By Roger Nygard, Author, and Filmmaker
Is lost passion a condition that can be fixed? Is fading marriage intimacy something couples have to accept?
While interviewing psychologists about marriage tips for my documentary THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE, I asked the experts why passion fades and how couples can re-ignite their sexual desire.
New couples can’t easily imagine their intense sexual desire will ever ebb, but long-term couples report a consistent drop in sexual frequency from their earliest days together.
Marriage therapist John C. Friel stated that an astonishing 25% of marriages in the U.S. are sexless. And he said the numbers probably rise to at least 40% when you add in couples only having sex out of duty, guilt, or religious obligation.
Marital therapist Bonnie Eaker Weil defines marriage sex problems very simply. “If one person thinks there is a problem, that is the definition of a problem.”
Psychologist Ty Tashiro reassures that a decline is natural. “In the romanticized notion of marriage, people think sex should stay wild and crazy even ten or twenty years later. But that is not realistic.” Even if we wanted to keep the original passionate intensity raging at full volume for an entire relationship, is it possible? Dr. Tashiro’s answer is that if we did, we would die: “The butterflies-in-your-stomach is a stress reaction—a pleasant one—but it would actually become toxic to your body over time to keep releasing that level of hormone.”
So, how do you bring passion back into your relationship?
Obstacles to marriage? That sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? What does that mean? Dating advisor Lucia Demasi recommends, “If you want to rekindle the passion, stop spending so much time together.”
In 1975, Psychologist C.A. Tripp wrote about the need for obstacles in erotic desire. It turns out that the strength of your passion for your partner is related in part to how hard you have to work to be together. When something is plentiful, that leads to habituation, that is, you start taking it for granted. Tripp said, “a person’s sexual motivation is seldom aroused and is never rewarding unless something in the partner or in the situation itself is viewed as resistant to it. This resistance may be in the form of the partner’s hesitance, the disapproval of outsiders, or any other impediment to easy access.”1
In the 1995 book The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, psychotherapist Jack Morin writes about this concept as an erotic equation: ATTRACTION + OBSTACLES = EXCITEMENT. 2
When I interviewed psychologist Christopher Ryan he further elaborated on this formula: “The function of sexual attraction is to close distance, but once you have closed the distance that pole is gone. And that is as natural and unavoidable as when you eat, hunger is gone.”
It is counter-intuitive to lovers that they sometimes need to be forced apart to increase the strength of their desire to be together.
HOW TO REKINDLE PASSION IN YOUR MARRIAGE
One way to reignite passion in a sexless marriage is to place obstacles back in a path that has become too worn and easy to travel:
- Spend time apart; perhaps plan separate vacations.
- Diversify yourselves; start a side hobby or new interest.
- Cultivate your individuality.
It’s exciting to come back together and have new things to talk about.
What else can we do to keep passion fresh? I collected suggestions (including some marriage sex tips) from the marriage experts I interviewed for how to increase the passion in your relationship:
- Change your look.
- Develop yourself and grow.
- Have a regular date night, yet make it a requirement to do something different each time.
- Occasionally make spontaneous dates.
- Have an adventure together.
- Do new physical activities together (there is strong evidence that couples are more passionate after trying new physical activities together, like dance lessons, badminton, a roller coaster ride, etc.)3
- Make a surprise plan for a weekend at a hotel in a new, quaint location (a mutually fresh location changes perceptions of each other), whether in your own city or a different country.
- If you have children, arrange a babysitter and book a spa day together.
- Have sex from a different position, with a new toy, with a different approach, or someplace new: a hotel, a tent, a car, or Paris.
- Sometimes add a mandatory fifteen minutes of foreplay: teasing, touching, and hot glances.
- Role play: meet at a bar pretending you’ve never met before.
The point is to keep the surprises coming.
But there is also something else at work reducing passion, a secret language of relationships, which is often working behind the scenes:
TAP INTO MALE AND FEMALE ENERGY VIA MASCULINE AND FEMININE POLARITY
Masculine and feminine used to be considered distinct and separate categories. Men were hunters (or earners) and women were nurturers (or homemakers). During the last century almost all cultures have moved toward egalitarianism, attempting to balance expectations of a fifty-fifty masculine-feminine equality.
Spiritual growth and intimacy author David Deida sees this loss of polarity as a reason for ever-shrinking passionate energy that has impacted a lack of sex in marriage. Deida advises couples to re-magnify polarity differences in moments of intimacy, to accentuate feminine and masculine traits. He points out this is true in homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships. It is not about gender; it is about the polarity of masculine energy and feminine energy.4
HOW TO RE-CALIBRATE PASSION
In my relationship book THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE, I profiled Satyen and Suzanne Raja, who are passion experts. They specialize in marriage sex tips, and teaching couples how to rekindle lost passion by re-calibrating polarity. In the book, I documented a peek behind the scenes at the techniques that they teach in one of their seminars, a “Sex, Passion & Enlightenment Intensive.”
Satyen and Suzanne separated the couples and took them through a series of exercises. They re-connected women with their ability to “ramp up their feminine vibe.” And they showed men how to boost their masculine energy, and “help them find the sexual warriors inside themselves.”
The re-calibration techniques they practiced drove their partners wild when the couples reunited. It was amazing how quickly they experienced a passion boost—in just one meeting!
When the seminar ended it was like somebody pulled a fire alarm. The couples left quickly, nearly running, to be together privately. At past seminars attendees occasionally got Satyen and Suzanne in trouble by having sex in elevators or parked cars. They couldn’t wait to get home or to hotel rooms. Satyen and Suzanne hold up these “troubles” as a badge of honor, a proof of concept that it’s possible to rekindle passion in a sexless marriage.
If you would like to read about the specific techniques couples learned at these passion seminars, check out the links below for The Truth about Marriage relationship book by Roger Nygard. And if you’d like to learn more relationship tips, you can also view the funny documentary The Truth about Marriage. Both will help you understand what makes a relationship work, find the right relationship, and keep it healthy, passionate, and vibrant. A good marriage survival kit should include ways to rekindle passion in a marriage.
- C. A. Tripp, The homosexual matrix (2nd ed.), (New York, New Ameri- can Library, 1975), 59.
- Jack Morin, The erotic mind: Unlocking the inner sources of sexual passion and fulfillment, (New York, Harper Perennial, Kindle Edition, 2012), Ch. 2, loc. 758.
- Arthur Aron, Christina Norman, Elaine Aron, Colin McKenna, Rich- ard E. Heyman, “Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality,” Journal of Personal- ity and Social Psychology Vol. 78., No. 2., 2000: 273–84, https://doi. org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.523
- David Deida, The way of the superior man: A spiritual guide to mastering the challenges of women, work, and sexual desire, (Louisville, Sounds True, 20th Anniversary Edition, Kindle Edition, 2017), 4, 8.