Upset couple on couchRecently I was interviewed for ABC Life – an online magazine produced by the ABC on the topic; What Happens When Your Relationship Loses its Sexual Spark. There is a link to the ABC article at the end of this post.

Recently I was interviewed for an article on ABC Life – the ABC’s online magazine. The topic was the ‘loss of spark’ that relationships face as the relationship – and the people in the relationship – age. You can read that article here:

This is a familiar and quite understandable issue in couple counselling. Loss of the ‘spark’ – that is, loss of the passion and urge for sex – can be upsetting for couples. Many of us feel there is something wrong in the relationship. We can feel cheated – by life or the relationship. This wasn’t what we signed up for!

The issue most often comes up in counselling when the couple are facing other issues. They may be fighting or feeling disconnected from each other. They may feel unsatisfied with life. When I ask what they would like to get from counselling, often they want the relationship to be ‘the way it used to be.’ This usually includes feeling that hot sexual desire they once did.

If only!

One of the hardest lessons in relationship, and life generally, is that it is highly unlikely we will have things go back to the way they once were. We are never going to be as young, as energetic or as toned at 50 as we were at 20. The reality is, we age – and our relationships age. A relationship of 30 years will not be the same as one of 2 or even 10 years.

Thank goodness!

The important and exciting part of this, is that along with aging, relationships can become more mature – more ‘ripe’. In fact, the job of relationship is to ripen and mature, just as individuals become more mature.

As humans, one of the exciting aspects of life is this maturing process. We admire people who have ‘grown into themselves’ as they age. These are people who seem calmer, more assured, even serene. Stateswomen and men often exhibit this quality. Performers – actors, musicians – often seem to have this. These are the wise elders who we look to in our families and in society, who can display wisdom about the world. We can think of them as being more of the person they had the potential to be – a more complete version of themselves. 

In our relationships, this maturing can mean we are passionate – and more deeply so. Rather than the more superficial desire of the early stages, we can experience stronger, richer feelings and even a more satisfying sexual relationship. 

There is a catch, of course.

For us to have the relationship we desire, this will mostly be up to us. We often forget that how we experience the relationship is largely in our own hands and much of this is in our expectations.

If we expect our partner to be as youthful in appearance and as blindly accepting of us as they were when we first met them, we are bound for disappointment.

Recall, if you can, your first weeks and months with your new love. They were probably the most attaractive and desirable person you had ever come across. They listened to you and accepted you just as you were and you returned the favour. Fast forward a few years, and the picture is very different. Age has changed the way they look and they aren’t quite as accepting of you. Over the years you have disagreed, argued and have felt hurt and upset. Times have changed and you now have a stock of experiences together that is very different from those first weeks of passion and uncritical acceptance. And you are probably having less sex than in the beginning.

Welcome to committed relationship.

If we are to have a long-term relationship, if we plan to ‘grow old together,’ we have to deal with the reality that we are two different people, with somewhat different views of the world. We probably have different ways of showing and receiving affection and may have different sexual preferences. 

If we know how to manage things with our partner, these differences can be the way we gain more ‘spark’ in the relationship.

Imagine, for a moment, that you married yourself. Fascinating as you or I may be, we are likely to get bored pretty quickly. No mystery, no excitement, we know exactly how we will behave and talk to ourselves.

Our differences can bring us mystery, romance and deep passion, if we allow it. The key is that we  have to develop our own ability to by curious and excited by our partner. We have to be willing to see our partner as the enchanting, frustrating, gorgoeus, funny, irritating, loving person they are.

In short, we have to embrace ALL of them and see them as the complete package. Of course, this is often hard to do – most of us have no training in this. We are used to looking for what makes us feel comfortable or allows us to feel passionate without any effort. We will have to get out of our comfort zone and meet our partner head on.

Seeing all of our partner also means recognising that the passionate, delightful person we fell in love with is still there – it’s just that now there is more to them. This is the gift of aging. If we are willing, we can recognise that getting older hasn’t taken anything away – it has added more.

I will be picking up this theme and looking at how we can develop this mindset in a later post.