The Intentional Love Affair
Are you part of an intimate relationship? Marriage rests on three foundations—a friendship, a love affair, and problem solving. As a marriage progresses, the love affair can become intentional, or can fade and falter. Especially in long term relationships, the neglected love affair often takes a back seat to kids, fatigue, life demands, habituation, and aging bodies. This is not good! A happy marital love affair enlivens and expands everything else.
I promote intentional love affairs to pretty much everyone. The three foundations rarely maintain themselves indefinitely without collaborative conscious effort. This is hard sometimes. We tend to normalize our shared life as we pass from romantic infatuation into intimate bonding, and can start to take our friendship and love affair for granted.
What to do about it?
When one foundation is not working well, someone needs to intentionally do/say something to effectively invite harmony. This is especially tricky with the marital love affair because most of us have been so conditioned to not talk about sexual desires, vulnerabilities, experiences, and possibilities that we are easily moved to shame, anger, and avoidance when our sexual issues are discussed.
The marital love affair is particularly vulnerable to problems. Sexual dynamics change as couples develop through romantic infatuation, intimate bonding, the transition into having children, and other life passages. The marital love affair is sensitive to life demands, bodily issues, increasing fatigue, childrearing—the stresses of life. Couples unfortunately develop relational defensive patterns that separate them when stressed. A common one is the promoter/resister pattern.
The promoter and the resister
The sexual promoter/resister dynamic is one partner wanting more sexual activities, while the other feels pressured and put upon. The promoter gets frustrated and irritated—especially unattractive states—which leaves the resister feeling objectified and pressured. I’ve worked with couples where the promoter/resister dynamic has wrecked their sexual relationship to the point they hardly ever have sex and don’t enjoy it that much when they do. Sometimes couples have been struggling with this for years before they finally decide to call me and talk about it.
The promoter/resister dynamic is just one of many negative patterns that can mess up a couple’s love affair, but such problems can be addressed!
There is hope!
If couples have a spark of attraction, some memory of sex worth having, and both can receive and act on caring influence, they can cocreate an intentional love affair that pleases both of them. How to do this varies wildly from couple to couple, but it all starts and ends with courageous compassionate communication and willingness to receive caring influence.