I know you’ve seen them.
everywhere, walking hand-in-hand down the street (at least in the gay
sections of your town), inviting you over to their fabulous townhouse
for elegant dinners or setting you up with one of their single friends.
They’re the couple you love to hate, because they seem to have it all:
security, companionship, a real home and--most of all--each other.
I know a gaggle of them myself, and readily admit I’ve envied these couples more than once. One such dynamic duo—let’s call them “J & J”—has been together for a decade. They live way out West, and their own brand of domestic bliss includes a 3,500 square foot house, heated pool and glorious mountain views. They know their neighbors and drive fabulous convertibles. Being a long-time New Yorker, I’m completely smitten with their lifestyle.
During a recent visit with the two J’s, our conversation turned to sex (as it often does). But our lighthearted cackle-fest about one especially slutty friend turned serious for a moment when J Number One confided to me under his breath, “Well, I sure wish I was getting some,” before quickly changing the subject.
I was shocked. Was all this stability and a white-hot sex life too much to ask? Suddenly, I couldn’t help but wonder (don’t you just totally miss Sex and the City?): When it comes to sex, do more years together automatically lead to less sex together?
I started snooping. I queried friends and acquaintances—all with years of couple-dom under their belt— about their heat between the sheets. Soon I’d stumbled across Ted, a 40-something designer in New York City, who was patrolling the internet for sex one afternoon and more than willing to tell me his story. After 6 years with his boyfriend, his sex life has virtually stopped—limited to once or twice a month.
“At first, my partner was constantly horny,” Ted confided, “and we had spontaneous sex all the time. But I’m realizing that I thought he was more adventurous in the bedroom than he really is.”
Ultimately, Ted’s frustration reaches the boiling point: “He has become a prude!”
After finding a few more sex-starved partners like Ted, I took action for the sake of long-term couples everywhere: I sought the advice of Glen Heiss, a clinical psychologist in New York City who has worked extensively with gay couples. If your relationship is satisfying everywhere but the bedroom, he suggests taking the following steps:
Can We Talk? OK, you’re willing to admit that there’s a problem with your sex life, but what exactly is the problem? Has your partner put on a few extra pounds? Does he prefer a night with Titan video instead of you? Or are you just too damn busy to bother? If your partner won’t even engage in a mature discussion about your sex life, that’s the real problem, says Heiss.
“Taking time to investigate the problem helps eliminate built-up resentment that can pull people apart,” says Heiss. “You have to get a sense of the bigger issue,” which can be everything from work overload to depression to simply growing apart. When Ted tries to communicate his frustrations to his partner, he’s met with silence, or outright anger. “He is not a talker, and becomes frustrated and shuts down,” says Ted. “I don't want to hurt his feelings anymore or make him feel inadequate.”
This lack of communication, however, leads Ted straight to the internet, he says. “I get off, and settle down for a little while, but wish we could do together what I do with others on occasion.”
Three’s Company: Often, couples who’ve been together for a long time contemplate adding a third partner to spice things up. The inherent dangers are obvious—potential jealousy, ego-damaging preference for one partner over the other, STDs and more—so each couple must navigate the minefield in their own way.
“The only right thing is what’s right for that couple,” says Heiss, “What are both comfortable with? The couples I’ve worked with have been very clear about what the limits are,” which may include only oral play, no kissing, no partying, etc.. “It’s crucial to speak openly and clearly about what’s ok and what’s not,” says Heiss. “This is a much more common situation that people want to acknowledge, so not talking about it only confuses the issue further.”
Start 'Dating' Again: Busy work and social schedules often leave precious little time for romance, especially for couples who’ve been together for years. “After you’ve been together for a long time, sex doesn’t become the top priority, even though you’re both still interested,” says Chet, a New York City-based financial planner who’s been with Lance, a 40-something antique dealer, for almost 5 years. “A lot of times it’s easier to turn over and got to sleep.”
But if this becomes a habit, it’s time to take some action, says Heiss.
“Scheduling a date night sounds very cheesy, but it’s important to
actively create a little more time and space for romance,” says Heiss.
“It’s about making time to reconnect. If you’re not feeling
particularly close to the other person, then create some time and space
to let loose and play and explore new things.”