If someone could write a book about this topic that actually had any practical tips, it would make them a billionaire. My dear old cyber-pal Crankmama had a go at discussing this a while ago, and now I’m going to weigh in.
Esther Perel’s new book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, was meant to be the zenith of sex/relationship manuals. And while relationship counselor Perel’s style is accessible and engaging, the fact remains that I have (unwittingly) followed all her tips, and fail to feel an electric crackle in the air when my husband walks through the door.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my sex life is bad. Far from it. It’s just that I don’t want to tear off his clothes and go at it on the kitchen table, that’s all. In fact, it’s in the rest of the marriage that I feel the yawn of boredom, not in bed.
Perel states that she regularly counsels couples who say that their relationship is intimate and loving yet sexually dull. While I am only speaking for myself, I would say the opposite is true about my own. My relationship is not particularly intimate, but it is not sexually unsatisfying. I mean, come on, what could be better than having slept with the same guy for six years? They can get you off in their sleep. They’ve had hours of on the job training. There’s none of that incredible awkwardness with a new lover where you don’t dare to say, “Actually, the way you’re doing that is actually very painful.” Plus, I don’t feel the slightest bit self-conscious with my husband about stretch marks, or whether my performance is good enough.
So what I would suggest is, why doesn’t someone write a book about how to make a long term relationship exciting outside the bedroom? Because that book cannot be written, that’s why.
TELL ME THESE TIPS AREN’T BLEEDING DAFT:
According to Perel, these pointers are meant to put the heat back into a relationship:
TIP 1. Download to a Friend – “You don’t have to tell your partner everything,” says Perel. “You should have many people to speak to, not one person you turn to for the trivial and sublime.” Save chitchat for pals and share the sublime with him.
I have lots of friends I talk to about all sorts of different things. But I don’t talk to my husband about the sublime. How in God’s name would that conversation go, anyway?
Me: “I saw a sunrise this morning that made me feel in touch with the whole of creation, like I was a tiny insignificant ant walking about on the great football of life.”
Him: “Er, right, do we need to buy toilet rolls? I’m making a list."
TIP 2. Do what you want – “Each of you go to the movie you’d like to see, not always the one you’d both like to see,” Perel says. “Meet up with him later. It will remind you of who you were Before Relationship, heightening your sense of Otherness.”
When we were dating, I would drag him to see obscure foreign Russian films and he’d go along with it, I suppose, so he could fondle my breasts in the back row. But After Relationship he always goes to see his films full of goblins, hobbits, massacres, politicians being beheaded and ultraviolence with his mates and I go and see strange foreign crap with my mates. Doesn’t everyone?
The result: We are not fascinated and intrigued by each other’s Otherness.
TIP 3. Sleep on his side of the bed – When he’s away, spread out and enjoy your freedom. “Don’t feel guilty if you are given a chunk of time to yourself that you are delighting in,” Perel says. “It doesn’t mean you love him any less.”
Again. What the fuck? Obviously, I’m as happy as a pig in shit to have him away and be able to sleep on both sides of the bed and leave croissant crumbs all over it and watch E! Entertainment on TV instead of House, Law and Order and CSI. Who wouldn’t be? And why would anyone feel guilty about it?
TIP 4. Spy on Him. Show up at a speech he’s giving or a ball game he’s playing in. “For many people, when they see their partner at work or doing their thing – something they have nothing to do with – it’s a real turn-on,” Perel says.
I went to my husband’s office the other day, and saw him sitting in a grey cubicle, working at a computer and drinking a can of Dr Pepper, and it was all I could do not to tear his clothes off and rip off a huge section of bubble wrap from a roll standing beside him and just lie down on it and go at it and at it until all the bubbles popped.
Sorry, this point makes no sense at all, unless your husband works fitting Jacuzzis or in some location that would make a bonk in that environment more interesting, say, than in a bed.
TIP 5. Cede Control. Let him plan an entire evening without your input or veto. “Anything you can do that is novel and breaks the routine enhances desire, provided the partner is open to being surprised,” Perel says.
Oh God, this is really embarrassing to recall. We once went to that couples resort, Sandals. You know, you’ve probably seen the brochure, gorgeous looking people lolling around beside pools feeding each other grapes. Well, it seemed okay when we got there, in the sense that there was an all you could drink bar from 11am – 4am. There was just one tiny problem, in that I was pregnant, and consequently had to make do with one daiquiri a night. The other problem was you were stuck in a resort that was filled, not with the attractive models from the brochure, but with two hundred sunburnt tedious English and Americans who wanted to befriend you and play Scrabble. Why? Why go on holiday to play Scrabble? Anyhow, the point is, one evening I said to my husband that he should make a plan for the evening.
By the end of the night, it didn’t look like he had made any plan. So we go back to our ‘chalet’ and there’s all these rose petals leading up the stairs to the door, and I think, oh goodness, someone’s been carrying a bunch of flowers around that are past their sell by date.
But no, it is not that. It is one of those erotic packages that he has purchased from the hotel, something that was probably called 'Honeymooner's Paradise' (includes lager flavoured love cream) or 'Caribbean Climax' (includes pack of flavoured condoms). There are rose petals all over the place, all over the bed. There are all sorts of candles and scented body oils and God only knows what and of course the obligatory champagne. I feel totally knackered what with being pregnant and having drunk my daiquiri, but I manage to drink some champagne and then I get all excited when I see the chocolate dipped strawberries and eat a few.
I should have been a man, I really should have. There’s my husband, all ready to roll about in the rose petals and smother me in oils and anoint me with God knows what and I just want to go to sleep. In fact, I did.
I’m a bitch, aren’t I? I probably don’t deserve him.
Still, he did try, I’ll give him that.
So, since I have done all these things Perel suggests, by rights, I should have the most fantastically exciting relationship in the history of the world, because we are so fascinated by each other’s Otherness that we want to explore this Otherness.
Or maybe I just have a humdrum, dull, cozy as a pair of slippers marriage like everyone else.
How to achieve excitement in marriage? Answers on a postcard please.
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