When I was participating in an online conversation regarding this subject some years ago, one of the men told a sad story about how uninterested his wife was in sex, and how she was so totally unresponsive to him on every level that she never even touched him. They moved through their lives as cool almost-strangers, he said.
Then he related an incident that I thought was very interesting. He and his wife were putting in a new bathtub, a large whirlpool “garden” style tub, and while the two of them were standing together one day watching the workers hook up the plumbing, his wife turned to him and said something like, “When we get that put in I’d like for us to take a bath together, with champagne and candles and all, like in the movies.”
Wow, I thought, elated. Breakthrough!
But no. Contrary to my first idea that he was about to tell us that a minor miracle had occurred, he had apparently introduced the incident into our conversation as some weird illustration of how hopeless his situation was. He dismissed his wife’s remark as “unreal,” as typical of how she would sometimes raise his hopes for a moment, but then wouldn’t follow through. “I knew she didn’t really mean it,” the guy said. He didn’t plan to take her up on the idea.
What was his wife telling him? That she was interested in recreating a movie scene, maybe something that had stirred her sleeping libido for a moment. That she wanted to share a different, romantic kind of experience with him, in an unusual sort of place. That she was longing for a particular kind of romantic moment. In short, she wanted to fulfill a fantasy. It must have taken a lot for her to reveal that to him, given their constrained physical relationship up to that point. It seemed to me that she took a huge emotional chance. But he rejected the hint.
I don’t really know why, to tell you the truth. Could it possibly be that he wasn’t interested in the kind of sexual relationship she was seeking, one that would require him to behave in unfamiliar ways or do things he’d consider silly or stupid? Did he have the same hesitations many women do when contemplating offering sex to their husbands, that once he started down a particular road or agreed to certain behaviors or activities, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the enhanced expectations, wouldn’t be able to call a halt or slow things down if they got to be too difficult?
I don’t know, but if nothing else this little story demonstrates that even the chilliest wife might have erotic possibilities, possibilities that could be evoked with a change of location, approach or circumstances.
Over and over again I’ve heard that getting out of the house and away from kids, parents, and routine stresses helps enormously to relax and reawaken both men and women to the possibilities of their relationship. I’ve already talked about the fact that for many women a clean, attractive hotel room can be a turn-on, not only because of the sense of privacy but because their surroundings are not as likely to remind them of what they are Supposed To Be Doing Instead. Second honeymoons can sometimes work unheard-of wonders, but even a weekend at a local bed & breakfast could remind you of what you enjoy about each other.
But be careful. If you set up a surprise 4 day cruise but make it too clear (by leering and joking and hinting around and generally carrying on like a lug) that you’re expecting her to thank you with lots of sex; if you assume you’re owed some kind of transactional quid pro quo, you may do yourself more harm than good. Think: no pressure, no expectations, no “gratitude,” just relaxation, new places, different days.
But, as the Brits say, if you can’t actually get away, sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Do you always approach your wife for sex at the same time of day, or in exactly the same way? For example, my husband and I discovered that we enjoy morning sex. I’m rested and relaxed at that hour of the day, he’s got a ready rock, and away we go (we did find that we needed those Altoids, though).
It might be counterintuitive, but some women enjoy being awakened with a snuggle-up in the middle of the night. Be brave. Try it. Be gentle, but persist a bit even if she makes a murmur at first. You — and she — might be surprised at the difference it makes to start out sleepy and in the dark.
I’ll talk in more detail later about specific sexual techniques and enhancements you might want to try out if you get a chance, but for now you’ll have to think and pay attention to your wife to try to discern where the chinks in her boredom might open. Certainly if she gives you an overt hint like bathtub lady gave her husband, you’ll be lucky, and of course you should jump on it with all the suavity you can muster. But sometimes the things you come up with on your own can offer their own special thrill, because you took the time and made the effort to use YOUR imagination and brain power.
You also have to avoid getting into a brand new rut with these new ideas. Just because a new place, approach or strategy is successful doesn’t mean it’s always going to work exactly the way it did the first time. In fact, the most common complaint I hear from women is that men have a tendency to find a winning sexual formula and then never vary it, ending up driving it into the ground. “They’re lazy!” one woman wrote to me. “They don’t want to have to work too hard,” by which she meant no so much physical muscle work as mental work or attention. (This is true of women, too, of course, but men tend not to get as fatally bored as fast with the same-old-same-old, as long as they get a predictable sexual payoff.)
More ideas: Go to a drive-in movie, to the ice rink or bowling alley, to a high school basketball or football game, on a picnic or to some other cheap “teen date” venue that you otherwise wouldn’t consider particularly worthwhile. Just the silliness of it all will relax you both.
Some couples find that role playing and other “games” work. The trickiest part of this idea is bringing up the concept in the first place. But sometimes the stuff you can’t actually talk about out loud can be broached in writing. Yes, write your wife a note. A love letter of sorts. The easiest way to exchange deep or dangerous thoughts these days is by email.
Here’s one idea: tell her you’d like to start up a an internet friendship with her, just for fun, where you both pretend to be strangers to each other, even playing completely new roles in life. You can be a fantastically rich sailboat entrepreneur and she can be a jet set fashion model. It may sound ridiculous or like something your wife would never go along with in a million years, but it really can’t hurt to try. The “internet romance” game has been amazingly entertaining and fun for many couples. Again you have the participatory factor of imagination working for you.
One thing I have to say, though: DO NOT do this as some kind of secret scam on her, trying to seduce her as someone else. That’s entrapment, a violation of trust, a kind of rape. Trust me, it will destroy you both.
In the end, several things have to happen for The Boredom Problem to be overcome: a woman has to realize that she is still a sensual creature with erotic possibilities, the couple has to make an effort to reshape their relationship or escape their psychological routine, and they both have to learn to trust their relationship and each other.
I’ve talked about the power of imaginative stimulus to help a woman recover her sensual awareness and re-tune her sexual feelings. Reshaping the relationship is a more complex problem, but as I mentioned last time, one way to give the process a kick start is by taking a break from your ordinary, stressful, distracting life: a hotel room weekend, a cruise, a second honeymoon.
One of my readers suggested camping, saying that the challenges and pleasures of living outdoors were so completely different from “real life” that it was like living as someone else for a couple of days, and the experiences of nature are usually anything but routine. (If your relationship’s main challenge seems to be simmering anger rather than boredom, however, the minor discomforts, disagreements and organizational errors of the typical a camping trip might not be conducive to relaxation.)
But other kinds of change-ups are also useful. One idea might be to find new things to do together, so that you can have some kind of shared and UNPREDICTABLE amusement that is of value to you both, as a couple. Ideally, the mutual enjoyment will have a large sensual component. So things like swimming, choirs, art lessons, dancing, gardening (or garden tours), spa days, golfing, and so on are all possibilities.
Cooking is fun. You don’t have to become effete foodies, but you could set off one night a week when you work together to make something unusual that requires cooperation with each other and handling, smelling, seeing and tasting different foodstuffs.
You could go to a rock concert or jazz club or country music extravaganza together, or even to a karaoke bar — if the sound of pop music being murdered doesn’t completely shrivel you, that is. You might want to look into the fantasy re-enactment thing. Renaissance Faires and Civil War “battles” offer a lot of scope for unusual interactions, new clothing, imaginative relationships and other boredom-busters. TALK about it. That’s why God invented email, right?
One thing I can’t entirely recommend, although it was suggested by a couple of readers, is pot. Yes, it’s relaxing, it’s mind-altering, it’s sensually enhancing. It can help. I’m not anti-drug in principle. But there is also a danger for women who are having problems feeling sexual. Drugs can actually turn into another way to disconnect themselves from sex, because it becomes too easy to see the sexual activity as a function of the weed and not of their “real” selves. Believing that sexual feelings can only be “artificially” induced by using a drug is not a good concept for either of you to entertain.
For others, especially those who REALLY enjoy sex under the influence, the pleasure-drug association is so strong that the drug becomes a fetish. As with any other fetish object or process, sex without it becomes less interesting. The erotic response is habituated to certain chemical conditions and linked to the high, and in time nothing else is quite “good enough.”
I don’t want to overstate the danger, but we have to recognize that it does happen. You’re trying to AVOID the establishment of routines and conditioned responses, so it doesn’t make sense to potentially set one up. (Many of these same cautions would apply to alcohol and other drugs, as well.) On the other hand, a little mindbop now and then isn’t going to hurt anybody, as long as you’re fully aware of the potential pitfalls.
Ultimately, however, we have to return to the concept of trust or commitment, which is the point at which a relationship becomes deep enough that sex between you is no longer a matter of keeping score, of how much you are getting or not getting, how many sacrifices you’ve made, how ungrateful she is, who owes what to whom, how disappointing she is, what you’re not going to put up with anymore, why you are going to walk out that door and never come back if she does that infuriating thing ONE MORE TIME….
Well, you see the problem. It comes back to that idea I talked about last week, that genuine commitment is the missing ingredient at the bottom of it all. If you’re both willing to genuinely stick it out and TRY, almost anything can work. If one or the other or both of you are already fed up to the teeth and you’re only resentfully considering some mechanical efforts — perhaps so you can say “I really tried!” — I can’t help you. You have to be honest with yourself.