“Boredom is nothing but the experience of a paralysis of our productive powers.”
~ Erich Fromm
Boredom is defined as the “state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.”
Apply this definition to your sex life and you are suddenly in a crowd. In fact, sexual boredom is one of the most often cited reasons for cheating. The drive forces of this weariness and restlessness usually has less to do with you or your partner than it does with the nature of your partnership. There are many bestsellers currently on bookshelves promoting the idea that monogamy kills sexual passion and that sexual boredom is inevitable in long-term relationships.
Equally detrimental to many a sex life is the belief that sexual attraction or the degree of passionate chemistry in a relationship is a viable indicator for the health of the relationship. This myth presumes that great sex is easy to come by if you are in love and have the magical attracting chemicals.
This is the Cinderella myth of sex that we love to show in movies, that great sex lives don’t take work, they just happen to you. You shouldn’t have to plan for it. In fact, planning takes the zest away, as I have been told by many a couple who prefer to forgo a regular sex life rather than schedule time for intimacy.
The key to unlocking all these myths comes from understanding and embracing a fundamental truth about sexuality. Your comfort with your own sexuality and your willingness to explore it is where sex gets really hot. When you can take responsibility for your own desire and arousal and not hang them on the neck of someone else, you have taken the critical leap out of what David Schnarch calls “leftover sex.” The sad cycle that many long-term relationships fall into is this space where one’s sexual repertoire is limited to whatever is left over after all of the things one mark as off limits.
This is the same space that makes couples think they are not sexually compatible. Sexual compatibility is not about two people with the exact same sexual interests and curiosity; it is about two people who are interested, curious and flexible enough to stretch into their partner’s interests. This is where sex lives that work over time actually take work. It is no different, and in fact, is a mirror for the other work that you do in your relationship. This is because the emotional intimacy you share in dealing with the rest of your life is exactly what you will rely upon in learning to communicate about your sexual desires.
Hitting the wall of sexual boredom with your partner is actually a clear message from your relationship that it wants to grow and expand. Becoming accustomed to each other and learning the pleasure pathways you each respond to should inspire you to question and try something else. Being open to change and novelty in your sexual encounters springs from what is most loving in us: the real desire to know your partner better.
Still there are some easy ways to shake up even leftover sex, which is to say that you don’t have to agree to something totally new to make it feel really different. Start by changing the time of day that you have sex. If it is always dark, try dusk. A little afternoon delight can make you feel like you stepped into a new movie. Within the sexual act itself try changing the tempo, go slow and deep or fast and shallow or mix it up.
At least as powerful as that, shake up your foreplay routine. Try seduction in another room of the house. Eating at your table might never mean the same thing again. Or actually wash someone in the shower. Use a soapy hand as an emissary of what is to come. Adding novelty, like a piece of new lingerie or a new vibrator can be fun, too, but don’t rely on the new item to get your sexual juices flowing. Wanting and having great sex is a decision we make individually. Certainly, opening up to continuously searching for the access to sexual pleasure takes work, but it may well be the most rewarding use of your productive powers.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta.