Can a Passionless Relationship Survive?

January 27, 2011

You see it in the movies all the time. The guy and girl finally get together after almost 90 minutes of sexual tension, and of course, it’s absolutely incredible sex. You’ve got the breathless moments, the slow fingers-along-the-thighs scenes, and that final “Oh Yeah!” moment of completion. That breathless her-head-on-his-chest afterwards scene is where they both express their disbelief this finally happened, and how they wanted it and all that. It’s more than they could have ever imagined. But here’s the kicker: you hardly ever see this couple five or six years down the road.

Here’s what it looks like then: rather than the slow striptease, they both just take off their clothes and get into bed (hey, we both know it’s gonna happen anyway, so why work through all the zippers and stuff, right?). She closes her eyes and immediately begins to imagine what she needs to accomplish tomorrow. He runs his fingers along her bare skin and immediately begins to imagine he’s actually with the cute temp at work. After 20 minutes or so of sex so familiar they could be going by a script, it’s over. He rolls off her, she goes to the bathroom to do whatever it is women do in there after sex, and they both get dressed and start to read a book or watch television.

Sound familiar? It’s the obvious signs of a passionless relationship. Whether it’s the woman you married 10 years ago, or the girlfriend you’ve been going out with for a few months, the end result is the same: it’s familiar sex. Nothing unpredictable, nothing unexpected…just the main event.

My co-worker Frank complains all the time about how he and his wife have no passion anymore. She’s so consumed with keeping the house clean and the kids at various school functions that she is never–yes, he means absolutely “NEVER“–in the mood for anything amorous. When they were going out, she was this wild animal in the sack, and now life has caught up with them and he can clearly map out every single move she will make during the few brief nights a year when he gets lucky (read: Valentine’s Day, his birthday, their anniversary, and whenever he can get her drunk).

What are the problems with a passionless relationship? Isn’t bad sex better than no sex at all? Hey, one question at a time here!

First, a passionless relationship is dangerous because men are passionate creatures. While we don’t expect every night to be some crazy clothes-tearing wall-shaking encounter, we likewise don’t expect a scripted encounter that’s as badly acted as a German television movie. We need variety, spontaneity, and fire. That means we will seek passion, and if it is not experienced at home it will become the thing we search for elsewhere by nature.

Now before you start on me, ladies, I know that the man has to do something too. If he helps with the kids that’s a nice thing. If he helps clean the house, it’s good. If he listens when you talk, it’s important. If he shows he cares about you as a person and not just as a humping toy, it goes a long way. But there are those times when we need you to go the extra mile during sex. If you don’t want it, then say so rather than half-heartedly fake it! Every time you are obviously not there during the session, it’s a slap in the face to the guy. He feels like he’s not attractive to you or you’d be tearing at him like he was Ryan Reynolds.

But hey, isn’t bad sex better than no sex at all? Let me put it like this: let’s say you have a favorite episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”. Barney is hilarious, the Andy-Opie moments are heart-wrenching, and the closing moments are great. You love that episode and watch it every time you stumble across it on TV. Now just imagine if that was the only episode you were ever able to see on television. Within a couple of viewings, you’d stop laughing at Barney’s antics, and you might even roll your eyes at Andy’s fatherly advice. On the 20th viewing and onward, you’d start switching channels, turn off the television, or swear off the show altogether. You might love it at first, but after it’s so predictable it’s not worth the time.

So what if your woman isn’t willing to break the routine? In a previous posting, I told you about my friend, Mike, who has a great wife who is perfect in every way except for the fact that she’s a sexual dud. She wants it one position (guess which one), lights out, in the bedroom, and last thing at night right before they go to sleep. In other words, sex so vanilla it actually doesn’t have a taste. I hadn’t talked to Mike in almost a year, but I decided to check in and see how things were going. The diagnosis wasn’t good.

The physical relationship between his wife and himself had become so boring that Mike actually thought he was experiencing impotence for a while. “I would see my naked wife walking to the bed–and she has a great body!–but my body didn’t react because I knew every single second of how this would go down. I actually thought about how I’d rather just watch a ball game on TV rather than have sex with her. I got to the point where I thought either there was something wrong with me or I’d lost my libido altogether.” How did he cope with it all? Well, remember his wife’s friend who was such an acrobat in the sack that he flirted with?

Mike said, “<Sarah> was the solution. I kept flirting with her, and imaging it was her when my wife crawled into bed for ‘the usual’, and it makes it bearable. I know the time is coming when we’ll cross the line though. Sarah and I will become intimate, and then I have no idea where things will go from there.”

Unfortunately, Mike is heading down a very bad road toward an affair, and I’ve talked about the problems with that before. Even if he and “Sarah” don’t get physical, he’s currently having an emotional affair on his wife and it’s already showing signs of problems in the marriage. But is it all his fault? I mean, if he’s willing to try anything–anywhere–to spice up their sex life and his wife just won’t put the effort into it, doesn’t it seem more like a joint problem rather than just a one-sided thing? Absolutely!

So can a passionless relationship survive? Well, based on the fact that a whole lot of them do I’d have to say yes. There are a ton of folks out there who are involved in a dull marriage but manage to stick with it through it all. I guess the question becomes more one of “do you want to spend the rest of your life in one?” Will you really be satisfied to hear your friends talk about their constant adventures in the sack when you know all that awaits you at home is “the usual”?

If you love the other person and truly want the relationship to survive but the spark and fire have gone out, it’s time to get real. If they’re truly the person for you that you think they are, they should be able to handle the truth and be ready to try a little change.

Now if your girl is a sexual vanilla and she agrees to try a little more passion, it is not the time to pull black leather, chains, and a whip out from under the bed and suggest she call herself “Mistress Pain”. Baby steps, people…baby steps. You can only catch the skittish kitty if you sneak up on it…not if you run at it screaming at the top of your lungs.

Likewise, don’t start in with “I really hate it when you…”, or “It’s so boring when you…” Build her confidence in what she’s doing right and what you’d like to have more of with a little different twist. Let her keep her self-image or she’ll think she’s so bad there’s no need to try.

If you have a woman who loves you enough to listen and want to get better–even though what you’re saying could hurt her–then consider her a keeper. Treat her like gold, and work together to take that passionless relationship back to the point where sparks can fly.

Whatever you do, if you can help it, don’t stay in the passionless state without talking about it. Your spouse might just feel the same way you do but doesn’t know how to say it. Or doesn’t want to for fear of hurting your feelings. At any rate, she just might be bored and looking too. Make it spicy and fun again!