The Truth About Sex After Marriage, According to Esther Perel

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You know how your sex life is supposed to be this Carrie Bradshaw-esque journey that culminates in marriage—with everything that comes after kind of besides the point? According to psychotherapist and couples' sex expert Esther Perel (who's best known for her TED Talk on infidelity, which has been viewed 3.7 million times and counting), if you believe that, you’re living in a fantasy world.

“[Your sex life] doesn’t end when you take your vows,” she explained at last month’s Goop wellness summit. “This is when the story starts.” That's because, according to Perel, once you say "I do," sex is no longer spontaneous—instead, it becomes what she dubs a "creative enterprise."

"The romantic ideology is tenacious!” she warns. Alluring as it is, focusing on the intensity of those early days when you first met can diminish the vivid, real bond of a committed relationship. So the psychotherapist challenges spouses to do away with the notion of "recapturing magic."

Once you say "I do," sex is no longer spontaneous—instead, it becomes a "creative enterprise."

“People have this myth of spontaneous sex,” she says, adding that the first week of a romance can only happen once—so if you try to re-create that passion, you set yourself up for failure. “You must cultivate the erotics; give meaning to sex.”

To achieve this, she recommends that you treat your marriage (and, of course, your time between the sheets) as something that “demands focus and attention.” As chairwoman of that partnership, you should lean on your instincts—what turns you on, what turns you off—to shape it. (Be sure to check out Perel’s tips for tapping into that desire.) “Once you take ownership,” she says, “then you begin to create a valuable connection.”

And Perel says sometimes even the best couples hit challenges—scroll down for Perel's groundbreaking research on how to bounce back, even when there's cheating involved.

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