What is maintenance sex? It may help strengthen your marriage
Think back to those hungry, lusty days in your early relationship. The sex wasn’t just good, it was delicious, and your plate was never empty. For those in long term relationships, the difference between your sex life then and now may feel stark. It may even cause you to wonder if your relationship is ultimately doomed.
Perhaps you’ll find comfort in knowing that dwindling sexual intimacy is par for the course in many relationships.
“There’s a time in a relationship where you’re past the infatuation and discovery phase. You’re secure with one another and life’s stresses and obligations start to be more of a priority,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a clinical psychologist based in New York City. “There are a ton of external stressors and things that may threaten being in ‘the mood’ for sex despite being in love. These can be things like work, commutes, parenting or chores.”
Basically, anything we feel like we “have to do” drains our energy and can cause us to feel too tired for sex. The fact that we live in a culture that allows for very little downtime, which sex requires, also contributes to this. (Interestingly, how we’re choosing to spend our downtime in recent years — largely through digital entertainment — has also impacted sexual frequency.)
Another potential issue is satiation — the idea that a stimulus becomes less enticing the more we’re exposed to it. Too much of the same takeout can feel monotonous. Your new car isn’t as fun to drive as it did five years ago. You’re not as excited to put on your once-favorite sweater.
“Satiation is the human tendency to become bored. It’s not a fault. It’s being human and is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Dr. Brian Jory, a relationship psychologist and author of “Cupid On Trial — What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough.”
He adds that aging and medical issues are also culprits of dwindling libido.
“As we age, testosterone levels drop, and this affects men and women alike,” he says. “Pregnancy and childbirth change sexual satisfaction and frequency dramatically, and chronic illness, weight gain and physical injury are also factors in declining sex.”
WHY PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS SO IMPORTANT
Your relationship isn’t going to fail just because the sexual aspect isn’t as robust as it was many years (and perhaps several kids) ago. However, operating on autopilot without making a concerted effort to nurture physical intimacy can lead to decreased fulfillment, which is never good.
“Sex is important in a relationship. When we are looking at the brain and hormonal benefits, orgasm releases oxytocin which is the ‘feel good’ hormone that bonds us. This is why, when couples begin to feel that they are drifting or growing apart, they’re mostly likely to report a lack of sex,” notes Dr. Hafeez.
In that sense, overall bonding and sexual intimacy are very connected. That said, there’s no “magic number” for how much sex you should have, though a 2017 study pointed to a frequency of once-weekly.
Dr. Jory adds, “Sex is important to the degree that it makes a couple happy, and the frequency and quality of sex that makes a couple happy varies greatly and depends on a lot of factors: their ages, values, lifestyle, innate sex drive, their health, and most of all, the quality of the relationship.”
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