You Need To Keep Working On The Sex In A Long-Term Relationship, And That's OK

by Zara Barrie

For about 25 years, I've been living my life as a self-diagnosed fantasy addict. I'm 30, so yeah, that's most of my goddamn life.

Since I was a kid, I've always had a wild imagination, so it's as easy as breathing for me to close my eyes and gaze into a self-created vortex of beauty.

When I was 17, right before I entered the big, bad grown-up world, I had the words "falling bombs are shooting stars" tattooed across the top of my spine (the lyrics to my teen anthem "Old World Underground" by the band Metric).

I chose to get those words etched onto my skin to show my fierce dedication to the fantasy life. I wanted it there to remind me to never, ever stop using my imagination to make life seem amazing when it sucked. Like, if a bomb were to fall, I would use my epic creative mind to pretend it was a falling star, as a sort of pain-protecting coping tactic.

But I got a little older, and running to avoid the dark parts of life got a little harder. The real world handed me some real shit: heartbreak, betrayal, trauma, drained bank accounts, disappointment, hurt feelings, scary blackouts, bad people disguised as best friends, dirty drugs laced with dirty things, sexual predators, and robbers.

These are all difficult things to deal with when you're a girl on your own, thrust into the adult world with no tools to help you navigate the dark and stormy waters. And I'm a sensitive creature -- my receptors are naturally open wide, for better of for worse -- so I felt it all. The pain of it, the devastation of it, the pressing realness of it, the ugliness of it.

But because I'm a fantasy addict (again, self-diagnosed), I swept it all under my cheap shag rug and pretended it didn't exist.

But my sensitivity trumps my talent for fantasizing, so all those feelings became impossible to avoid without dulling myself with pills (Xanax, Valium, Clonazepam -- I wasn't picky; most pill-poppers aren't). And eventually, the numbing medicine stripped me of the gift I value inside myself the most: my imagination.

The numbing medicine stripped me of the gift I value inside myself the most: my imagination.

So I put away the pills and finally realized that while there is space in our lives for fantasy, life isn't an art gallery. You can't curate your life so it's only made up of visually pleasing masterpieces and just toss aside the pieces you don't like. Whether you like it or not, you'll be handed both the pretty paintings and the ugly paintings, and you need to learn to live with them both hanging on your walls, girl.

Relationships are one of those confusing pieces of art. They can start pretty, but quickly turn ugly. Especially long-term relationships.

I used to be one of those naive little punks who obnoxiously batted her lashes and spewed out trivial things like "Love shouldn't require WORK" and "The sexual spark will last forever if it's REAL."

Since I associate love with passionate, mind-blowing sex, I was convinced that if a couple had to work at keeping a sexual spark alive, the love had died a tragic death, and that attempting to revive the sex was a fruitless effort. When my married friend once told me she scheduled sex with her husband, I deemed them both delusional.

Ha. Isn't it ironic how the very thing we accuse others of doing is almost always the thing we're doing? Oh, it was a classic case of PROJECTION, YOUR HONOR! Because I was the one being delusional and projecting it onto my innocent friend.

I learned some shit when I finally stopped fearing Ms. Reality and began to gaze into her beautiful-but-piercing eyes without blinking or running away in fear of her intensity.

I learned that I do need a powerful sexual spark in the beginning of a relationship. I do need that intoxicating, hair-pulling, I'm-going-to-be-late-to-work-everyday-because-I'm-going-to-go-down-on-you-deep-into-the-morning, I-just-want-to-feel-your-hands-on-me-and-throw-you-down-on-the-bed-and-neglect-all-of-my-friends-because-I'm-under-your-sexual-spell phase as the baseline for my relationship. It's imperative to start out with crazy, wild lust.

But I've learned to accept that you will burn through that druggy, sex-induced oxytocin eventually.

Not because you and your partner are no longer insanely, magnetically attracted to each other, but because sooner or later, you're going to have to go to work on time again. Your boss doesn't give a shit that you're "newly in love," and she can't keep giving you preferential treatment because your co-workers are starting to get resentful and it's stressing her out.

And your friends will start to get really pissed at you for bailing all the time, so at some point, you're going to need to lay off an all-day sex session to hang with those bitches.

Life will get rough, as it always does, because life is always going to be an ebb and flow of highs and lows (even when you're in love). Eventually, you will catch that brutal stomach flu going around. Your partner probably will, too. And before you know it, a month has gone by and you haven't had sex at all.

And now you're really busy and really stressed at work, and you've gotten yourself into this BLACK HOLE where you don't even want to have sex, OR you've lost your confidence because you've put on some love weight, OR you just feel disconnected from your partner because life just got so crazy.

And you feel so sad because you used to have this intense, sexual heat with your partner. You mourn the death of your sex life. You fear ~the spark~ is dying. Because sex shouldn't be something you should ever HAVE TO WORK AT. I MEAN, IT'S NOT A 9 TO 5 JOB, SO WHAT THE HELL?

PSA: You do have to work at sex in a long-term relationship or you will never have one, so you need to drop the unrealistic expectations and get that concept inside of your pretty, fantasy-addicted head. Unless you want to die alone.

And guess what? It's OK. It's actually really good news. Because the SPARK is not dead like you feared. It just needs to be reignited, baby.

Think of it like a lit candle: It's easy to flick a lighter and strike up a hot, flickering flame. But the flame will start to get a little out of hand if you leave it unattended. And you'll melt down the flame's foundation (the candle), so you have to blow it out before you burn your life and house down. A fire left to burn is not sustainable.

A fire left to burn is not sustainable.

But just because you blew it out doesn't mean it has to stay out! You just have to get off your ass and go buy a lighter and light the candle again, but this time, remember to blow it so the smoke doesn't consume you.

Do you get where I'm going with this, kittens? You have to put in a little effort if you want to keep the sex alive.

Sometimes, it means making a vow to get down and dirty three times a week, no matter what life throws at you. Sometimes, it's just by surprising your partner with the occasional sexy thing, like unexpected morning oral. Sometimes, it's just about going to the gym and making sure you feel good and grounded in your body. I know when I take care of my body, I'm much more into sex. Maybe get a naughty costume afterwards.

The list is endless, and it's all fun, too.

So stop freaking out just because you're in a sexual drought with your lover. All it takes is the strike of a match to get the fire going again.

And the beauty of real life and the beauty of being a real human is that the ~power~ is in your hands, unlike a magical fantasy where you're just rescued by some ethereal force. You can pick up that pack of matches anytime you like and actively take control of your sex life.

And that's far more empowering and intoxicating than any artificially lit fantasy.