Photo Credit: Phase 4
Yawn. Not tonight honey, I have a [headache, toothache, hernia, hangnail…insert malady of choice].
Okay, truth be told…sometimes monogamy = monotony. Not always, but complacency and routine may occasionally supplant spark if a couple isn’t careful. And then what? Do you just throw out the carnal and settle for cuddle?
That question is the underlying premise of the new film The Freebie (limited theatrical release September 17, 2010/nationwide October) with Dax Shepard and Katie Aselton. In the movie, Darren (Dax) and Annie (Katie) have this awesome relationship based on communication, trust and love, but their sex life has taken a nosedive and crossword puzzle competitions have taken the place of “Who’s on top tonight?”
Their solution? To allow each other a one-night relationship hiatus with whomever they choose. Though on paper (or rather, during pillow talk) both Darren and Annie think they’re cool with the idea, when it comes time to actually “do it,” well, that’s when things get a little sticky. Do they go through with it? Do they chicken out? It’s left a little nebulous in the film (though you’re led to believe they followed through, viewers never actually see the “dirty deeds”).
This “did they or didn’t they?” wondering is exactly what affects Darren and Annie’s relationship the morning after. Though they’d agreed never to talk about it, it wasn’t as simple (or as spicy) as they’d imagined.
The problem with mutual consensual flings is that in most cases the purported solution is going to become the problem. Why? “Jealousy has evolutionary genetic roots and it is likely to be provoked by even consensual ‘stepping out'," says Joel Block, Ph.D., relationship expert for Candobetter.com and co-author of Sex Comes First: 15 Ways to Save Your Relationship without Leaving Your Bedroom. “Couples in the swinging lifestyle know this; they often have rules that prohibit seeing one member of another swinging couple alone, the rule is in the service of not triggering the green-eyed monster.”
So, is there a better option than doing the nasty with a random barista to squash bedroom boredom? Experts say yes, if you want to stay in your current relationship. One tactic Dr. Block suggests is to free your fantasies verbally – not literally – with each other, which not only requires trust but may also give you some fun ideas for role play or other ways to enliven your sexual connection. This must be done with care and no judgment. Boosting your partner’s feelings of desirability before sharing can also make both partners feel more secure. Try not to judge, but also realize there may not be acceptance.
For lasting passion, Dr. Block also recommends that you share your inner life fully with each other - including your fears, your triumphs and anything else that is part of who you are. “In other words, keep the energy that was there early in the relationship, the time of discovery, flowing,” says Dr. Block.
And what happens if you’ve already crossed the line and your love-trust bond is totally trashed? Can a couple ever recover their joint adoration and get jiggy again? Dr. Block says “yes” but it will take a lot of work, sharing and commitment on the part of BOTH partners.
To start the dialogue towards rebuilding your love-trust bond, Dr. Block suggests asking each other the following questions:
- What influences from our family or surroundings may be undermining our relationship? (In other words: Did your parents do a number on you that you’re replaying in your own partnership?)
- What changes need to be made in our relationship to strengthen the trust and intimacy?
- Very specifically, what kinds of behaviors are acceptable and what is out of bounds?
- Can the damage be repaired? What will it take?
In order for trust to be rebuilt you must “walk the talk” so figure out what will make you feel secure as a couple, whether that’s always having dinner together (i.e. building time into your day to reconnect) or perhaps going to see a counselor.
If you're truly interested in re-cementing your bond, Dr. Block says, then you will need answers in order to figure out how to progress to the next step of rekindling your romance.
Bottom line: Keeping a relationship hot for the long term does require some work…but a free pass to play the field may actually mean playing with fire.