Seasons of the sex life
The nature of a couple’s sex life changes over time; it goes through “seasons” like the seasons of the year-spring, summer, fall, and winter.
- The honeymoon period: During the first few years of marriage, sex is full of excitement. The couple is infatuated with one another and feels so closely bonded that they are not aware of the differences between them.
When two people fall in love and engage in a sexual relationship, they begin to include their partners in their concepts of themselves. People feel like they acquire new capabilities because they have the support of close partners. “I might not be able to handle parenthood by myself, but with the help of my partner’s good parenting skills, I’ll be a good parent.” This overlap of the concepts of self and partner has been called “self-expansion.”
- After the honeymoon is over: People generally experience a high level of self-expansion at the beginning of relationships when they constantly learn new things about themselves and their partners. However, as the relationship matures, the rate of self-expansion slows, and people experience a relative decline in satisfaction. After two to three years of marriage all kinds of differences begin to surface, including different sexual preferences. The spouses are less willing to overlook these differences and must negotiate a shared sex style. Sexual satisfaction is also eroded by the arguments and conflict that inevitably crop up in marriage. Couples who deal poorly with arguments and conflicts build up a history of negative emotional interactions that can negatively affect their sex life. (This is when unmarried cohabiting couples often split up.) On the other hand, those who succeed in dealing with conflict, through mutual support and good communication, develop deep trust and closeness in their relationship.