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August 13, 2012

The Honeymoon Is(n't) Over

How one writer makes room for sex in her schedule — every single day.

couple sex

Photo Credit: Nan Goldin

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Recently I was having lunch with two married friends when the subject of sex came up, specifically an analysis of vibrators.

"I don't use one," I said.

"But without a sex toy, how do you get off?" one asked, with unblinking earnestness.

"Well, I have sex every day," I replied. "Does that count?"

Flatware clattered to the table.

Looking at the statistics, I can understand my friends' shock. My husband and I are sexual anomalies. In a 2011 survey of adults in 26 countries, Americans have the least amount of sex, second to the Japanese. Half of married couples in the United States say they get busy only once a week — the rest, even less often.

Barring an occasional bad mood or a particularly nasty fight, my husband and I have sex almost every single day. I've even done it with the stomach bug.

It wasn't always this way. Six years ago, we were both married to other people with whom we had little sexual chemistry. It's not that we didn't want to have sex; we had just lost interest in having it with our spouses, and the feelings were mutual. In my case, my ex-husband and I loved each other's company and had similar careers and worldviews, and these things sustained us for a long time. But our lukewarm sexual attraction — something we ignored from the beginning — snowballed, making us more like siblings than romantic partners, a dynamic that contributed to the crumbling of our marriage. We merely existed together, feeling unwanted and alone. When the subject of sex came up, it was too painful and awkward to discuss. No therapist or manual can help if you're not attracted to each other.

A year after my divorce, I met my current husband through friends. It was like opening the best present either of us had ever gotten. In the beginning, we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Eight months after we met, I got pregnant unexpectedly — but the sex didn't stop. We did it through my entire pregnancy, during morning sickness, and even on the day I gave birth (prior to the blessed event, of course). Postpartum, we eagerly hit the sheets again two weeks earlier than the date recommended by my doctor.

Of course, we have occasional dry spells. A handful of times a year, we get into short-lived shouting matches over some hot-button household issue like his piggish cleaning habits or how much money we're spending on private schools, and I'm too furious to even look at him, never mind sleep with him. There are also times when I'm too tired, crampy, or moody. But those times are rare.

How we've kept this going is bewildering, even to us. We have three young children, and we both work from home, often putting in 10-hour days. But every night, after we tuck in the kids and get into bed — almost always at the same time — we turn to each other. It doesn't require much energy (and if we're exhausted, we just go to sleep and have sex the next afternoon), and it's not a thoughtful plan as much as an ingrained bedtime ritual. Apart from being wildly attracted to each other, I've often mused that having daily sex is our escape. We don't have the time or money for many date nights or vacations, so sex is our retreat, our temporary bliss.

And it's good for our relationship. While comparing my more platonic first marriage with the sexually charged one I have now, I've come to see that sex is the thin, hot line that divides dear friends from spouses. It will spike, dip, and wobble over time, but it's a key lifeline on the marriage graph. In my relationship, that line remains sky-high. Sex is the one thing we unfailingly do right as a couple. It makes me feel like no matter what else is wrong — our insanely different communication styles, mounting bills — at least our sex life is good. It has a simplifying, equalizing effect when life is going off the rails. It's our reset button — and it works.

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