Woman Examining Man, St. Tropez 1975 © Helmut Newton / Helmut Newton Estate.

At a recent family wedding, whilst waiting in line at the pasta station, my new “cousin” and I started outlining a sort of prescription for lasting passion. Gail is a 76-year old widow who’s dating again and having, by all accounts, an exciting sex life.

I’m a 56-year old divorcee who, having survived a basically sexless marriage, am now enjoying some of the best sex of my life.  Together, we absolutely categorically agreed that passion can last a lifetime.  “Sex gets better, not worse, as you get older!”, declares David Schnarch, clinical sex therapist and author of Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love & Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships.  Or, as Helen Gurley Brown put it, “you can be 109 and still have your hands, your mouth and your imagination.”

When sex works, it creates a bond of immense power. We should be having sex, we should want sex, we need sex.  The physiological foundation to Maslow’s Hierarchy doesn’t say food, water, shelter, sleep, homeostasis and sex just for a few years!  And, I believe there is tremendous ignorance of the value of healthy sex energy and it’s part in the foundation of our society.

When we really connect, “at the height of passion or in the fullness of love” (Sacred Sex. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi & Eve Ilsen), we feel transported to a different plane of existence. Everything is one, we are empowered and in complete alignment with ourselves, each other and our universe.  Sometimes we see colour or know great truths and we vibrate with this pleasurable energy throughout the ebb and flow of our union.  This is what is called Sacred Sex, and what I believe to be the foundation of lasting passion.

And yet, many couples are not having Sacred Sex. They are not having sex at all.  A sexless marriage/relationship is generally defined as one in which couples have sex less than 1x per month.  I know of a woman in a sexless marriage who says, (of sex with her husband) “Oh! I can’t be bothered, darling…I simply have no hormones left.” “What does your husband do to satisfy his sexual urges?”, was my question back. “I don’t know…”  her response.  What?!? You don’t know how your husband satisfies his sexual urges without you?!?!   “I’m not sure he has them”, she said… Not a great answer.

On popular dating apps, if a woman asks to chat on the phone instead of by text…the married men will un-match right away. And I find that in the course of my interior design work, I enter bedroom after bedroom devoid of sexual energy…or worse – deceit, repression, disrespect. These are truths, not judgments.

So, how do you ensure your sex is Sacred and your passion lasts?  Back to what started, with Gail, in the pasta line.  My evolving and theoretical Rx for Lasting Passion.

  1. retain some mystery in your relationship. “Cultivate your private gardens”…, as Daniel Bergner, author of  What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, says.  We tend to look to our partners for everything: lover, confidant, best friend, co-parent. This multi-layering strengthens the bonds of a relationship, however, eroticism requires distance.  We must introduce some intrigue.  A little individuality, independence, re-claiming of self.  Flirt, take separate vacations, “play at the borders of monogamy”, as Esther Perel, author of Mating In Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic, says.  From a design perspective, I even occasionally encourage having separate rooms/spaces to hang out, nap, fantasize, sleep alone (occasionally and without judgment).
  2. communicate about what you want sexually. Easier said than done.  “Women aren’t talking quite candidly with their partners, that’s a given”, says Bergner.  Find a way to do it, even if it’s a difficult conversation to have. Write a letter. Show a film. Play a song. Have an elasticity of what partnering looks like for you both.  Establish guidelines, set boundaries.  Our sexuality is individual and should be without judgment, like what we want to eat.  It’s something that is biologically driven…how can people argue with that? We just need to find the proper means to communicate it.  In The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak wrote, “Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.”  Know that there are many means by which to communicate.  There are also, increasingly, communities opening up to normalize sex talk; Kaleidoscope Group on Facebook, Cycles & Sex, and The Future of Sex podcast, to name a few.
  3. sort out your Warrior/Goddess Energies. Polarity in a sexual relationship is essential in order to create the chemistry/tension.  Both the masculine essence and the feminine essence must be cultivated, encouraged, exalted in one another.  Remember delicious foreplay and that the feminine wants to be ravished by raw physical attraction.  Realize that the masculine must know it’s purpose to feel truly powerful.  Read David Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man. Read the entire Kama Sutra – it’s much more than just the pictures.  Educate yourselves.
  4. make time to play. Adults need play dates too. Dr. Phil says, “The choices you make have consequences. For example, if you choose to work, go to school & have a family, you may have very little left to invest in a sexual relationship.  Change your behaviour and decisions if you want different consequences.”  Separate out your relationship with your partner from your relationship with your children.  Know the difference. Dare to favour time with your partner.  Know that if you two are sorted, all else will flow better.
  5. respect. Each other, yourselves and other partners. Don’t violate your own sense of self/integrity by accommodating. Endeavor to be true to yourself and truthful about yourselves and with each other. Dishonesty and disrespect can break bonds beyond repair.
  6. look after yourself/continue to work on yourself. Emotionally, psychologically, physically.  Do what it takes to look and feel attractive both inside and out.  If you don’t look and feel good about yourself, who else is going to? You really need to ROCK it. For yourselves and each other. Get your health problems taken care of. Loose that weight.  Bring problems to your support community and solutions to the couple.  How can you show up for anyone else if you can’t show up for yourself?
  7. bring value into your life/stop being cheap with yourself. Since when did being cheap become a virtue?  Dickens anyone?  Discover and learn to recognize the value of craftsmanship, skilled design, fine materials, time.  Be willing to put a price on that value and give yourself the luxury of well-made things whenever possible. Understand that the continued joy of one beautifully made object can more than surpass a thousand cheaply made pieces of plastic. Realize you are worth it, and that paying for someone else’s skill is also worth it. That the energy exchange of bringing something valuable to your life will begin to be something you favour.  That cheap and cheerful can also feel void of any point if it keeps breaking or if you know that a slave made it.  This will help you begin to see value and balance in other areas of your life.

“Great sex is not about technique”, writes Schnarch. “It’s about integrating your head, heart and genitals…Feelings and thoughts can more than offset declining hormonal drive. And we must not mistake genital prime for sexual prime….The kind of desire we’re discussing comes from maturation rather than infatuation…if you’re interested in sex with intimacy, there isn’t a seventeen year old alive who can keep up with a healthy sixty year old!”

The latter are no longer apologizing for their eroticism. And neither are Gail & I.


Jenny Brennan

Jenny Brennan

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