Til death do us part? Really? That long?
In Part 1 of this story, we looked at whether we as humans were meant to mate for life. If you believe we were, if you can say you’re one of those lucky ladies who got hitched to her peacock -- a stallion in the sack who is also an awesome companion, good listener and all around partner material -- kudos! You marry him, you have kids and then inevitably you find yourself desiring him less. Wait a minute -- why is nature so cruel?
Of the many problems in the conventional model of heterosexual marriage is the opposite trajectory of male and female libido that begins in the thirties. Women enter the prime of their sexual lives, a time when hormones are saying “MORE” and we truly understand our needs, desires and rhythms. But when men hit 40, their libido begins its decline. It’s not necessarily a steep decline (all of this is unique to the individual). But if women’s needs are surging while our long-term partners are beginning to feel less urgent about sex, it’s not an ideal fit. So-called cougars may be onto something deeply biological, something that goes way beyond Demi Moore and Samantha Jones.
I wrote last week about some of my girlfriends and their wandering eyes -- what’s the cure? Some would argue that the only option, if you want pleasure, is to have an affair. Interestingly, the taboos around extra-marital shenanigans seem to be softening. Witness Ashley Madison, a site specifically tailored to men and women seeking non-spousal sex. The Brits have maritalaffair.co.uk. The afternoon visit to one's lover has been a rite of passage for the French for time immemorial. They call it the cinq à sept.
Not all women are up for outright cheating, even if the taboo is dying. It may sound insane at first, but you might be brave enough to have that conversation with your man. First, you must confront whether you’d be okay with letting him have a dalliance, because that may be part of the package. And let’s be frank -- many of us aren’t ready for that. But open relationships were recently covered in the New York Times Modern Love column. A cultural shift, perhaps?
You can try date-nights, toys, fetish, role-playing, new positions and plenty of other tips and tricks to bring the magic back. If it's just that your husband's dirty socks and the inanity of driving the kids to school everyday that is making you want other men, well then, maybe those tricks will work. It’s true that the issues we confront in our domestic lives make a thrilling sex life challenging. But what’s harder is facing whether what you really want is novelty -- a new, naked person next to you in bed. Because no matter how many times you play Anastasia and Christian Grey, your old man is still your old man. Even if he gladly puts his dirty socks in the hamper every morning.
Other, more radical options: Separation. Memory erasure. Going on anti-depressants (oops, they kill libido).
Rather than focusing on whether it’s time to call it quits when the sex is fading, perhaps we have to face that attraction will inevitably end. Maybe it’s about developing more consciousness around our desires and acknowledging the awesome power of our sexuality, and letting that guide us more in our choices. I realize this completely leaves out the whole, “Do I want to have kids with this guy” thing. (That’s another article.) Serial monogamy is a healthy option for women that aren’t concerned about their biological clock. Facing the tacit acknowledgement that nothing is forever is a pretty bold leap to take, especially in our marriage-obsessed culture, but a lot of us are putting our toes in the water.
So, ladies -- after five, seven, or seventeen years, rest assured your wandering eye does not make you a bad person. It makes you human -- it makes you a woman. Even though it’s complicated, I know one thing for sure: shutting down our desires isn’t the answer.
Note: This post first appeared on EcoSalon.com in a slightly different form.