Pub date May 30, 2006


Dear Andrea:
When my husband and I first got together in our mid 40s 10 years ago, he was fairly adventurous in bed, and I’m sure you saw this coming, but now the sex is really boring. No spontaneity, nothing different than intercourse, no passion. It’s like brushing your teeth a necessary nuisance except it gets the sheets dirty.

I know I have half the blame, but when I’ve come on to him at other than the "usual" time and location, he’s tired or has something else important to do that I didn’t know about. He does work long hours. I’ve tried fancy underwear. Sex toys don’t really interest him. Bubble baths are history. He prefers to shower alone. I’m reluctant to arrange for an X-rated video because the ones I’ve seen can be really distasteful. And I don’t want to get sexually aroused by something that doesn’t excite him.

We love each other very much, and neither of us is getting any action on the side. Suggestions?


Midlife Stasis

Dear Stace:
See, this is why I hate sex advice columns. We’ve been out here for decades, dishing out the same old tired cure-alls (well, not me, of course!) without, frankly, really having the slightest idea if they work or not. There are efficacy studies on therapy but not, as far as I know, on fancy underwear or weekends away, and yet off everyone dutifully trudges to the bed-and-breakfasts and the Kama Sutra Dust and the surprise appearances naked except for (choose two) frivolous footwear, plastic wrap, leather collar, chocolate sauce. Is it any wonder that by now people with troubled sex lives just sort of automatically print out one of these mental checklists and grimly put themselves and their partners through the paces, exactly the same way they got themselves into trouble in the first place? Keeping a sex life lively takes thought, not just a menu of goofy variations, and bringing one back from the dead takes just as much thinking, if not more. Put down the list and let’s think about this.

First off, I ask you to differentiate between "seriously no more exciting than brushing your teeth" and "normal for 10 years into a midlife relationship." Not that I think the latter has to be tooth-brushingly dull, mind you, but let’s all give ourselves a break and remember that things do tend to get a little, well, let’s call it "familiar," once we have enough years together under our belts. There are worse things than familiarity.

Next, I wonder if you have any idea what, if anything, he might be interested in trying. And not to slag your personal tastes or anything, but showering together and bubble baths are not sex acts; they’re hygiene acts, and rather femmy ones at that. Nice enough as far as they go, but I’m not surprised he wasn’t overcome with passion at the mere idea of sharing a moisturizing lilac-hibiscus bath bomb with you. The only thing on your list I see as having any serious hotcha-hotcha potential is the porn, which you are shying away from. I have no doubt that you’ve seen something icky, but there’s so much choice out there that I hate to see you shrug off the entire category without even taking a peek at the reviews on sex toy sites like Blowfish and Good Vibrations. Hardworking lesbians were paid inadequate wages to watch and review all that stuff! They’re bound to have seen something that both you and your husband would find acceptable. I notice that you didn’t say he finds porn distasteful, just that you have, in the past. Your concern that you might be turned on while he isn’t well, if that isn’t a bridge to cross when you get there I don’t know what is.

I don’t, by the way, recommend just swapping out his Sopranos DVDs for Driving Miss Daisy Crazy II without warning. You are not trying to trick him into an accidental resurgence of passion. Here’s what I suggest: You didn’t specify “the ‘usual’ time and location," but you did say you have one. If it isn’t earlyish in the morning, in bed, try that. Few men, even busy, tired men, will turn down a roll in the hay if all it takes to get one is rolling over. If it works, you can talk later, emphasizing not the part about how unsatisfied and neglected you’ve been feeling, but how nice it was to rekindle things all accidental-like this morning what fun! And damned if it didn’t leave you feeling a bit frisky. Would he like, perhaps, a little blow job? Or how about you set aside Friday evening to watch some of these prevetted, guaranteed nondisgusting, and yet oddly stimuutf8g DVDs you rented? I don’t expect this to work in the absence of an afterglow or some reasonable facsimile thereof, so strike while the iron is, if not exactly hot, at least still plugged in.