When a little passion goes out of your life
HARRY is disappointed. ''I thought our sex life would be back to normal. After all, we seem to get along fine now.'' June and Harry have been through a bad patch in their marriage. They both agree that over the past few months they have made much improvement. However, the issue of sex remains a source of irritation.
They expected that once the conflicts in their marriage were resolved their sex life would be back to ''normal''.
''Normality'' in this case is being measured by its frequency. They are confused, disappointed, and feeling pressured because the spark of passion did not return instantly.
A wounded relationship is like a wilted plant: even after watering it will drop some leaves before growing and flowering again. A relationship needs a period of rejuvenation before it regains its former bloom. Patience, care and confidence are needed.
A compatible, loving and fulfilling sexual relationship requires trust and acceptance between the two individuals.
This means acceptance of one's sexuality and daring to open up and reveal feelings and vulnerability to the partner during lovemaking. Trust also means knowing one's partner will honour your feelings and that you will not be rejected.
However, during a period when sexual intimacy breaks down, the foundations of trust and acceptance can collapse. Even after marital and emotional problems are dealt with, there is still a residue of fear and doubt.
For example, Harry may wonder whether June doesn't trust him and may be ''punishing'' him by withholding sex.
June fears Harry may have become physically turned off to her during their tense period and she may have to hold back her feelings.
Their awkwardness and apprehension is natural. There is much that the couple needs to rebuild to be comfortable with each other again.
In the process of rebuilding their emotional and sexual bonds, each must let the partner understand his or her fears and concerns on the issue of sexual intimacy.
For example, Harry and June have to share what each feels nervous about; what they are secretly worried about, if they are sure they are ready, and so on.
Secondly, they have to rekindle the loving feelings they felt before. When people have conflicts, they tend not to see things in perspective, and focus on the negative. Therefore, it is important for couples to remember the good times to remind themselves what is possible in a relationship.
For some people it may seem odd to talk face-to-face about old feelings. It may be easier to sit down separately to write a letter to each other and share the feelings one has toward the partner. This effort should be repeated whenever needed.
Thirdly, they have to be realistic about their expectations and set priorities about what they want to achieve. Couples like Harry and June should not expect an instant rebirth in the relationship nor expect that both will feel or behave exactly the sameall the time.
The priority is to focus on emotional closeness. If both feel the freedom and space to be who they are and express themselves, sexual closeness will arise gradually and naturally. Therefore it is important not to get bogged down in calculating the frequency of love-making, but rather whether they feel emotionally connected and comfortable whenever physical contact happens.
For some couples, old patterns need to be changed or re-introduced in their love life. This again relies on the partners to learn to accommodate each other and talk between themselves what is acceptable for both. There is no correct way to connect in terms of sexual intimacy. The vital element is that it is approached with mutual respect and in a loving way.
The above is not an actual case.
Cathy Tsang-Feign is a licensed psychotherapist, with an office at the Vital Life Centre. Phone 877-8206