Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 290: Mantra Monday - Return to Romance... in 15 Minutes a Day!

This is a picture of Michael and me from 3 years ago. ;)
At what point does feeling comfortable with both yourself and your partner start to kill the romance?  I'm trying to avoid overanalyzing this too much but there's no way to deny the truth: Michael and I are in a serious slump in the romance department.  (I almost called it "a romantic slump" but that would be incorrect.  It's a very unromantic slump.)  We used to be crazy for each other... holding hands all the time, smooching in public, lots of smooching in private, and frequent "you're so hot I can't help it!" butt-pinches whenever we could get away with it.  During our year-and-a-half of long-distance dating we spent hours on the phone most nights when apart, and hours in the bedroom when together.  It was awesome.

But all that romance took time away from other thingsimportant things - including time for work, time with friends and family, and time getting exercise.  Since moving in together, we've both been able to re-invest in all of these other things, which feels great.  Our lives have more balance, and it's phenomenal to finally share a home (not to mention 2 cats + 1 puppy).  But for some reason - or perhaps for many reasons - this reshuffling of our lives has dampened the romance.  We just aren't lusting after each other the way we used to, and it's a bummer.

I fear that some of this might be related to my no-mirrors project.  I've been so much less focused on my looks (which has been wonderful for my body image and confidence!), but in doing so I've spent the majority of my days comfortably hanging out in a tee-shirt + slouchy jeans, wearing minimal makeup, and with my hair always in a pony-tail.  At bedtime I change into elastic-waistband PJ pants that come practically up to my ta-tas, worn with (what else?) a huge old tee-shirt.  Does Michael still find me attractive?  Amazingly, yes (not that he wouldn't prefer a slightly less schlumpy wife!).  But I don't feel very sexy.  This came as a surprise to me.  I really thought that focusing on how I feel instead of how I look would make me feel sexy all the time.  But I may have underestimated the extent to which primping and grooming have helped me feel attractive and sexy.   Anyway, despite feeling increasingly comfortable with my body, I haven't felt particularly amorous; I've rarely been "in the mood" lately, and it doesn't help that Michael has been too exhausted after work to put much effort into "setting the mood."

An example:
Last Thursday night Michael and I went to dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant.  I even dressed up (i.e., changed out of my PJ pants) for the occasion!  After complaining for a 30 minutes about the exhaustions of house-training a puppy, I felt a glimmer of that wanting-to-snuggle-and-kiss kind of feeling.  So I leaned over the table, looked longingly into Michael's eyes, and said "Any interest in giving me a full-body massage when we get back home??"  (I even suggestively wiggled my eyebrows.)  He perked up (this must have sounded better than hearing more about the house-training).  He said "Ooooh, that sounds fun!"  But once we were home, Michael's energy dropped like a sake-bomb.  He haphazardly scratched my back for about 5 minutes, and then started bargaining for "payment upfront."  I know that sounds awful, but don't worry: at this point we both exploded into giggles and exchanged some tickles (I also gave Michael a "full-body massage" by rubbing his left bicep).  But that was the extent of it.  Bonding: check.  Sexy-time: uncheck.

So, do we still adore each other?  Absolutely!  Do we still find each other attractive?  Yep.  (I still think Michael is crazy-handsome, and he seems to think I'm somewhere between cute and gorgeous, depending on the day.)  Do we have a healthy relationship?  The best!  Are we having fun and enjoying time together?  Absolutely!  (Just not so much in bed.)

We've talked about this "issue" a few times.  We're not panicking, but we miss feeling excited about this special part of our lives.  So this week I'm sharing a mantra with Michael.  We've decided to spend at least 15 minutes being romantic with each other, EVERY DAY this week.  When I suggested this, it (sadly) sounded really ambitious.  That made us feel ridiculous, and then determined.  So.... this week's mantra is:

Return to Romance... in 15 Minutes a Day!

I'm also going to make an effort to dress with a bit more pizazz, and to at least ditch the pony-tail most days.  Hopefully this will help push me in the right direction, though it will of course be a delicate balance between caring about my looks just enough, but not too much!


How much is "feeling sexy" related to "looking sexy" for you?  Have any of you dealt with a "slump"?  If so, I'd love advice, ideas, and suggestions - but please keep your comments PG-13.  

P.S. Mom, Granda Rita & Grandma Ruth - if any of you have suggestions or tales of similar experience.... please, please, please comment anonymously! 

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33 comments:

  1. This is so true. I've been w my husband for 11 years and married almost 7. Sometimes it's hard to find the time even want to be romantic after working 50+ hours a week. We are making a huge effort to have a date night at least once a week and remember why we fell in love in the first place. Just remember it's completely normal:-)

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  2. My fiance and I are in the same boat. About a month ago, we decided to have one night a week without TV, cooking together, eating at the table, just being able to talk without distractions, etc. This has really helped. On these nights, I don't automatically change into grungies for doing chores etc. This has really helped for us. Basketball starting back up has started putting a crimp in the plan, but hopefully it won't interfere too much. That's what DVR is for right?

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  3. Others will undoubtedly disagree but - yep, completely normal. I've been married almost 40 years and, contrary to what every magazine cover in the grocery line announces, those amorous feelings come and go. Sad to say that the initial lusting after each other is probably nature's way of getting people to pair up and procreate. That said, there is still fun to be had in the bedroom and it is worth the effort to nurture that part of your relationship. Probably best to tweak your expectations a bit and know that, with time, love grows and matures in so many other ways. There's a lot more to a fulfilling relationship than sex. My husband and I are best friends and obviously in it for the long haul. Good luck with the 15 minutes a day. Couldn't hurt!

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  4. Just wait until you have kids! As a mom of 4 married 8 years I will have to agree with others... totally normal. It's up and down with us. We can go a month without it sometimes and then other times multiple times a week. Just depends on where we are both at. But to answer your question, I feel sexy when I shave my legs or get waxed! That doesn't happen very often. :) My poor husband! Ha!

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  5. Good for you for pinpointing an issue that is important to you and identifying it. Yes, it's normal but just because it's normal doesn't mean you can't do something about it! I like your idea of 15min a day for a week. It may not be practical to your schedule in the long run, but it's a good start. I would suggest one day a week that is cooking with eachother at home, and one a month that is romantic date night. That and watch the Tudors on Showtime together, that'll get you going.

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  6. There is definitely a connection for me. If I don't think I look sexy, than I don't feel sexy, and I certainly don't act sexy. My husband tells me all the time, that for him, looks have very little to do with how attracted he is to me. Love has covered that gap. He said that my attitude and how I act has everything to do with how attracted he is to me. He said when I act as though I'm confident and sexy, it is such a turn on for him. After struggling with being overweight, and trying to "feel" and "act" sexy, I realized that it just isn't going to happen. I had to lose the weight, so I could feel that way again. I've lost 34 pounds so far, and it has definitely affected us. I have a ways to go still, but I catch myself showing off for him every now and then, and feeling more confident, which has definitely sparked more interest in the romance department! We have been married for 13 years, and have 4 children ages 4-11, so we need all the help in that departement we can get! Haha.

    For the first time in years, I dressed to match underneath my dress for church yesterday. I told him what I was wearing underneath before we left. We didn't make it 20 minutes after we got home from church, and he was getting the kids distracted, and shut our bedroom door! I'm finding little things like that, go a LONG way! :)

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    1. Kristi, I LOVE this suggestion! I tried something a little bit similar today, but we were headed to dinner with friends instead of church. :)

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    2. YAY!! :) It does take forethought and effort, but I do find it's worth it! I hope you do too!! :)

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  7. Your plan sounds good for the goal you want to achieve! I definitely think looking at oneself from the outside (as in a mirror) and feeling sexy are related for women in our culture - which makes me sad because I suspect it could be about putting on the male gaze and turning ourselves into objects instead of subjects, conceptualizing ourselves as sexy more than as sexual. To even this out I would try focusing on tactile instead of visual beauty and perceiving myself as a sexual subject instead of the object of someone else's actions (in fact I have been doing this and it's really helpful). The other thing is, I would actually question if having sex less frequently has to be a problem at all - it is a normal development in any long-term relationship, and there are many other important things about life, as you say yourself. If the sex is still good when it happens, and if everything else is satisfactory about the relationship, why risk putting oneself under pressure and de-stabilizing the harmony that exists in your low-sex relationship by trying to have more sex? Not that it sounds like this is likely to happen to you with the moderate approach you're taking, I just know it is for many people, and it has been for me in the past...

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  8. I make it a point to try to put effort into the small things. Instead of changing into sweats after work, I now put on cute jeans and a comfortable but nice top. I feel less schlumpy and more in the mood for romance instead of cuddling. I also know a couple who has at-home date nights every Saturday. They can't afford to go out, so they cook a nice meal, dress up, light candles and have a romantic meal at home.

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  9. It is difficult to keep up the romance unfortunately after a few years. Anyone who has a challenging job and a few other interesting activities finds themselves exhausted at the end of the day. You cannot make your job or other life responsibilities go away. All you can do is make sure that you carve out a piece of your day to spend time with your spouse and affirm in some way that they are important to you.

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  10. In terms of actual advice, I'd say its good that you're thinking about it and that this is something you need to definitely keep on your radar and work on. Its is important for a marriage to not only survive but thrive and it only gets more challenging with children! Getting a change of place can help. Take mini-vacations, rent a hotel room in SF, etc.

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  11. Dear Kjerstin,

    I have been reading your blog for a little while now, and I think it's absolutely amazing! I think you have a fantastic view on life, great values and a wonderful way of thinking. You also seem like a very kind person. I'm so happy someone else out there seems to be questionning pretty much everything as much as I do! I just haven't had the courage (yet!) to put it in words, whether on paper, on the web, or just for my own private reading.

    Back to your subject. I too was worried that once I got married, things would change. Not my wonderful husband though! Actually, things have evolved in a positive way in my relationship with my husband. We've been together 7 and a half years, married a little over 3. And things couldn't be better!

    My thoughts on the "amorous/sexy" factor is part how you feel inside (feeling good about your bodily self, achievements, morals, how to treat others), part how you feel on the outside (feeling good/sexy about how you look), and feeling good about the other person. I also think that the amount of times of intimacy will go up and down in a relationship. The everyday challenges that life throws at us will only make you stronger as a couple. And, making every effort to be intimate, close and to talk and be there for each other is worth it!

    Bottom line, keep it in mind, make the time for both of you only, and keep the love/sexyiness alive by changing things up a bit!

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  12. Nature essentially programs people for 3 years with pumped up amorous feelings to establish a relationship, procreate, and leave enough time to begin to care for a child. After this time, the feelings can dwindle. But DON'T WORRY! It's not like they vanish. This is completely normal.

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  13. It sounds normal to have ups and downs in this department. The 15 minutes per day will be an interesting experiment - I hope you'll keep us updated (generally, details not required!) about how it goes.

    One note: I'm a language geek and can get hung up on semantics, but I would challenge the language you are using about romance: you're either "in the mood" or not, and it's his job to "set the mood"? Sex and romance, like everything else in a relationship, needs to be to a two-way street. I think it'll help if you are honest that you both have times of feeling more or less "in the mood" (whether that has to do with body image, tiredness, or whatever else) and realize it's on BOTH of you to "set the mood." Intentionality and honesty from BOTH parties is crucial.

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    1. Excellent points Betsy! I'm in 100% agreement. Sadly, we've fallen into those stereotypical patterns, but this week we're working on it. :)

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  14. I love this conversation! Okay, this is partly because it makes me realize I'm not the only one in this situation with my husband. We love being together and I guess he wants sex more often than I do but it hasn't been a big deal in our relationship because there is so much more to being together than that. Thanks for bringing this up in your blog - whenever I see that you've posted something I have to stop what I'm doing and read it. You're so funny and honest about stuff that others might not be. Refreshing!

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  15. Hi Everyone! Just wanted to thank you all for your feedback and suggestions. It's mind boggling to me, in a cool way, to know that I have a bunch of friends across the country who care about my sex life enough to drop me a note or post a comment. More than anything you've all helped us feel more "normal" with all of this. Michael and I have had some fun these past few days. We've started watching The Tudors (yum!), and today I actually wore a bra that matched my undies. Good stuff!

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  16. As many others said, this totally normal. I've been married 7 years but, my husband and I have been together for over 15 years. I think what I've found is that mojo goes in spurts. We can go for 2 weeks or more with nothing and then be crazy into each other for a week straight.

    While a down time is normal, when we notice it we try to be spontaneous and get out out of it. We have kids so, it might be a challenge like let's see if we can get them down half an hour early and then sneak into to office and lock the door. Or , crazy as this is, we play Kama Sutra, it's an actual board game meant to be played with your partner. I got it as a gag gift at my shower and it sat unopened for years, one slump we pulled it out and it totally got us back into things.

    I'm also a believer in faking it till you make it on sexual front. It does seem that men do want sex more than woman, especially after kids. For all the times I started for him, at least 75% I finish for me. I know that's kind of old school "please your man" talk but, once you start it's always better than scrabble or whatever show you were watching.

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  17. Also don't forget, one of the things hormonal birth control does is reduce your libido. It's not just an egg blocker, it can actually make you not want to...you know. If you are taking birth control, talk with your doctor about any effects it might be having on libido and if there is anything you can do about it.

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