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I recently saw two women friends get engaged during quarantine. I am not sure where she purchased the ring for her gorgeous paramour, but there she was on a bent knee with a sparkler in tow. All their friends stood by on Zoom with big signs and formed a message saying LOVE IS NOT CANCELLED.

Geez, is that romantic or what?

I have been struggling with the idea of love and romance during quarantine. Many of my patients who were dating have stopped, and also some who were in long-term relationships have been fighting. What happened to the love?

I was thinking, “if love is not cancelled, then what is it?” It sure feels like it has been postponed. For people who are dating, I guess a Zoom date is better than nothing, but without being able to have physical contact or the opportunity for sex, this can only be slightly satisfying.

Then there is the relationship together at home. Trying to keep it romantic is not as easy. There are issues like not having babysitters or help around the house. More time is spent homeschooling children. Personal maintenance and lack of motivation to shave, iron, wear pants with buttons (and everything else that usually happens to spark eroticism in a long-term romance) are less of a priority.

You are probably wondering what you can do to reignite the flames with your partner. What are my suggestions as a psychiatrist and sexuality expert?

  • Schedule a “date” with your partner once a week. That is a great idea. In order to make it more fun, I recommend the date be a surprise to the other person. For example, if it is my week to plan, I would come up with the ideas and surprise my partner. Ideas can be dressing up in sexy underwear, cook a special meal, or watch some erotic visuals. Next, come up with a plan to get the kids to sleep or keep them occupied with technology and locked doors. Each week, the host alternates keeping it a surprise, while still being interesting and fun.
  • Do not let yourself go! It is easy to pack on the pounds during quarantine, stop dying your hair, forget the skin care routines, and stop shaving. Do not do it. That is not hot at all. It is time to learn how to cover your own greys, pluck your own eyebrows, buy some self tanner etc. Your razor is still your friend, and it should not get rusty in the shower. Maybe your partner is nostalgic for 1970’s style pubic hair, but if you do not feel attractive, then it is time to buy a new razor. 
  • Keep fitness and health as a priority: As far as muscle tone/weight, try challenging your partner to a fitness quest. The winner can get a prize, like the sex act of their choice. Goals/prizes can be arranged ahead of time and it is fun to see who wins. This might be a great time to try eating vegan or to test out a new diet plan together. Motivate each other to look great and to get strong. This will spice up your sex life.
  • Get nostalgic: Remember why you started this relationship. Chances are that was a great memory, deserving of a trip down memory lane where you can rekindle that love. Other ideas include: looking at old pictures, playing your wedding video or song, and asking your friends to write down their favorite memories about you as a couple. This can make for a romantic night.

Sex is a great way to feel love. When you have sex, oxytocin is joined by vasopressin, a hormone that influences feelings of possessiveness and intense love, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can fuel the more happiness and thinking about the other. Sex also stimulates the dopamine or “reward” system in our brain, which motivates us to pursue sex and have pleasurable feelings.So the more sex we have the more we crave.

Any healthy long-term relationship needs a good sexual connection. If your love is postponed for some time now, remember that Love is LOVE and it should not be cancelled.

RESOURCES

Neurobiology of Sexual Desire

Suck Won Kim*, Carlos H. Schenck*, Jon E. Grant†, Gihyun Yoon*, Peter I. Dosa‡, Brian L. Odlaug§, Liana R.N. Schreiber*, Thomas D. Hurwitz*, James G.Pfausll 

https://neuroquantology.com/data-cms/articles/20191024060346pm662.pdf

The Role of Oxytocin and Vasopressin in Attachment 

C. Sue Carter 

Psychodynamic Psychiatry 2017 45, 4, 499–517+

Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic loveAcevedo, B.P., Aron, A., Fisher, H.S., & Brown, L.L. (2012).. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 7 2, 145–59 . 

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Neural-correlates-of-long-term-intense-romantic-Acevedo-Aron/69239f7a20f8dc218152981cb77743c07d1ef6e2

Author(s)

  • Dr. Lea Lis

    Psychiatrist

    Lea Lis, MD, is “The Shameless Psychiatrist." She is a double board certified Adult and Child psychiatrist, a clinical professor at NYU. She has a bustling practice in the Hamptons where she sees patients from all family arrangements. Her book “No Shame: Real Talk With Your Kids About Sex, Self-confidence, and Healthy Relationships" helps people pass down intergenerational wisdom, instead of trauma, by using modern psychotherapy techniques which she perfected throughout her many years of experience. She is an expert in the field of psychology, and hopes to change the way we speak about sex. Widespread social changes, along with a sex-saturated media and ongoing debates about the meaning of gender and sexuality,  generate new challenges for parents of all kinds. Lis helps parents, children, and adolescents face these challenges and develop healthy, sex-positive attitudes and practices. During her training and residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York and New York University, as well as in her private psychiatric practice, she has developed expertise in working with modern families of all types. In No Shame, Dr. Lis covers the many issues that may arise as children grow: how to help young children understand personal physical boundaries; the importance of opposite-sex role models in children’s lives, what to tell―and not tell―your kids about your own sexual history; and the role of rituals to mark a girl’s first period or a boy’s passage into manhood. Dr. Lis gives practical pointers on how to help your kids when their relationships run into trouble, how to encourage them to have good relationships with themselves, and how to teach them to flirt and to deal with rejection. No Shame shows how talking to your kids about sex and encouraging them to keep a dialogue open with you will help them to have positive, joy-filled emotional and sexual relationships as they grow up. This may not always be comfortable, but as Dr. Lis shows throughout this book, talking about sex, love and relationships in a knowledgeable way is essential. Find out more about Dr. Lea Lis and sign up for her newsletter at www.shamelesspsychiatrist.com.