The Fading Passion of Monogamy

WHOLE-lovefades

There seems to be a lot of new research lately that suggests that women do grow less sexually attracted to their husbands over the long relationship. Um… This is news? There’s this little concept called the seven-year itch that has been hanging around men’s heads for quite some time. Well, it seems the ennui is a two-way street.

I suppose the previous assumption was that women grew more deeply in love as the marriage years passed by. And with this assumption, was the idea that the deeper the love, the more sexual and connected the women would feel towards their husbands. Guess what? It’s difficult for two people to maintain a marriage, and even more difficult to keep that marriage vital, sexually exciting, and emotionally connected.

Love fades. A quick Google of the topic generates enough material for two movies and several encyclopedias of information about the fleeting nature of love, passion, lust, and love. Some of us, who tried and failed to sustain the magic, are looking for clues, ways to not repeat the mistakes of our past. And some people are becoming more convinced that enduring monogamy is just not viable in our modern society.

The real miss for me, right now, as a divorced dad, has more to do with my kids than with my ex-wife. However, I have to say, she’s still attractive to me.

I’d say love ebbs and flows. There are moments of peak experience, high times of love and raw sexual joy. And these moments are easier when you’re in the early stages of a relationship. And there is no denying that a new sexual partner is an amazing opportunity to rekindle your own inner sexual demon. Perhaps in a past marriage you began to doubt if you still had it in you. And after some work recovering your mojo, post divorce, you’re back in the dating game and BOOM it happens. The Joy of Sex becomes a thing again and not just a book.

But the question of being able to maintain sexual desire and interest in your lover year after year is a bit more difficult to decipher. I’d love to say there was a strategy or a book I could point to that would give us all the answer. There is not.

I can tell you, that in my marriage, even as things went from awesome and new, to awesome with children, to less awesome with children and mortgage, to less than awesome, to non-existent, that I never lost the desire and energy for my wife. While there would have been plenty of reasons to look outside the marriage, or ask for release from the sexless bedroom, I was more committed to my kids than I was to MY sexual gratification.

Of course I can’t speak to her and her levels of desire, or how the monotony of monogamy might have had something to do with the frosty bedroom. But I knew that our love would prevail over the time and stress and aches of growing up and parenting two wonderful kids.

The real miss for me, right now, as a divorced dad, has more to do with my kids than with my ex-wife. However, I have to say, she’s still attractive to me. I would still be in love with her, if there were some way to magically turn back the less-than cool things that have happened since. And if we were still working together, financially, rather than independently, and with two houses, we could be dialing back our work loads rather than dialing them up again.

It’s okay, I don’t want a reconciliation, and I’m sure that she does not either, but it’s a shame when all this wonderful chemistry, love, passion, and mutually agreed upon goals falls into disrepair and we find ourselves having to start over, or in my case, imagining starting over, with someone new. I didn’t want someone new. I didn’t want any one else. I was not tired of her sexually.

I was hopeful that by withdrawing a bit of my overt love language with her and the kids, that she would step back into “that loving feeling” and return to her previously joyous self.

However, I think I was also carrying a huge portion of the task of keeping the love alive. Not just in the bedroom, but in our daily lives as well. I learned about The 5 Love Languages a bit too late to help my marriage, but I can see now how we were wired very differently for love and affection. My language is touch. And in our lives, and our kid’s lives, I was the one who wrapped my arms around everyone and hugged. I was the one generating 90% of the touchy-feely actions in our entire family.

This lack of balance in our expressions of love was most apparent, as things were trending downward in our love life, when I took a break from being the cheerleader of the emotional family. I was hoping that by dialing my own warm fuzzies back, my wife would recognize the lack and move in to fill the vacuum a bit. I was hopeful that by withdrawing a bit of my overt love language with her and the kids, that she would step back into “that loving feeling” and return to her previously joyous self.

It didn’t work. It didn’t really backfire either, but I got my message loud and clear. If there was going to be joy and connective love in our house, I was going to have to generate all of the adult portion of it. The kids were busy little love bugs. They reflected back as much love as you could pour into them. But between my wife and I, the connection sometimes required effort.

Thus I believe the new studies showing women too suffer from long-term monogamy burnout not as a finding, but as a confirmation that love and passion take work on both sides. You can’t find true love and hope that it will carry you on into your twilight years together. You’ve got to work at remaining loving, remaining vital and active in your own life, so you can show up as vital and loving in your marriage. If either partner drops in their love energy, it is the other person’s responsibility to respond, support, nurture, and communicate.

If you can talk about what’s happening, there is a possibility that you can read books like The 5 Love Languages, or Seven Principals to Make a Marriage Work, and do what it takes to rekindle your marriage. If either of you decides not to do the work of keeping the love alive, then you’re in for some tough times. And when negotiations and discussions break down, sometimes over sex, the fractures may end up becoming breaks. The loss of the love may end up signaling the loss of your marriage.

I don’t have any knowledge of how this myth of women’s sustained love life came about, but I know I didn’t buy it. And so when the books began coming out and women started saying, “See, we’re in need of excitement and variety too, ” I was nonplussed. Um, yeah, we know this. It’s called the seven-year-grass-might-be-greener-with-a-new-sexual-parner itch.

This post continues here:  The Rest of Our Lives Loving the Same Person

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Positive Divorce 

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image: found image, creative commons usage

 

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  1. do you know there was an article in the times a while back that showed that some people are wired to stay in love forever? their brains lit up the same at the beginning of the relationship and years into it. but they were the minority. also did you know that love activates the same circuits as OCD which is why SSRI’s can make people fall out of love? all interesting for this discussion. :)