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Passion-Smashion: Why I’m Fine Without It In My Marriage

Why I'm no longer wistful for a hot sex life.

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Margeaux Walter
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Recently, my husband of 16 years was working from home and joined me in our family room for a coffee break. I’m not sure what came over me, but I suddenly had an urge to straddle his lap, hoping for a little daytime fun that was an almost daily occurrence during our courtship and early marriage. What I got was a man completely oblivious to my overtures, as he read work messages on his phone and ignored my attempt to spark up an ember that fizzled out years ago.

I’ll admit that a small part of me was annoyed and felt rejected, but it was momentary, and I made a joke about how years ago me straddling him would have had him tossing his phone and unzipping his pants, pronto. We both chuckled and went back to our workday.

Many couples struggle with keeping the flame burning after being together a long time. I used to be far more invested than I am now in that euphoric sexual tension and lust, with the energy for nights of endlessly exploring each other’s bodies that were new to us. But the truth is that I’m no longer wistful for that level of passion and I’m completely fine without it.  

High passion requires energy, and I’m not ashamed to admit that at 52 I just don’t have the stamina I had at 36! My body isn’t as fit, I have more medical concerns, we have a busy teenage daughter and we’re just so tired most nights that we are usually asleep before our daughter even goes to bed. How would we find the privacy to fulfil a still-blazing passion, even if we had it?

My mentality and outlook on long-term relationships have also grown. The romance novels and rom-com movies I grew up loving never revealed “happily ever after” required a lot of hard work and that dealing with a teenager, aging, menopause and normal relationship conflicts and challenges (along with a few exceptional ones) would take a toll on passion. I know my husband would prefer more frequent sexual interaction, but we’ve both settled into a deeper friendship and emotional intimacy. We now accept occasional treats of toe-curling moments rather than a daily diet of arousal and excitement.

“I often hear in therapy that as the relationship progresses there are changes in levels of passion. As with many things, over time passion has ebb and flow,” confirmed Nona Kelly, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Nashville, Tennessee. She further explained: “The decrease in physical passion is only an immediate concern if the couple feels it is linked to a physical or medical condition, otherwise it is a normal and necessary step for the relationship to evolve into a long-term relationship.” Kelly says a couple’s focus often shifts to a committed, loving, long-term relationship rather than an immediate, passionate one, but says sexual intimacy is still a need, like quality time and laughter together.

Danielle H. of Washington state has been married nine years and with her husband for 15. She, too, is untroubled by a lack of passion in her marriage.

“After we married, I really enjoyed our amazing passion,” Danielle confided, but she feels it all changed when she gave birth five years ago. She felt turned off by the difference between her husband’s parenting style and hers, but she also had her tubes tied and wonders if that led to her lack of interest in sex. She and her husband have only had occasional sexual encounters for his pleasure in the last two years, without intercourse.

“I love him and still think he’s attractive, but I’m happy simply spending time with him without physical contact. I prefer intimacy via conversation; it’s what I found best about our early passion — the emotional connection.”

Although Danielle doesn’t enjoy knowing her husband isn’t satisfied with their current lack of sexual relations, she feels she’s being most true to herself.

“We tend to idealize what passion means and feels like and sometimes mistake this new and unfamiliar connection for a spark or chemistry that’s meant to last,” confirms therapist Rachel Kaplan. “As a relationship moves out of the honeymoon phase and into a place of more stability, consistency and predictability, it is normal and healthy for some of this passion to fade and shift.”

Kaplan feels society has been influenced by social media and pop culture to believe in an unrealistic ideal that creates unnecessary worry if a long-term relationship doesn’t sustain the original passion. She suggests that instead of focusing on what has changed or been lost, couples should think about what has grown between them. 

“A true partnership moves away from just attraction and fun, and towards connectedness, emotional support and responsibility sharing. As long-term relationships progress, there is often a feeling of steadiness, comfort, routine, and a foundation of friendship that develops and signals a healthy, adaptive and secure attachment,” Kaplan says. “Acknowledge that this is a different stage of your relationship and there is nothing inherently wrong with feeling less passion.”

Kelly encourages couples to talk regularly about their needs, desires and any changes they are experiencing in their bodies. “Couples need to keep open communication about what is happening to them physically and emotionally.”

As for my own marriage, I’ll continue appreciating how we’ve survived so many challenges together to form a deeper bond than the lustful physical one we started with, and simply enjoy occasional visits to that old passion when all the stars align.

Have any of you struggled with a loss of passion in your longtime relationship? What do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships