“Now that I’m in a committed relationship with the man of my dreams, why isn’t the sex as good as when I was single? The marriage bed should be better than a truck-bed fling.”
I totally hear you! From a very young age, we’re sold the story that finding our One True Love will lead to a Happily Ever After. And while fairytales don’t often show that ‘after,’—and never show the sexy times—it’s implied that good sex is part of the HEA package.
That expectation can add tremendous pressure to a relationship, even if you enjoy an enduring sex life that’s as intimate, exciting, and fulfilling as you crave. And when it’s not? Like you, folx find themselves flabbergasted that the marriage bed isn’t better.
First of all, know that what you’re experiencing is totally normal and even expected. Everyone’s sex life—single, partnered, whatever!—goes through ups and downs, periods of excitement, and disappointment.
There are many different reasons one’s sex life in a committed relationship might not be better than casual sex. Read on for 10 reasons, with input from some experts.
Building a life with someone can shift the tone of our sex lives.
“We often attach our ideas of what makes ‘good sex’ to characteristics like spontaneity, desire, and novelty. These are most organically present in our sexual connections as they begin, or when they are casual. As we build committed relationships, our priorities become security, emotional intimacy, and familiarity. This can create a very different sexual atmosphere.
But this does not mean that the sex has to be boring or unsatisfying!
Relationships that report the highest levels of satisfaction in their sex lives put intention into creating excitement and newness. They flirt, make time for sex and dates, they talk about things they want to do again or try for the first time, make time to do fun things together and apart, and remember that sex isn’t just about penetration or orgasm, but about sensual or erotic connection.”
Lust feels differently than love
“Lust is much more animalistic and carnal! I’m not concerned with the complicated workings of a relationship, family, health, finances, etc. I’m just worried about pressing my body against theirs! Lust is all about sexual desire!
Love encompasses so much more. Love is much more than sex and, often, those other components of love can get in the way of wild, uninhibited sex. Sure, I trust my partner and have explored many new sexual realms with him—but [flings] can seem appealing with less attachment and familiarity. […] New partners or flings keep you guessing, surprises are easier to pull off, and the unknown can be sexier than the much-known.
The game of single sex can be very fun to play. Married sex has a lot less ego, chase, and personal validation!”
There are more thing hitting your sexual brake
Having amazing sex isn’t only engaging in your turn-ons and the sexy things that interest you, but also in healing, releasing, and freeing yourself the things that turn you off. Whether that’s knowing what their dairy farts smell like, the added stresses of navigating family dynamics, or the vulnerability from having sex with someone you love, often the answer lies in turning off the offs rather than adding more turn-ons.
You don’t have a chance to miss each other
“While dating, partners usually have a chance to miss each other. I know I always looked forward to time with my husband during our dating phase, before living together. That excitement helped build arousal and desire for sex, which decreased after marriage. Instead of those lustful feelings happening so easily, desire during marriage takes work.” – Shani Hart, Certified Sex Coach
There’s a lot that goes unsaid
“It’s what we are not saying that is eroding the intimacy and passion in our relationships. This included withheld appreciations and gratitude. Being on top of one another emotionally doesn’t always translate to being on top of one another sexually.
Most humans won’t find living in close-quarter situations for long periods of time with lots of fear and uncertainty terribly erotic or hot […] I suggest taking time to practice getting good at having the difficult conversations, which could lead to deeper feelings of connectedness, trust, and, eventually, erotic desire.” – Reid Mihalko, Sex Educator
The novelty is gone
“When new relationship energy (NRE) ebbs is when folks begin to feel what you’re describing now. NRE can be a bit of a ruse or filter, where we see our partner in a very appealing light. They can be the ‘person of your dreams,’ but after a while, you see that they’re a real person and not a dream. They aren’t perfect and that impacts our attitudes. Then, we get into ruts sexually. Our go-to moves become routine or boring.
Be careful of putting that earlier sex on a pedestal. If you allow yourself to ‘see’ it, you may notice your interpersonal relationship is deepening (which, if you really dial in to that, can lead to much more deeply pleasurable sex), allowing you to feel more intimacy and connection with your partner, even if previously you felt that ‘lust’ fading. Exploring sexual interests together can bring a sense of newness and adventure back into the relationship, but now with the added benefit of knowing each other’s bodies.
Never assume though that you know what your partner is thinking or how they will react. You will never be in their head to know how they will react to everything. Keep a sense of curiosity in your approach to them and you will discover new things often.” – Lanae St.John, DHS, CSC, ACS, sexologist
We’re all wired differently
From the “erotic map” (aka the things one finds arousing and that interest someone sexually) to one’s relationship style, personal preferences and circumstances also play a role. Some folx thrive in the depth and intimacy of a committed partnership. Others find such a relationship stifling or less safe. As a whole, our society doesn’t do great with vulnerability—and what is more vulnerable than sex with someone you love, whose opinion you truly care about?
There’s less mystery
“There’s something very thrilling about not knowing the intimate details of your partner. What’s left to your imagination can often be much more exciting than reality. Novelty has been proven to add to the likelihood of sexual satisfaction! Once you’ve gotten to know your partner, their “moves” in the bedroom… and even their bowel/bladder schedule (ha!) the excitement of anticipation goes out/is dimmed. New partners or flings keep you guessing, surprises are easier to pull off, and the unknown can be sexier than the much-known.”
– Rae Higgins
You want different things sexually
Love alone doesn’t translate into being good sexual partners. And no one ever really teaches us how to discover what we want and share that with a partner. This doesn’t mean you can’t be sexually compatible, just that you may have to work together to get better in tune with each other so your bodies and hearts are more in sync.
All sex lives have ups and downs
Your desire level, how often you get it on, how satisfied the sex leaves you, and more will shift throughout the course of your relationship. Knowing this is expected lets you greet such changes with curiosity and gentleness rather than judgment, shame, or blame.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that if your struggles are ongoing, working with a sexuality professional like myself or those quoted above can provide the space, objective third party perspective, and sexpertise to have the intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life you crave.