What happens when kids, concerns about money and exhaustion cuts into your romance? Relationship columnist Elizabeth Bernstein joined Wall Street Journal to discuss the sex question that readers want answered most: how can we have more sex?
She was joined by Hasani and Danielle Pettiford, a (very brave) couple from Atlanta.
Danielle explained that 'when kids come along, you start to distance yourself from one another. You stop touching each other and you stop communicating with each other, and the next thing you know, there's no sex.'
Bernstein explained that most letters she receives from long-married people are just variations on the 'we're not having sex anymore!' topic. 'Of course a sexless marriage can signal that something else is wrong,' she said, 'but it can be quite normal for busy people with kids, money worries, just the daily grind,' she explained.
So, what does research say about sex and happiness?
'Research says hands down that sex makes a better relationship, that we're happier and more gratified both in the relationship and individually,' Bernstein explains.
After couples have been together for a time, their brains actually start to change. A newlywed's brain looks like a 'brain on drugs,' Bernstein says. The part of the brain that deals with motivation and excitement lit up very brightly when researchers studied people in new relationships.
'That's evolutionary so that we can mate, so we can bond long enough so that we can have a child. If we kept that sort of high level of addiction to another person going, we can't sustain it. Nobody would get anything done, they'd be in bed all the time. So it peters out ... then, a more mature love, an attachment, a connection comes in,' Bernstein says.
So, what can couples who have reached the 'petering out' stage do?
Sometimes, just sitting and having a conversation about the changes in your sex life can be a huge help. Feeling heard in a relationship is the first step, especially if nobody has acknowledge the lack of sex out loud.
Bernstein says tackling the issue can also be as simple as trying something new, especially if it's outside the bedroom.
A change to your normal routine can spark the neurotransmitters (and dopamine) that keep couples bonded, literally reigniting a spark in your brain.
Whether it's a new restaurant, a different place for vacation or a new hobby, all that matters is that the change lets you and your partner bond.