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Feb 26, 2008

Keep the passion burning

You’ve been together for 15 years – where has all the passion gone?

MARK and Angela have been married for 15 years. In the early days of their courtship, they talked all the time, held hands while walking and kissed and cuddled – even if sex wasn’t on the agenda later that day. Over the last few years, the sizzle seems to have gone out of their relationship and sex life.

Australian sex therapist and relationship councillor Dr Rosie King says that loss of passion, as in the case of Mark and Angela, is inevitable in all long-term relationships. “In the beginning, lovers find each other fascinating and enchanting. Like Romeo and Juliet, they want to be together every moment of the day and can’t keep their hands off each other.

“This state of ecstatic excitement does not last forever. Three years down the road, Romeo and Juliet have settled into a committed relationship and fireworks may explode only occasionally or not at all,” she said.

Dr King said that lust levels peak during the first 12 to 18 months of a relationship due to changes in brain chemicals. This period is known as “limerence”.

“As limerence fades, the chemical high slowly declines, returning us to our usual state of sexual desire. For women, in particular, this decline is disappointing because so many end up with little or no sexual desire. This is disappointing for their male partners too. They get the cold shoulder more often than not when they approach their partners for sex,” Dr King said.

That women do not seem to get as much pleasure from sexual activity as the years go by is apparent by the results of the Pfizer Global Better Sex Survey. It indicated that 24% of women aged between 45 and 54 and 44% of women aged from 55 to 64 received little or no pleasure from sex over a four-week period prior to the study.

Dr King said that no one should shoulder the blame for the loss of passion and desire.

“She’s not frigid and he’s not a sex maniac with only one thing on his mind. The majority of women in committed relationships say they feel fairly ‘neutral’ about sex. They don’t feel a strong appetite for sex, have sexual fantasies and miss sex if they don’t have it.

“However, most women find that once they get started with sex, given the right stimulation, they can usually get sexually aroused and enjoy lovemaking. It’s just getting started that’s the problem.

“Men on the other hand, thanks to 10 times more testosterone in their systems, are usually keen for sex. They feel urgent sexual desire, think about sex often, look for opportunities to initiate sex and become uncomfortable if they don’t have it,” she said.

It doesn’t have to be a case of complete doom and gloom. Dr King said that it is possible to overcome the desire discrepancy with understanding and compromise.

“Women shouldn’t wait until they feel lust before they have sex because it may never happen. On a fairly regular basis, they need to simply say ‘Yes’ to sex when the man initiates.

“While he decides when sex is going to happen, she has final say on what type of sex will occur. She may be in the mood for sexual intercourse and be ready to get sexually aroused and perhaps try for orgasm or she may prefer sex at a lower level of participation.

“He may not get everything he wants from sex and she may give a little more than she prefers but in the end a compromise is the only solution,’’ she said.

Dr King added: ‘‘Some women take a hard line and refuse to meet their partner’s sexual needs. This breaks the promise we all make, either explicitly or implicitly, in long-term relationships to take care of our partner’s emotional, physical and sexual needs.

“In romantic relationships, sex is an integral part of the bargain. If you expect your partner to remain faithful, you will need to be a co-operative sexual partner.’’

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