So picture this: you have an erotic entanglement and you get into a relationship and a year or two in, your sex life fades. The hormones, of course, have worn off. You may be in this situation now. If not, odds-on you one day will be.
Interestingly—and this is a recent observation—I see that, when an intimate relationship stabilises and plateaus, men and women revert to the same programming around seduction, sex and eroticism they had long before they got together. That’s right, the same unconscious dynamics that kept your sex-life back when you were single reappear deep into the relationship. Sure, you’re a bit older now, more powerful, streetsmart, more valuable in the market of infidelity and what have you. But what’s standing beneath any sexual issue as an adult couple is likely a repeated version of an issue that plagued you as a teenager or young man. Just as, once the spark and initial rush of relationship has worn off for her, she’ll likely revert to original settings, too.
Teens again. Needing re-initiation.
The sex-ed we never received in the first place.
I find this ironic. Perhaps you feel you murdered the dragons of sexual shame when—balm to all ills—you got a girlfriend. I certainly fell for this one. Ha! Thinking a beautiful girlfriend will resolve any and all our former issues is an easy fallacy. But after a good decade coaching men, I’ve come to notice that if you didn’t work with the root of your erotic kinks, wounds and wiring, they will show up sooner or later on in your relationship.
What does this mean? Well, if you overcame any shyness or embarrassment to get with your woman in the first place, you’re gonna have to climb out of the belly of that whale again if you want to re-spark that vitality. As I said yesterday, after my multi-year conditioning of escaping arousal and loneliness to float in a world of sexual fantasy, once the hormones wore off in my relationship (after the ‘cosmic freebie’ expired, as I came to think of it), the same dissociative patterning came back. My presence and my life-force started to escape the relationship… and her deep conditioning came back too.
Everyone wants a long-term, vigorous sex-life with their cherished and trusted partners. Yet so few couples achieve it. Why? Because when the rigours of life show up, and our attention is needed to fight different fronts, we go back to our most ingrained patterning.
The rest of this post will explore that more.
So what are some common erotic patterns, things that stifle or leak our sexual energy, when we’re deep into relationship?
—> Well, if you tended to fall for unavailable women before you got in a relationship, you might start pining for alternative women—what could have been’s—once you’re inside your committed relationship.
—> If compelled by porn before the relationship—and the content of this porn was, let’s say, a little extraordinary, and the needs that drove you to this porn are still not being addressed—then you’ll likely still suffer that compulsion, in creative, secret moments, always careful to delete the history of your browser.
—> Say you used to win women’s attention by being supportive or nice, but you seduced your partner in a moment of triumphant heroism. Well, when the patterns of life re-affirm themselves, and your mojo sinks back to its regular notch on the thermostat, you will—can you guess it?—revert to that ancient conditioning of self-sacrifice, over-giving, appeasement… bidding for sexual goodies as reward (from your highness) for kind behaviour.
—> If you were addicted to the game and the numbers count, the thrill of the hunt and the spectre of conquest, then the boredom of workaday intimacy might give you jitters—an unnameable itch that can’t be scratched—and you’ll look for that fresh release all over again; the wife indoors now an inconvenience that scuppers what you think are your true desires.
I think this is clear. You can coach yourself into a fiery romance, or get it together when the planets align. Nature gives us what we need to stick around for long enough, but gravity ultimately wins. When you light a campfire in the woods, it takes a careful arrangement of branches and tinder, plus the soft intensity of your attention and breath, to keep it burning through the long, cold night. It takes a similar human effort to align your erotic life into steady, all-night spiral.
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Piercing Expectations & Understanding Needs
So my sex-life is underperforming because I fell into old patterns. Yes, and there’s more. It’s easier to ignite a spark with a new woman than it is to blow life into a fading one, which accounts for the amount of separations in today’s culture. Single again, not only can you play the slot machines of nature’s hormonal bounty in that line of all-new women, but you get a clean slate to create with, too. In our long, enduring relationships with the same old entrenched habits, we must muster the courage to speak our hidden desires, and disrupt our comfort and expectations.
After a year or so (and especially when you live together) your relationship coalesces into its grooves and habits and forms—ways we feel safe and get used to each other—and in order to stoke the fires, you might have to rupture the mental images you’ve made of each other in your relationship, if you want to bring new parts of yourself. You’ll need to burst through the sediment of re-conditioning.
New relationships usually ignite because, for whatever reason, we are free enough that certain valves open up and, well, our erotic self-expression can flow through. Not all relationships begin with such self-expression, though—some start slowly and either reach passionate heights, or don’t. When we’re in our relationship for a long time, the number of habits and expectations can get thick. We have to find a way to penetrate all that with our erotic ‘hosepipes’, and allow both our sex-taps to come on again. But if you’ve been a dutiful father, a protective brother, and a safe space for her… it’s easy to forget you had an erotic hosepipe altogether.
What this means is that…
… if we look nakedly and honestly at it, we don’t just get rid of our sexual conditioning as a once-in-a-lifetime slaying, but we’re shedding such patterns—old layers, new layers—throughout our lives. We take many bites of the apple, through a number of different phases, to get through our erotic conditioning. Whether you’re single and want more bold, testicular impact on the women you date, or whether you’re in a long term relationship and want the verve back, all our work is the same: to find the courage to go inside and feel what truly arouses you most, what turns you on, what you need… then learn to bring that, ask for that, or seduce your dreams into existence in a way that feels enticing and enrolling for your woman to jump aboard with.
It’s simply owning, again and again, and often against the sheer force of gravity, what you most truly desire. One-night-stands can be so compelling because it’s easier to speak sordid wishes to a stranger, than it is to bare them—for the sake of our masks and reputation—to the one who knows us best.
Much of your longed-for sexual affection will be possible: it just takes bravery and vulnerability, plus an acute form of self acceptance, to express our innermost cravings. Sometimes, though, fantasies are impossible to act out in real life. You know, dreams of aliens or preposterously large body-parts or, you know, harems and orgies and pausing time, hentai, or those blooming girls back in tenth grade, straining against their wafer-thin schoolshirts. It’s just not possible! How do you work with this, when your sexual energy is eaten up by impossible fantasies?
Here’s the trick: what you will need is to understand is the psychological wiring of your fantasies and the needs they represent. My working model is that recurring fantasies show what is missing in your existing relationship dynamics. Once you remove some of the excess ‘paraphernalia’ that happens in your fantasy world, and get to the core craving, you can learn to bring your needs and desires in a way your partner can fulfill.
An example. Say you fantasise about having an enormous cock that all women go crazy for. Now imagine you’re intimate, with your eyes closed, and your woman is humid and writhing beneath you, and she just says the words, your cock is so big it almost hurts, please don’t hurt me! Oh my God I feel you right into my womb, your monster cock just drives me crazy! If she just says those words in the tone you need to hear it, my bet is the arousal you will feel is so much you won’t actually need the cock from your fantasies for your sex to rocket to a lifetime high. When you close your eyes and say the words, and the heat of acceptance engulfs your whole body, you won’t feel like anything’s missing.
Sure, refurbish your room so it looks like a spaceship and plaster the deck with tentacles. Beam your harem aboard. But consider the chance that everything you need already and always exists between your intimate partner and your imagination: you just need to introduce the two.
Then, turn the lens on her. Pick the lock (as we spoke of before), as a trusted presence with the right curiosity, and find what’s desired, but unthinkable, for her. Love the urges she has (don’t take them personally) and strip away at the impossible, to understand her core needs, and practice (surprise her, even) with delightful ways to press these sacred buttons. What I describe here are the roots of erotic maturity. A continual piercing of the conditioning, an unyielding search for erotic reserves—sexual prima materia locked under stress, dissociation, or taboo. You have the rest of your lives to release all the fucks you give, the façades, the reputations, so you can get this wanton and primal and real.
Very few couples go so deep. And I can tell, because when I look at most couples, they sit there solemnly, de-energized, numb, dead, side by side, propping up the fraying furniture, like not a whiff of eros has entered the living room for the last howevermany decades.
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In the last post, we explored patterns of leaky or dissociated attractions.
Today, I’ll share three forms of re-conditioning that build up in relationships like sediment. These are examples of challenges I’m helping my clients work through right now…
1] Stress Function
Money, you may have heard, is the main cause of divorce and separation. Work concerns fire up the stressors in your nervous system, and you revert to patterns for survival. Lizard mode. When the rent depends on entrepreneurial success (and the kids do too) it can be hard to get in the mood. Alternatively, if you know in your heart you’re selling out or selling short, it can be hard to summon virility, too. Stress is a defence system: a rigification, a closing—a protection—of the vulnerable, animal body.
The irony is that strong, full-bodied sexual release (and the tension release in our muscles that accompany it) actually increases flow, trust, charisma, our innate capacity to meet the moment, and solve what seems to scupper our lives. It is hard to not trust life’s magic after a good lay.
The ego won’t have any of this, of course, which is why he takes control. He seizes the nervous system, and with it, your sex drive. Only practice gives you a chance to go beyond the ego. And it takes sustained practice to prove to the ego a new truth, a new way of living he can relax around and trust. Sometimes, though, our egos are too dense to even allow us to practice.
I’ve talked again today of ‘picking the lock’: now, this skill of seeing her masks, her stresses and her survival behaviour, can literally become life and death. If your woman is routinely stressed, your work is to get a picture of the iceberg of her ego, and to feel, together, in intimacy, if you can, some of the stress beneath, and allow for embodiment and relaxation, and trust, and allow for pleasure to come back. If a body cannot relax, it cannot feel pleasure (not deep pleasure). Where a body holds on like fingers clamped around a handle, there’s no satisfying sex.
You cannot do all this work for her, though. You can give guidance, a regular massage, curated time away. You can structure your life so she works less, and sheds some of the burden that tightens her. But you will not age a happy man if you take responsibility for her permanent opening: she needs a self-care practice—as do you. If your intimate life suffers because she’s in a near-permanent state of stress, there are two main things you can do:
1. Bring up the conversation, expressing your sadness or longing for more sexual contact. Explore, together, the nature and shape of her full stress dynamic. Support her to explore what it means to open past her stress in a holistic way, and see what life would be like if you held embodiment and relaxation as core relationship values.
2. Act heroically according to your own practice and values. If you embody what’s needed for you to be at your attractive, present best, it can inspire in her change and devotion.
If she loves you and she is able, she will make steps to do this. If she is not able to walk this path with you, do what you can to understand why not. At some point you might have to assess exactly what you need in relationship, and if a re-ignition of your spark is humanly possible.
If you are the one who is stressed—resolving this is, of course, down to your leadership. Seek help. You can always tell her what you want and need.
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2] Wanting Function
Women have always intuitively said (though many men stand in denial) that when intimacy deepens, ‘two become one’. What does this actually mean? It means that two different nervous systems come together in co-regulation: what one feels affects the other, and vice versa. This is why her jealous reactions can seem overblown: to you it seems like a minor slip of attention—yet she feels her entire support system is threatened. This is why when one partner dies in old age, their spouse often follows shortly after. You stabilise me.
When ‘two become one’ in this way, it is easy for men to feel smothered, or suffer a slow, invisible, drying up of our autonomy. Bit by bit, attending to everyone else’s needs, it gets harder to feel that red-blooded sense of wanting something—anything. And it’s difficult to remember the things we used to want. On evenings when my relationship becomes truly hectic, the only want I’m aware of is the wish it’d all disappear.
Years down the line, so many of us forget what made us throb with life in the past, because now we’ve sacrificed it all. Say we each have a ‘want function’—a facet of our autonomy, kinda like an appendix—that know what it wants. Years into relationship, it can just dry up; become removed. She asks, whad’ya wanna do? What do you want for Christmas? Where do you wanna go on holiday? And there’s just not an answer because, first, you already own everything from the Apple store, but really, because you’ve sacrificed so much of your intent for the relationship, you don’t have enough of a self who can even want anything anymore.
Let’s do the math: no want = no sex. Sex is all about the claim: that red-hot intention that pierces to her core. Man needs distance so he can listen to the call, and gather up his forces of intent.
Loss of desire in a relationship is especially common for those who weren’t allowed to want too much in childhood. It’s not polite to want, mother might have exclaimed. And if she stopped you playing too far from the garden, she might have severed your capacity for desire and built inside you a wonderful ease of acquiescence. You think these patterns won’t show up in adulthood?
The remedy to flailing desire is to take time out and to get in touch with the aspect of you that has a full-blooded vigour and desire for something, anything—not even your woman at this point—but anything in life that’s going to fill you up with a sense of charge and thrust. If you were a father to the wild little boy inside you, how would you encourage yourself to dream?
Ten years into a relationship, our ‘wanting function’ can shrivel up, sapping all vital fuel from your virility. So pause each day. Write a list of ten things you want. Do it fresh tomorrow. Let the wants cycle and change. Feel what is wont to want. Because if you are not clear on what you want, your relationship will end up coalescing towards her intention and desire, and she will be the power-bearer, with you, trailing along behind, clutching her lazy rear hand, in subtle resentment at your life, without really knowing why.
Taking this a step further, when a man sacrifices not only his wants but his direction also, he risks losing his dignity. This is one of the main reasons women leave their men: not only attraction—but basic female respect—doesn’t often survive when a man sacrifices his dignity.
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3] Erotic Safety
Sometimes, our partners want us to have sex, but they’re not a safe bet, and offer merely a surface romp. Nothing for the soul.
If you enjoy erotic thoughts during the day, do you bring them to your partner at night—as you’d bring them to a confidant, a woman who was an erotic best friend? Often, not.
How does her sexual conditioning shape the space she brings to others? How accepting or judgmental is she towards men? Perhaps your woman is largely open, but makes little judgments of people’s behaviour in the street, or on TV, like a gossip, discussing who she knows, what they’re up to, and why that’s weird. Every time your woman judges another, or makes a remark denouncing sex, do you notice that go on your radar, and make you feel a little less… something? A little less turned-on, I’d venture to say. A little less safe.
‘Wow, if she really knew who I was under the bedclothes, maybe she’d judge my sexual proclivities, too.’ Every time a woman makes a little catty remark, she shows a lack of safety in the erotic realm. She wants our interest, but she shuts down any trust that we can express ourselves fully. Many once-hot relationships shut down in this way, and sex is stripped of all its intimacy.
Of course, your woman’s not the only one doing this. Any time you make a corny remark, spiteful comment, or judge her feminine nature, the same thing happens to her. The erotic space breaks down, and you’re left wondering why there’s less excitement all of a sudden.
How do you tackle the detritus of years of off-putting comments? Judgmentalism, for starters, is a tough one, because such ‘lazy, casual’ comments run deep into our unconscious insecurities. Most good people’s hearts would break, though, if they knew how they inadvertently created unsafe sexual spaces for their beloveds. If you can point all this out with compassion, you start building bridges to something new.
On the other hand, maybe you choose to feel what her cattiness does to you, and accept your coarse reactions. Perhaps you find yourself riled up in a corresponding (let’s say punishing, dominant) erotic role that you feel enticed to bring her: you’re so nasty—someone needs to teach you a lesson. Maybe you can be open to all the energy she throws at you: but such judgmental non-safety, without timely punctuations of grace and feminine acceptance, won’t be enticing for manymen.
In the end, if you need more safety than you’re getting in your relationship, you need to ask for it. You need to make your request to her clear, and shape the environment you wish to cultivate. While some women are empathic Goddesses attuned to anticipate your every whim and need, you can’t expect most women to simply get the safety you require, or know how she ought shape herself to satisfy your needs.
Something you might be getting from my perspective on the topic of re-igniting the spark is this: yes—really, we need a realistic, generally empathetic and adult partner to truly have this conversation with. In truth, you want a realistic and adult partner to share your life with, no?
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For The Singles
All right. Throw some water on your face and take a breath or two. If the length of this post hasn’t melted your brain, then nothing possibly will. Well done for staying with me. Now, how do you apply all this to singlehood? Because, for sure, your erotic patterns are at play right now, determining the sex and intimacy you’re getting.
1. Money, survival, career… Yes, stress calcifies your body, diminishing your appetite for sex. Are you eaten by life’s anxieties, or do you have regular practices for unwinding your inner tension and feeling good again? Remember, if you can just relax enough to enjoy the present moment and get it, sex will improve your standing in life.
2. Autonomy… How clear do you feel your wants, your vision for your life? Do you give your desire time to breathe? Understanding your fantasies, your criteria, your boundaries and deal-breakers—the sheer thrill of forward-moving desire—gives you the language and energy to create it.
3. Safety… Have you ever entered a space where you can be free in your sexuality, able to enjoy and to laugh at—and also discover—the erotic characteristics that make you unique? How do you need to be so you can bring this permission to her?
In summary: you can begin a relationship through showing up, or thanks to some benevolent, summertime Grace. But your erotic patterns will come back. Why not get a head-start and explore these parts of you deeply? There is no time like the present.
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Put Theory into Action
I hope you’ve enjoyed the theory. When someone sees the challenges you’re going through, and helps you find language and perspective on the issue, much of its pain fizzles out. Understanding is rarely enough, though. Doing the restorative, emotional, and (crucially) the truth-speaking practices in your relationship, is what makes these ideas enduring, healthy fixtures in your and your partner’s lives.
You can no doubt see that re-igniting the spark in a relationship is, in many cases, a variable and multifaceted affair. Often, you need to bring a holistic plan, with multiple vectors, to remove the blockages, and set up good structures, so you can profoundly, and permanently, kindle the flame.
It’s no good to depend on exotic vacations once a year, birthday gifts and the like, in hopes of a reprieve. This is why I talk about Mastery in the erotic realm. With understanding, and with practice, you can build a psychological and sexual confidence that will be with you for life.
Would you like my guidance as you walk this path, and (re)ignite the erotic fires in your own life? If you feel a resounding ‘yes’, then join me for Mastery.
Mastery is an exclusive, small-group, year-long intensive programme. An opportunity to build a once-in-a-lifetime skillset, so you can dissolve the issues that encage your sex-life, and come into your vital, virile power.
I look forward to meeting you,
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