***Warning – this post may ruin your best friend threesome fantasy***
Once upon a time, long term couples were encouraged to ‘share everything’, from a strand of spaghetti to the grizzly details of the monthly cycle. The idea was that this constant sharing, this living in each others’ pockets, was supposed to bring you closer together. And it does. You’ll be best-friend close.
The problem is, you don’t tend to want to shag your best mate.
Worse, your living arrangement most closely resembles that of a sibling. Again, not someone you want to shag.
Enter the world of Married Sex.
Not only does sexing your partner start to seem about as appealing as humping a manky dish cloth, you may find you’re not into sex at all.
This is what happened to me.
At the time I blamed the pill, not realising I was living with a constant libido suppressant called a husband. All I knew was that over time sex had stopped being something I couldn’t get enough of, and started becoming a chore – something I did out of a vague sense of obligation that would have to wait until after I’d finished the ironing and scrubbing the floor.
To be fair, my husband had also stopped beating down the door to rip my knickers off. So I decided (with some relief) that he didn’t really want it either.
During this time (which I consider some freakish aberration), not only did I rarely crave sex, not even to DIY, the thought of shagging my partner was a turn-off. In fact I used to dread it.
The most satisfying sex we had during the long drought was on the rare occasions when my sleeping brain decided it had been long enough, thank you very much, and I would wake from a raunchy dream, desperate for a shag. In the dark, still half-asleep, I could jump my husband and not notice I was shagging him.
Experts now realise that the previously advocated ‘closeness’ and total entanglement of each others’ lives is the worst possible thing you can do if you want to avoid this deadening drought I call Married Sex. They concede that by the time your husband has seen you in your pink fluffy slippers with mascara blubbing down your face and once you’ve experienced his regular AGBs (1), when you have no privacy left, no un-mutual friends, and no me-only time, your desire for one another doesn’t just start to wane, it plummets.
Add to this the scientific theory that evolution is working against us, playing out its war on our libidos using the very chemicals that make us want to shag in the first place. Scientists argue that the cycle of romance, sex and love, by its very nature, is geared to lead every long term couple toward parenthood and virtual abstinence.
The cycle goes something like this:
- Romance produces the chemicals that lead to sex
- Sex produces the chemicals that lead to love
- Love suppresses the chemicals that lead to romance
which traps us into a life of monogamy through ritual emasculation (testosterone being the chemical suppressed by ‘love’). With the desire for sex depleted, we are much less likely to stray, and much more likely to feel the ‘love’ bonds that will encourage us to stay and raise offspring (2). The problem is that over time this has an inevitable impact on a couples’ desire for each other.
And this is just one of the ‘chemical’ theories of sex and love involving libido enhancers and suppressants.
For me, the contraceptive pill turned my body into one giant sex no-go zone. Like many women my age, I live with the ongoing pain of endometriosis, and so had been prescribed a high-dose pill. The hormones stopped my periods and so stopped the pain, but then stopped me feeling altogether. Without hormonal drivers, I had almost no drive at all. Not just for sex, but for anything. It was like wearing a pair of giant granny pants, the kind that suck in your gut only to have the excess ooze out everywhere else. All the while you’re there struggling to breathe. In the end I decided I could live with the pain in order to feel again, and stopped taking it.
Like a teenage boy hitting puberty my hormones went into overdrive. I had energy to burn, and as the first full moon approached, I was climbing the walls. Just about every man who walked past was a potential shag. I lost count of the poor unsuspecting guys I imagined dragging into the loo for some unbridled bouncing-off-the-walls passion. The cruel irony was that my husband was away at the time, and so for the first time in years I locked myself indoors and masturbated like crazy.
Eventually my husband arrived home. But then the weirdest thing happened. I didn’t want to shag him. It was like I’d been given a dose of instant libido suppressant.
It scared the shit out of me.
It was a while before I had a hormonal peak as extreme as the first, but I did notice the ups and downs of my cycle after that, and I was never quite sure who I might be tempted to crack on to. At one point I felt I ought to wear a public safety waning: CAUTION: FULL MOON APPROACHING, just to prevent any embarrassing misadventures while ‘on heat’.
Having rediscovered the joys of DIY, for the next little while, it was all that kept me sane. I certainly got no pleasure from my unshaven, unwashed, bad-breathed husband sprawling himself on the marital bed in his ‘come get it’ pose. And when we did do it, it was a far cry from the lets-do-it-in-every-room passion of the early days.
‘He’d moved into the wrong part of my brain,’ she said.
I could understand this sort of change occurring in couples who have children, who end up taking on the asexual role of parents, but that wasn’t true for either of us. The moment she said it, though, I knew she was right. My husband had slipped into the ‘brother’ part of my brain.
Not twelve months later, we separated. With hindsight I’m not the least bit surprised.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if our relationship had come with a warning: DON’T TAKE YOUR MUTUAL ATTRACTION FOR GRANTED. What steps could we have taken to focus less on the ‘smoochie poochie’ part and more on the ‘red hot rampant sex’ part? The idea that you might need to work at keeping on wanting sex seemed absurd at the time.
Since then I’ve read theory after theory on the pitfalls of long term relationships and how to counter hormonal inhibitors such as illness and the pill. Advice ranges from the basics of maintaining separate lives, to forcing yourself to shag, even when you’d rather spend the evening repeatedly sticking a fork in your eye. Others advocate watching porn (3) or even having an affair. These theories all come with warnings, of course (4).
After my divorce I managed to sustain a relationship for two years. In that time we maintained very separate lives and shagged ourselves silly. We also weren’t particularly close, and never quite made it to the point where our lives became entangled.
Who’s to say the two are related? I was in a difficult place, and we were two very different people. As for my husband, we probably just outgrew each other and ultimately liked different things in bed.
What I can be sure of is that I’ll never have Married Sex again. I’ll do whatever it takes. Read endless volumes of self-help books, research sex-partiesparties, anything. Because good sex is part of what makes you feel alive. And I’m a long, long way from dead.
(2) I suspect this is why some people run a mile after sex, as though they know in the moments after orgasm they are most vulnerable to a ‘bonding attack’
(3) Or True Blood, if that works better for you
(4) Apparently affairs can also lead to a relationship’s demise…