New is as new does

Pub date August 24, 2010

Dear Andrea:

We have been happily married five years and I think we’re kind of out of ideas for new things to do. I think we’re in a rut, and the weird thing is we’re not talking about it. We usually talk about everything, but we’re not talking about this! What are some new ideas for us, and how do I bring it up that I think we should try something new?


Almost Bored

Dear AB:

You won’t be surprised to hear that I have a theory about this. The conventional wisdom goes something like, you settle down and eventually sex gets kind of cozy and pleasantly predictable if you’re lucky, and just plain dull if you’re not. Eventually it just dries up, but if you’re very dedicated to the prospect of a stimulating sex life you can “spice it up.” Since familiarity is assumed to be the sex-killer here, maybe somebody should wear a fake mustache and everyone should pretend they’ve just met under slightly seedy circumstances.

But I’m not sure that’s it’s familiarity, precisely, that’s at fault when the Big Dull hits a few years into an otherwise excellent marriage, partnership, whatever. I think we get do bored and do crave novelty, but I think familiarity and comfort also breed something else and I don’t mean contempt.

Familiarity and comfort can breed, oddly, an sort of shyness — often it’s easier to be your kinkiest, least inhibited self with a barely trusted stranger than your nearest and dearest. We tend to cast ourselves and our partners in particular roles — nice roles, for the most part, but roles nonetheless — and stepping out to try new stuff just feels impossibly awkward, and like work. We come to think of ourselves as people who together do these things but not, you know, those. And it can be very hard to reimagine and redefine within an ongoing relationship.

So my proposal is not that you butch it up and suggest some crazy stuff to your spouse. I’m pretty well convinced that a couple needs, on occasion, to do something a little bit scary, challenging, ridiculous, or, at the very least, a little not-them like. What you need — what any couple needs — to retain and rekindle romance and its associated Really Hot Sex, is surprise, hilarity, adrenaline, and the admiration that comes from watching one’s partner reveal a new and unsuspected skill.

What you need is to do new things and start seeing each other in a new, different, and, one hopes, newly enticing light. Once you are both less certain of who you are and what you are capable of, you may be amazed how much less awkward it feels to say “Hey, let’s (blank) each other with a (blankety-blank) tonight, what do you say?



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