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Married Sex




Excerpted from
Grown-Up Marriage: What We Know, Wish We Had Known and Still Need to Know About Being Married
By Judith Viorst

"Routine" is a word that is often heard when married-a-while wives and husbands discuss their sex lives, even when their sex lives are as enjoyable as hitting a good golf shot. "There is no way around routine sex," says thirty-something Betty Jane. "It's reliable but predictable and routine," says Kim, after fourteen years of marriage. And Albert, eleven years married, observes, "We do it well. We've got the routine down pat. But there are no surprises." On the other hand, notes Mary, married fifteen years longer than Albert, "Routine has a safe, reassuring, and very comfortable side." And Lainie, whose sexual history has allowed her, she says, to "make plenty of comparisons," happily observes that "no more intense sex ever existed for me than this familiar everyday married sex."

What's good-what can be good-about routine, familiar, everyday married sex is being able to please and feel at ease with each other. "We know' what turns the other on," says Nan, "and we each can say what we want during sex." Adds Sascha, "So even though there isn't the newness and the discovery-and the frequency-that we had at the beginning, what my husband and I have instead is more freedom and honesty."

While everyone seems to agree that sexual frequency decreases the longer a married couple is together, some husbands and wives insist that their familiar married sex offers more satisfaction than the sexual fireworks of their early days together. Because, says Stan, "It's less hungry and more loving." And because, says Irene, "The 'Ooh, can I actually say this? Ooh, can I try this?' fear-of-embarrassment factor is gone from our bed." There's a "closeness, a trust, an openness that comes with familiarity," says Rhoda, "and that makes us feel safe to completely relinquish ourselves, for a little while, to another person."

There's also a certain confidence, a growing and a grown-up recognition, that good sex is simply what good sex is for us, although it may in no way resemble what was good for Lady Chatterley and her lover or what Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland did with one another in Don't Look Now, an otherwise grim movie with the sexiest married sex scenes you'll ever see. Good sex is what satisfies a couple's exquisitely specific physical, spiritual, and emotional needs-and if both partners like it more tender than lustful, more playful than earnest, more kinky than straight, more straight than kinky, more cool than hot, or even more "wham bam thank you ma'am" than slow and sweet, then that is exactly what good sex is for that couple.

Time and familiarity can help us figure out what's good for us. Familiarity need not breed contempt. "I have grown accustomed to your face, and other sections" ends my poem "Familiarity Breeds Content," which affectionately suggests that longtime married sex indeed has certain benefits.

One woman, married fifty-one years, cheerily informs me, "I don't understand what people mean when they talk about having bad sex. The only kind of sex I've had"-and it's all been with her husband-"has been good." When I ask her what keeps it good, she even more cheerily replies," Enthusiasm and imagination."

As another long-married woman, I could elaborate on the benefits of enthusiasm and imagination. I could, but I won't.

A friend of mine, married twenty-three years to a man she met when both of them were teenagers, also sings the praises of longtime sex. "One of the real benefits of marrying your high-school boyfriend is that he is always your high-school boyfriend," she says. "Kissing him, I connect to hot summer nights and teenage lust. Inside that three-piece suit is the guy who made me"-and continues to make her-"melt."

As most married people know, there are-from fairly early on-peaks and valleys in sexual desire and in sexual pleasure. Some of this has to do with our stage of life. Some of it has to do with the emotional weather between a husband and a wife. And some of it has to do with unconscious aspects of our past which have-uninvited, unwanted, and unrecognized-climbed into bed with us.

If our stage of life is new parenthood, there may be a serious slump in sexual interest, especially (husbands complain) on the part of the wife. If our stage of life is building a career, time once spent making love may be spent making partner. (As one outraged wife complained to her working-late-every-evening husband, "I'm fed up with being your Saturday-night lay.") If our stage of life is later life, husbands may begin having problems with potency or wives may experience diminished desire. And at many stages of life, if we are doing-as couples often do-far too much and are chronically trying to manage on minimal sleep, we may be too exhausted to think about sex, make time to have sex, or give ourselves over wholeheartedly when we have it.



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