Therefore, it governs your attraction or lack thereof to each other between the sheets. After all, when are we most likely to spread genes around? Obviously, this is more likely after lovers have exhausted their one-time booster shot of fiery honeymoon neurochemistry.
Precisely how does this sneaky gene-spreading program put couples out of sync? I was going on the assumption that if she could just enjoy sex more, i. So, I was always trying to give her a good pounding. Instead she moved out of our bedroom. It took years before they restored the harmony in their marriage.
Sexual frustration is stressful. What usually ends up happening if you have ever been married a long time or know people who have been is that the wife starts withholding sex. Incidentally, about 13 percent of long-term couples seem impervious to this phenomenon. But that leaves the vast majority floundering in the habituation swamp. For example, androgen receptors in the brain decline after ejaculation , and may take up to seven days to normalize.
That means the effects of testosterone may be blunted for a while, affecting zest. Opioids released during copulation hang around for a while—apparently causing lingering declines in oxytocin , which hamper sexual responsiveness. There is also likely a drop in sensitivityto dopamine —that neurochemical vital to our sense of well-being and desire.
Whatever the precise mechanisms, the brain changes subtly after orgasm, and any decrease in responsiveness is bad news for lovers.
Now, libido tends to go in divergent directions—simply because people experience the return to homeostasis differently following an orgasmic neurochemical wallop. Then, orgasm once again registers as a great idea. Some want more sex or more beer, or more something soon afterward. This happens because their reward circuitry is somewhat numbed, and has left them restless or anxious, and wanting. Chances are they also need more stimulation than before to produce the same pleasure response.
This pesky dissatisfaction mechanism may have evolved, in part, to urge us to binge when a potential genetic opportunity is around to assure fertilization. Above all, it increases the odds that we find novel mates especially alluring the Coolidge Effect.
Chances are good that this mechanism is related physiologically to the addiction cycle. After all, the reward circuit is also the prime player in all addictions.
Dopamine and dopamine receptors are implicated in both sex and addiction. Could intense sexual stimulation be, in effect, a mini drug trip? A Dutch scientist once commented that the brain scans of men ejaculating reminded him of brain scans of a heroin rush. For example, people have varied reactions to recreational drugs, and the reasons are not well understood.
Either way, we may crave very stimulating or novel sex or porn so we can raise dopamine levels in our brain and feel good again, even if it makes our urges even more demanding subsequently. Unless your brains both happen to be on the same schedule, your love life can go out of sync. Meanwhile, the grass may look greener just about anywhere else. Outsmarting Biology You now understand how lots of great sex can subtly cause your brain to demand more and more jollies—just at the time when your partner may feel the need for a recovery period of soothing affection…only.
Obviously, this is not a new challenge. The curse of sexual stimulation leading to desensitization and discontent is as old as humanity. Two thousand years ago, Roman poet Ovid cynically advised the following cure for love: Some negotiate date nights and sexual favors. Some take jobs in different cities, so their brains have time to return to balance. Said one man, I once worked in a remote fly-in fly-out job, two weeks on, two weeks off.
As a result, my wife and I enjoyed the best sex life of our marriage. The homecoming was a moment to be savored, especially whenever I caught the flight that got me home before the kids got home from school. But we also savored the moment of departure two weeks later. Fairness is good, but it may not restore mutual desire if you need more timeto return your brains to ideal sensitivity.
Interestingly, sages across the globe have also developed little known techniques for managing sex to keep lovers in balance and sustain the harmony in their unions. Kosher sex, for example, prescribes almost two weeks a month in separate beds while couples restore their magnetism.
In contrast, methods such as gentle tantra , karezza , and dual cultivation call for frequent lovemaking without the emphasis on orgasm. Such strategies foster harmony by helping couples retain their neurochemical sensitivity to the nuances and bonding power of warm affection. The results can be deeper contentment and less sexual frustration. Whatever strategy you adopt, remember that any lack of enthusiasm for sex on the part of your mate is probably as involuntary as your single-minded desire for more sex.
You two may simply be suffering from the mismatched effects of some sleepy nerve cell receptors. Gary Wilson has taught human sciences for many years. His wife Marnia is the author of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships.