We often suffer from a misunderstanding of how our romantic relationships mature. Many of us fail to realize that, in a relationship, our feelings of lust naturally change and usually decrease. This runs as a counter current to a society obsessed with sexual images and infatuation. Madison Avenue and Hollywood, with their stories of romantic bliss, contribute to this misuderstanding by manipulating how couples view sex within relationships.
Sexual desire plays a major role in a budding relationship. Infatuation is in full bloom and is driven by fantasy, need, and mystery. For months or years lust remains strong. It draws two people together such that they continue to learn about one another. Often, however, reality butts up against fantasy and replaces feelings of excitement with those of disappointment.
When a relationship goes through a phase of diminished lust, many assume that something is wrong when, in fact, the relationship has entered a new more mature stage. This maturity can deepen both love and sexual excitement but it will look very different than infatuation. If both partners expect their lust to be as it was in the beginning, they may grow apart instead of deepening their physical and emotional bond.
I have worked with many couples whose bond has ruptured because of sexual dysfunction. Because change in lust is interpreted as dysfunction, couple want to either get that lust back, look outside the relationship for satisfaction, or terminate the relationship. If enough time passes without sex, thoughts of reviving it again seem insurmountable. As a non-sexual relationship becomes the norm, sexual thoughts about the other partner can often feel incestuous. By working on sensitization, empathy, experimentation, and risk, sex can often be rekindled, and what was once infatuation will be replaced by a deeper and more profound physical bond.
Our society, through media and advertising, teaches us to expect physical intimacy to be universally magical, spontaneous, and exciting. Instead, intimacy is as complicated as life. The couple needs to work on their sexual intimacy and establish a different but deeper physical satisfaction.