s primary status causes fear, anxiety, hurt and emotional/physical withdrawal. Passion is curbed.

With insecurity about one’s primacy and dissipated passion come fears about the mate’s interests elsewhere. Questions like “Where have you been so late?” “Who was this?” “What are watching on your computer?” are asked not as accusations but as expressions of fear about loss of the spouse’s sole attention. In “mating in captivity,” Esther Perel states, “The menace of the ‘third’ is intrinsic to the experience of love, and even the most controlling marriage may not be able to allay our anxieties.”

Asking a partner about his/her sexual fantasies, dreamed about taboos and “kinky’ sex often renders information about what couples may choose to include in their erotic life. The guidelines about adopting any new passionate practices are that they are comfortable for both parties and are not coercive.

Silence about sex hinders erotic joy. Passionate love is a topic couples are wise to discuss, experiment with and enjoy within their wholesome, happy union.

To preserve passion throughout your marriage:

  • Resist the notion that loss of passion is an inevitable part of marriage.
  • Embrace the idea that your specialness is a given – but is not effort free.
  • Validate your mate’s preciousness by daily words and actions, as you affirm your loyalty to him/her.
  • Accept questions about another person not as accusations of unfaithfulness but as     expressions of desire of you and the need for reassurance about your undivided love and commitment.
  • Inquire about your mate’s sexual fantasies and enact those you can both embrace comfortably. Passionate love delights and cements your union.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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