She Said, He Said: Getting in the mood is about more than sex
Dear Lori and Jeff,
When my husband and I first met, we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Just a simple look from him would make me want to jump him. Fast forward two years, and I just don't have the same interest in sex anymore. We still have a "good" sex life, but I'm rarely in the mood to initiate. Usually he has to get things going. I don't understand, because I'm still incredibly attracted to my guy. He's handsome, funny and smart, and no one else even comes close to sparking my interest. I'm still young, and want to have passion in my relationship, but it feels like something just turned off. Help!
Not in the Mood
Dear Not in the Mood,
You're not alone. Even the healthiest, strongest relationships can struggle between the sheets.
It's important to understand that the passionate, can't-keep-your-hands-off-each-other launching point of many relationships is the result of a perfect (albeit sultry) storm. The honeymoon phase — whether it lasts three months or three years — is driven by intense hormones and neurotransmitters. Our brains and bodies are flooded with chemicals that drive us to connect and our ego relishes in every little insinuation that our new mate is into us. As a result, early relationship sex is often hot, heavy and habitual.
But this honeymoon phase only exists within the context of very specific conditions. There is a feeling of newness, intrigue and curiosity. You know your new partner enough to want to be wanted, but are not so emotionally invested that you worry about being judged. At this stage women can be open, uninhibited and take some risk with expressing their sexuality. But inevitably, the more time you spend with someone you like, the more you become emotionally connected. When this deeper, more authentic bond starts to grow, challenges in the bedroom can begin to arise.
Esther Perel, one of our favorite experts on relationships and sexuality, says it's very difficult to have both erotic exposure and emotional intimacy at the same time. Embracing and expressing your inner sex kitten can, in fact, become more vulnerable the more you care about your partner. Furthermore, as your role evolves into loving partner or wife, there are subconscious battles that begin to take place around identity. Many women have grown up being exposed to the notion that there is a difference between the sexually uninhibited one-night-stand woman and the woman he "wants to take home to mom." When relationships progress, it becomes easy to take on the loving partner identity at the expense of maintaining a strong connection to your sexuality.
Another significant factor for many women stems from biology. After the intoxication of the honeymoon phase wanes, the women's brain has a tendency to pair safety concerns with lust. Sex is riskier for women. They have more of a biological investment in potential offspring than do men. Consequently, many women need to feel their emotional bond with their partner is strong before feeling free to erotically connect. The notion of a strong bond here is incredibly nuanced — even small arguments and daily stressors can negatively impact desire.
Here a few tips for reigniting the flames:
Creating great sex doesn't lead to secure love; rather, secure attachment leads to better sex. Bringing new and exciting layers to the more intimate side of your relationship isn't necessarily about new acts, positions or toys. It's more about creating increased freedom to explore each other in physical and emotional ways that, in the past, may have felt too vulnerable or risky.
Curiosity and intrigue are what keep passion palpable, so partners need a balance of connection and some tension. When we assume we know all there is about our partner, there is no excitement and drive to connect further. One way to keep healthy tension is to remember that we never really know the complete inner workings of our significant other. Even if that makes us feel more vulnerable or insecure, it also keeps us on our toes and motivated to show up and put in the effort. Every day your partner has to choose you — it's a choice, not a guarantee.
Connect to what lights you up: in general as a woman and also sexually! Whether single or in a relationship, use your power and take ownership of the woman you want to be. Don't always look toward a partner to make you feel sexy, or desired. Connect to your own source of that energy — use art, music, nature or movement to awaken your sensuality.
Most importantly, the best erotic gifts you can give to yourself and your partner are a stronger sense of yourself, a willingness to be vulnerable, and a curiosity for unexplored physical and emotional adventures. Working on being your best self can do wonders for your sexual connection.