“This phenomenon of decreasing desire as the relationship continues on is near universal for women…and men as well.” Dr. Lori Brotto
Every time my husband and I want to go out to dinner, he asks me what I have a taste for and my answer is always the same: sushi. I think he’s hoping for a different answer…
Sushi is my favorite thing to eat, and I think I could eat sushi every single day and not get sick of it, but that’s because I don’t get the exact same sushi roll every single time. I bounce around between fresh and fried, salmon and tuna, grouper and shrimp, avocado and cucumber…you get the picture. But if I had to eat the exact same roll for every meal, every single day of my life – I know I would get sick of it.
I know this because years ago I was on a protein shake diet, and the ONLY thing I could consume was a chocolate protein shake – five times a day. And I began to think of food as fuel to run my body, rather than something to be enjoyed or as a treat or reward. I didn’t crave the chocolate protein shake; I just chugged one when I was hungry. (Unhealthy way to lose weight….I know…but stay with me here so you don’t miss the point.)
I also know I would get sick of having the same thing every single day because there’s scientific evidence that when we eat the exact same thing every single day, we no longer crave it. There’s a part of our brain that lights-up like a pinball machine when something is new and desirable to us, and it shoots out the feel good hormone, dopamine. It’s a physiological response in the human body.
If you’ve been eating the same sushi roll every day for every meal and now someone gives you a steak, that reward center in the brain will begin to do its thing. It will taste like the best thing ever!
Likewise, when you’ve been with the same person day-in and day-out, having the same kind of sex over the course of years or decades together, you no longer desire it.
Familiarity suppresses desire.
So every single monogamous person on the planet has felt desire wane for their partner at some point in time.
Nothing has gone wrong. It’s just a natural chemical response in the body.
But for many people, they take that loss of desire and begin to question their marriage and whether or not they still love their partner. But love and desire are two very different things.
Almost every single one of my clients tell me that they love their husband, but they don’t desire him. And that’s especially true when they took that waning desire and re-ignited it through an affair partner.
Guess what happened?
Yep, all the desire came rushing back and dopamine flooded their bodies. And they attributed that rush of feelings and desire to the affair partner. So now, they cannot imagine ending the affair and going back into the marriage because it doesn’t feel the same way as it did with the affair partner.
Of course it doesn’t.
That’s because one is known, familiar, and feels a bit uninspired.
The other is new, exciting, and more than a little dangerous.
And even if you decide to end the marriage to be with the affair partner, eventually the desire for that too would wane and become all too familiar.
So what do we do?
We actively create variety inside our marriages to keep it interesting:
- That can be seeking out new experiences (taking a cooking class together or traveling to a new country together)
- It can be creating new points of connection between the two of you (such as sitting outside together and chatting over a glass of wine at the end of the day rather than sitting in front of the TV on opposite ends of the sofa)
- It can also be trying new positions in bed, creating new forms of foreplay, and getting better at inviting one another (We can do better than, “You wanna fool around?”)
I want this to bring you some comfort. Desire will never remain at a consistent peak throughout the entirety of our marriages. It’s physiologically impossible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be more intentional about consistently adding more variety to the marriage to keep it interesting.
If you’d like to learn how to go from a place of disconnection in our marriages to a place where desire is once again present, let’s explore if there’s a fit for us to work together.