When you're a newlywed, sex is…how can we put it…really hot. But chances are that "we-can't-take-our-hands-off-each-other" feeling isn't going to be there at all times throughout your marriage. Just as there are natural ebbs and flows in life, your sex life will likely also experience ups and downs.
Now, don't panic! Just because the two of you might not always feel the same intensity as you did when you were first married doesn't necessarily mean you're no longer in love, or that sex will never be as satisfying again. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite, say relationship experts. These transitions are normal, even healthy, because they force couples to take stock of their union, and to make adjustments and changes that ultimately strengthen their sexual bond—and the marriage as a whole.
We've put together this "road map" for your sex life because we think that being aware of the impact that certain twists and turns ahead might have is the best way to deal with them. Better yet, we believe this guide can help you ensure a fabulously satisfying sex life through your golden anniversary—and beyond.
Milestone: One Year
Likely sex life scenario: You already might have lost a bit of that super-hot lovin' feeling.
Challenge: You want to recapture your newlywed "euphoria."
After about a year or so of marriage, you might not feel the same burning passion you had for each other right after the wedding, say experts. "That's because romantic ideals get tested around the 18-month mark," explains Sandra Scantling, Psy.D., a psychologist in Farmington, Connecticut, and an intimacy expert for Sexualwellbeing.com, a website that promotes sexual health and intimacy. "Behaviors you used to find endearing may have become irritating. For example, the juicy kisses you once loved may begin to feel slobbery, or his cute way of chewing on soda straws has become annoying. Plus, intimacy takes a hit when couples start locking horns over the mundane details of daily life that don't automatically resolve themselves, like who emptied the dishwasher last."
"After I'd been married a year, I started to feel resentful that my husband always sat on the couch, watching television, while I did most of the housework," says Alexis Blunden*, 31, from Wycoff, New Jersey. "That made me none too eager to hop in the sack later on that night. It's hard to get turned on while you're ‘keeping score' of who's doing what around the house."
So, how do you get yourselves back on track? Start by simply accepting the fact that your feelings are perfectly normal, says Scantling, and that you can get the passion back. Then, instead of just wondering "What went wrong?", directly address the issues or problems that are getting in the way of your good time. In the case of the aforementioned moist kisses, tell your husband that you love smooching with him, but you'd like to try kissing this way for a while (then show him!). As for the household-chores issue, it's time to speak up. Tell him, calmly, that you need him to pitch in around the house more, and then work out a schedule of chores you can both live with. "It's important to come to the marriage bed without anger and resentment," says Scantling, "and communication is the best way to accomplish this."
"When I told my husband I was angry about feeling like a 1950s housewife, he felt really bad and agreed to take on more household responsibilities," reports Blunden. "Now, when I see him pushing the vacuum around the house or cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I kind of get turned on!"
Milestone: Five Years
Likely sex life scenario: Good sex doesn't just happen the way it used to—and it may have become a bit routine.
Challenge: You have to work a little harder to keep sex great.
Like many couples who've been married five years, you might find the sexual excitement and spontaneity are no longer there. Your lovemaking sessions may rarely vary—they last the same amount of time, and you use the same moves over and over again. There are several reasons for this: Some couples hit a sexual rut where they simply get comfortable and don't have to put in a lot of effort, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page Books). For other couples, different priorities—work, family—have begun to trump their ability to have fresh, exciting, creative sex.
"My husband and I are still very much in love, but sex is not like what it used to be when we got married, five-and-a-half years ago, because we have kids," says Ginny Byham*, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "We both work full-time, and, when we come home, we want to spend as many hours with the children as possible, so there's less time for us. When we do make love—generally twice a week—it's usually over pretty quickly, and then we both fall asleep, exhausted."
Of course, not having children can affect your sex life as much as having them. Erin Hill*, 24, from Edmond, Oklahoma, has been married for six years and has spent the last two trying to have a baby. "We're timing my cycle, and, when I'm ovulating, I just want to have sex because I want a baby," she says. "In many ways, it has become a means to an end, and that's taken some of the fun and passion out of it."
Whatever the reasons for a less-than-thrilling sex life, it's important to do something about it now if you're not satisfied, because the years following your five-year anniversary are the most crucial time in your marriage to solidify your sexual bond. (Note: Some couples are happy with routine, and that's okay, too, says Tessina.) Recent statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics found that couples who divorce most commonly do so after 7.2 years of marriage (ever hear of "the seven-year itch"?)—often citing a declining sex life as a major factor.
So, do whatever it takes right now to get excited about sex again. Too busy? Trade babysitting services with friends to make time for leisurely Saturday afternoon lovemaking sessions. (Byham and her husband recently dropped their kids off with Byham's parents for an overnight visit, and they spent the night at a romantic inn nearby.) "And, don't let 48 hours go by without some sort of physical contact," says Scantling. "Even if you can't have intercourse, kiss deeply, hold hands, rub each other's shoulders, just be affectionate. Touching improves intimacy." Also, it's never too late to start mixing things up in the bedroom in order to infuse some excitement into your marriage, adds Scantling. For example, instead of going straight from stacking the dishwasher to bed, cuddle up together with a glass of wine—this'll force you to build a slow, exciting burn. Take turns sharing your sexual fantasies, and then make them come true for each other. Buy erotic videos, pick up some sexy-smelling massage oil and give each other sensual rub-downs, try out a few new positions—whatever turns you on.