I think we will all agree that communication is an essential element, a prerequisite even, of a successful relationship of any kind, be it intimate, business or friendly. Without good and clear communication, it is nearly impossible to know what the other person wants or needs from us, and vice-versa. However, communication by itself does not suffice if we wish to have an enjoyable and happy long-term intimate relationship. What I have been noticing in my work with couples and in talking to my friends is that despite a fairly satisfactory verbal sharing of thoughts and feelings within a couple, more is needed to maintain the bond, intimacy and a sense of profound understanding between the partners. The two key ingredients that many long-term couples keep neglecting completely are laughter and sex. It seems that they have literally left the building that is your couple.
Think back to when you first met and started dating your partner. Reflect on how elated you felt just thinking about them, how happy you were in their company, how often you laughed together and how much time you devoted to sex and intimacy in general. Now honestly compare that situation to the one you find yourself in right at this moment. Most likely, the state of affairs is starkly different, and most probably not in a good way. If you had your blood checked for neurotransmitter and hormone levels, you would notice that dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are not where you would want them to be. These four neurotransmitters are often referred to as the quartet that needs to be conducted in a harmonious manner if we want to experience happiness. Why am I talking about the chemistry of our emotions? Because once the “in love phase” of our relationship passes and the daily grind and routine set in, it is the adrenaline that keeps us going. The only hormone that then increases in our bodies is the stress-related cortisol. The “happy, feel good hormones” subside or are out of balance. Hence we feel depressed, down and without the mental, emotional or physical energy to do anything but the necessary chores. Yet it is very easy to naturally stimulate the production of these chemical substances that are vital for our happiness and wellbeing – by making love or having sex, and by laughing as often as possible. You are probably thinking “who has the time to have sex and laugh and indulge in pampering when there is so much to be taken care of and dealt with – children, elderly parents, work obligations, a demanding boss and coworkers, a cranky partner, laundry, cleaning.” True, nowadays demands keep piling up and we’re under a lot of pressure to juggle a million obligations, but that should not be an excuse preventing us from taking some time to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time every single day. An hour or 30 minutes a few times a week will suffice to take the pressure off. Having a good time, laughing, having sex, cuddling, pampering all function as a natural way to get high on positive feelings, without bringing on the negative addiction. These activities help us to release stress and frustration, which in turn makes us more relaxed, less anxious, less stressed-out, less depressed, more productive and more optimistic. Do you still recall what it is like to feel bliss, serenity, joy and tranquility?
In long-term relationships and marriages, a lot of work has to be put in to maintain the connection and intimacy, physical and emotional. Many couples drift apart because they take them for granted and start neglecting them. Many more believe that adults should not be giggling like teenagers or laughing too much, as it is perceived as childish behavior. Let me not even start on the subject of sex in the later stage of our lives. How many of you have just rolled your eyes when you pictured an older couple rumpling the sheets? Sigmund Freud talked about Eros and Thanatos in his theory on instincts. These are the two driving forces in human lives that never go away. We just tend to focus much more on the latter as time goes by. Therefore, you shouldn’t be ashamed nor embarrassed if you still enjoy in intimate quality time with your partner, if you’re focusing more on stimulating the Eros driving force. Sex and laughter are a strong glue that will help you reconnect with your partner, making you a stronger and more united team. Once your emotional and relational needs are fulfilled and you don’t feel frustration on that account, facing other challenges and tasks will be a lot less burdensome. And even if you fail at something, you will always be able to have a good laugh about it and see the situation from a more positive perspective. Therefore, I would recommend you to invite sex and laughter back into your couple.