Sex and Boredom

sex appetite loss analysis and causes

It’s no secret that we’re programmed to crave sexual newness – in fact, it stimulates our brains in much the same way narcotics do, by triggering the release of dopamine. Unfortunately, novelty, by definition, cannot last—especially when it comes to building a long-term monogamous relationship. Evolutionary biologists have established that at some point, nearly all couples transition from “passionate love” to the more mundane phase of “companionate love.” In other words: we lose interest. But it cannot be true for intimate and close lovers.

The opposite of feeling worried and responsible is feeling selfish and, indeed, there is an element of selfishness that is absolutely necessary for maximum sexual desire. The emphasis today on getting more attuned to one’s sexual partner is fine, but if it leaves out selfishness it’s a disaster. You have to be able to be both connected and separate, separate enough to surrender to your own pleasure without worrying too much about the other’s.

Sexual Boredom

Why do some couples get bored with sex after a few months while others continue to enjoy making love throughout their adult lives? The conventional wisdom is that the way to stave off sexual boredom is variety — that “great sex” consists of different positions, different techniques, different routines, different times of day, different venues, different toys and devices, different perfumes, different condom colors — and different lovers. Much of contemporary sex material caters to this view, constantly feeding people new ideas on how to add to the sexual menu. Why else would all those women’s magazines tout a sex article on the cover of every single issue?

Variety-oriented sex advice focuses almost exclusively on foreplay. That’s understandable, since there are endless permutations to the positions and possibilities of this part of lovemaking. The whole body is an erogenous zone, and if a couple has the time, the imagination, and the stamina, foreplay can be new and interesting practically forever. Most sex advice spends little if any time on the way in which couples have their orgasms — because, as we saw in earlier chapters, there are relatively few effective approaches to this part of lovemaking.

But is variety during foreplay really the key to avoiding sexual boredom? Two people can make love in an outrageous number of ways and still grow weary of each other sexually. This can happen if they’ve fallen out of love, been betrayed, or suffer from other problems, but it can also happen to couples who are in love and really want to make the relationship work. Could it be that another variable is more important to the staying power of a sexual relationship?

bored sex reasons

Bored for Sex: Reasons and Self-Evaluation

This is an empirical question; we could find the answer by doing really thorough, honest, confidential interviews with couples for whom lovemaking has and hasn’t stood the test of time. Unfortunately, sex literature is not particularly helpful in this important area — probably because researchers haven’t been asking the right questions.

While we wait for better research, though, we can speculate about what truly keeps passion alive. Here’s a theory; it’s unproven, but it poses an intriguing alternative to the idea that variety is everything.

In the early stages of a romantic relationship lovers are full of passion and excitement and often experiment with lots of different positions and approaches and explore their likes and dislikes. As they get to know each other better they tend to settle into a routine — certain preliminaries and a specific way of reaching (or not reaching) orgasms — with occasional variations. This is a crucial point in a sexual relationship. Are both partners having satisfying orgasms (not necessarily simultaneous) when they make love? If a couple’s routine leaves one partner sexually unsatisfied (and it’s almost always the woman), there is trouble ahead. These lovers may confide in their friends that sex has become “boring,” but boredom is not the real issue. The nub of the matter is a lack of deep satisfaction for the woman, which robs lovemaking of mutuality and depth — and may affect her partner’s level of satisfaction as well; men may be more sensitive to the subtle dynamics of sex than we suppose.

Without the deep satisfaction of mutual orgasms, there’s a tendency to focus on sexual behaviors that by themselves can seem repetitive and even tiresome. It is boring to go through the same routine week after week if it doesn’t culminate in good mutual orgasms. The hypothesis here is that if we interviewed couples who have become “bored” with sex and asked the right questions, we would find that they do not have a good technique for mutual orgasms. We would predict that such couples would become increasingly dissatisfied with their sex life and either accept that (and have a sexless marriage), use other means to gain satisfaction (perhaps masturbation), or look for new partners to try to recreate the “sheer excitement” phase that they remember so fondly.

Conversely, if we interviewed couples who have been genuinely happy with their sex life for several years, our prediction would be that at some point they discovered a good sexual finale and continued to use it (perhaps with variations) over time.

But doesn’t using the same mutual-orgasm approach get monotonous? Strangely enough, it doesn’t. People don’t get tired of having orgasms together any more than they get tired of eating good food. The analogy with food works on a number of levels.

mutual masturbation and foreplay to overcome bored sex

Our appetite for food and for sex are basic drives that build up over time. When we’ve had a fine meal or a good orgasm, we feel mellow and satisfied and our drives are temporarily slaked.
Both types of hunger are influenced by quality: when food or lovemaking is mediocre, our appetite goes down; when the meal or the sex is good, our appetite increases.
If we’re extremely hungry or haven’t had sex in a long time, we are less fussy about the finer points of cuisine and lovemaking.

With both food and sex, we can have too much of a good thing: with food we feel sick to our stomachs; with sex, we get exhausted and sore. In both cases, our appetite disappears, and we have no desire to eat or make love for a period of time. But the basic drives are still there, and before long, they’re back.

But the food/sex analogy breaks down in one area. Although we can get great enjoyment in the course of eating and making love, what truly quenches our sexual appetite and leaves a sense of deep gratification and closeness is not all the foreplay; it’s the orgasms. The kissing, hugging, different positions, techniques, toys, etc., can be great fun, sharpen the palate and heighten sexual arousal, and even boost the eventual level of gratification — but unlike the courses of a good meal (which are the meal), foreplay activities are a means to an end; it’s the orgasmic finale that really hits the spot. The quality of this final stage of lovemaking is what delivers the lasting physical and emotional payoff. Getting that part right is the key — a point that sex books and videos rarely emphasize.

Another reason that using the same mutual-orgasm technique can be satisfying year after year is that the feelings lovers experience from orgasms can change from session to session. One of the remarkable things about sex is the potential for great variety within the same technique. Lovemaking in which a couple uses a single mutual-orgasm approach can be hot and lustful, sweet and gentle, loud and raunchy, whispery and quiet, and everything in between. Subtle differences in mood, time of month, level of arousal, positions, pressure, and timing can produce quite different feelings and climaxes. So within the context of one successful approach to mutual orgasms, there can be great variety over the years.

sexual boredom

Analysis to Stop Sexual Boredom

How do lovers know if they have found a good mutual-orgasm technique? There are several ways to tell:

First, does it deliver a satisfying climax to both partners during a lovemaking session?

Second, is it acceptable and comfortable for both partners?

Third, does it still work on a Friday night when both partners are pretty weary? (Let’s face it: most couples with children have limited options for private lovemaking time, most of which are times when they’re not fresh and well-rested.)

Finally, does it continue to work for both partners over the years?

These questions may be the best indicators available to loving couples as their relationship moves through the years. If they are honest with each other, they will know the answer to the first and second questions quite early on. They’ll get the answer to the third question as life gets busier and they’re more exhausted on weekends, and the answer to the fourth will become apparent after a few years. If they’re always “too tired” for sex on Friday night and sex is becoming “boring,” it’s a sure sign that the couple needs to go back to questions one and two and find a different route to mutual orgasms that really works for both of them.

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