The hottest nine years of my adult carnal life were spent being somebody's "side dish." Don't feel sorry for me. He was my piece on the side, too -- and, much like lobster mac and cheese, was he ever delicious. 26 years older then me, he was wildly successful, sophisticated, and... unavailable. Back then, I was a "refreshing" comely hick from a town in New Jersey I'd rather die than mention. (Hey, it's bad enough I just copped to New Jersey.)
I'm not particularly proud of that arrangement. Nor am I ashamed. It just -- was.
Look, there's nothing "politically correct" about what churns up one's libido, and perhaps the morally upright will be repelled, but we're talking erotics here! Our affair was on FIRE for those nine years... until I decided to leave the arrangement, move forward and get married to a deadbeat. The marrying the deadbeat part was a gaffe, but it did force me to fully focus on my career, my portfolio, my rep in my chosen community and... voila! I became my former lover -- pretty damn successful and, yes, sophisticated, despite my Jersey roots.
While my career blossomed, my husband's didn't and his lack of ambition extended to our bedroom. Basically, I outpaced him and became the man I wanted to marry and he -- sigh -- became a sissy. Did out-earning my husband compromise our sex life? More and more often, we female breadwinners are coming home to daddy... and I don't mean that in a sexy way. As E. Jean Carroll loves to say "men are the new women"... and that ain't always hot.
Since that nine-year affair, the marriage and the subsequent divorce, I've been in a series of monotonous -- oops -- monogamous live-in relationships. Every time, it seems the friendship lasted... but not the sex.
And I am not alone...
I've spent a lot of valuable drinking time sitting across from married or partnered pals, ranging in age from 30 to 60, lamenting that their sex lives have become drudgery or just plain ceased to exist. Even Marilyn Monroe complained: "The first effect marriage had on me was to increase my lack of interest in sex. Actually, our marriage was a sort of friendship with sexual privileges."
Was Gore Vidal right? Is it better to LIKE your partner, never boff them, create an open arrangement policy and diddle freely elsewhere? Just give up in one's own bedroom?
I say NO. I finally figured it out after leaving my last -- and I do mean my last in every sense of the word -- sex-free relationship two years ago. I will never buy into NOT thinking of myself as a sexual being with the person I am with again. It makes you feel lousy... that simple. You feel undesirable. You stop caring for yourself. You buy into it. But the fact is, you DESERVE a sex life IN your partnership and not, sorry to disagree Mr. Vidal, elsewhere.
And not banal sex. Not "dutiful" sex... I'm talking TOTAL HOT ABANDONED sex.
How do we keep, to quote Adam Phillips from Monogamy, "what's always too available sufficiently illicit to be interesting?"
1. It's the ritual, stupid!
The writer Maya Angelou has a specific writing routine: She rises at 5 a.m. and checks into a hotel room where all distractions are removed from walls. She takes a legal pad, bottle of sherry, deck of playing cards, a Bible, Roget's Thesaurus and taps away at her 12-page goal. Now, that's a ritual -- and intention. And not so different from what Esther Perel had to say in Mating in Captivity: Spontaneity is a myth when you're living together. CREATE an erotic space where the full intention is raunch. No wonder women are eating up their "inner goddess" with the bad prose of the literary phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. Bring on the chains, whips and Ben Wa balls. It's a playdate and... you plan for it. Anticipation... remember???
2. Make your own set of rules
Is the traditional institution of marriage in today's world just plain bogus? Maybe the "till death do us part" is... I mean, most of our grandparents are not gonna live as long as we will. Let's be real. Fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. Sixty-five percent of second marriages end in the trash. The present formula is not working.
Maybe, instead, we should have a ten-year contract, like you would at a high-roller job. All I am suggesting is that we rethink how a partnership might be, how to create a more titillating non-traditional one, but still get some sense of security. A partnership where you don't feel your mate is YOURS... cause he or she is not, and never was. Recognizing impermanence IS kinda sexy... and a fact of life. To quote Esther Perel again, "we're all on lease, with an option to renew." Love that!
3. Stop expecting one person to be EVERYTHING
Why do we all keep doing this? Not only does it not work, but it suffocates you and your partner... and the possibilities for a wider, richer life together. Lack of autonomy is a sex killer! And it limits your social life ta boot. Let 'em be! Let 'em go! Bring it on!
4. Monogamy vs "Freedom"
That Monogamy issue: Look, if you open up this can of worms, you need some basic commandments to live by. It can be messy, so learn what your boundaries are. Care for your needs and your mate's needs. Do you WANT to tell each other about "dates" -- or make a pact to keep the silence? I vote for silence myself. And don't forget the golden rule: No falling in love with the third party.
However, it takes a certain kind of couple to handle the "everything's free" concept. Consider having an open discussion... why not?
But you have to be honest. If the relationship is open, you can go out, have a romp with someone else and bring that sexual energy BACK to the bedroom. Piece of cake? No. Turn on? Could be...
5. He's NOT your best friend
No tension? No mystery? No nooky. SHUT that bathroom door!
6. Tell them what you want.
CLAIM your yearning -- your happiness. Sounds so simple. Put it into practice. Ask the world for what you WANT. And ask your partner... cause he's not a mind reader. Figure out what you want in the sack, articulate it and let the good times roll. Get a sense of determination that will make you happier.
7. How about... NOT living together?
My personal favorite and new mantra. Cultivate separateness, mystery...physically, mentally.
If you live in the same apartment, invest in two rooms. If you live in a house, take a floor for yourself -- what the hell. This is not only for your sanity, but to feel alive, alluring, seductive. You don't want your partner to be busting in on you in mid spanx squirm. Decidedly NOT hot...
Ask for what you want, create some space, love yourself and BINGO... you have the sexual TRIFECTA for a vital lusty life.
So, no, Mr. Vidal, I respect that it worked for you but living with a roomie doesn't appeal to moi. Sex is the glue that holds a relationship together.
And no, you don't have to have a piece on the side to be turned on nor is the alternative a "death bed." You can have it all, you just have to explore the alternatives. And while it can take effort and some out of the box thinking, the rewards just might be bountiful.
Maryjane Fahey is the co-author with Caryn Beth Rosenthal of DUMPED, a breakup bible for women to get off their asses and over their exes in record time. AVAILABLE NOW. Find, tweet, facebook, whatever them... they're very friendly.
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