LISA BIRNBACH: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. When it comes to sex, do you find that you want to want it, but you just don't, at least not like you used to? Well, unless guilt is a turn-on, you might need some help from couples therapist, Rachel Sussman. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL SUSSMAN: Hi, Lisa.
LISA BIRNBACH: How do you fake desire or jumpstart it?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: Well, faking desire, unless you're up for an Academy Award, could be a hard one. I think jumpstarting desire is probably what we want to talk about today.
LISA BIRNBACH: Okay, and it can be done?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: It certainly can be done and it has to be done and it must be done for most relationships. One tends to think of the cliche of the woman who has less of a sex drive, but it could start with him?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: It really is a stereotype. And it depends a lot on the couple; it depends on the man. I mean, let's face it; today, men have a lot of responsibilities. They're working hard and they're expected to help out at home. That's a lot of pressure, and oftentimes pressure and stress result in a very underactive libido.
LISA BIRNBACH: How do you quite your mind in order to focus on your immediate surroundings and the man or woman lying next to you in bed?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: I think the most important thing is setting the stage, creating a really nice atmosphere where you can relax and can look at sex as really an enjoyable experience.
LISA BIRNBACH: Do you have tips for just shutting down the banal daily chores and really thinking about sex?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: You need a transition period. If you've scheduled a date night and you know that the evening is going to culminate in sex--well, let me put it this way. The evening should culminate in sex. If you're going out to dinner, have a glass of wine, have some fun. If you're not on a date and it's going to happen at home, take a nice hot shower or a bath, set the mood, light some candles, play some nice, sexy music, put some perfume on, put some lingerie on. And I think it's really important that couples do this. And if you have young children at home, they should be in bed at a certain time, and oftentimes I hear complaints of couples that they put the children to bed, and then one goes on one computer and the other person goes on the computer. It's really important, at the end of a busy day, that a couple takes time to reconnect and sex is a wonderful way to reconnect.
LISA BIRNBACH: Now what about putting a lock on the bedroom door if you have kids?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: It's very important, and I think children have to really learn when a bedroom door is closed, to knock before they enter. It's a great lesson to teach your children from a very young age.
LISA BIRNBACH: How do you do that if your self-esteem is low, if you've gained weight, etc...
RACHEL SUSSMAN: It's a really good point because self-esteem and desire really go hand in hand. I think we owe it to ourselves to feel desirable and to have desire for our partner. And I think we really need to do whatever we can to stimulate that, which could be a new exercise program, working with a nutritionist, taking off a few pounds, being really active, getting enough sleep, taking care of ourselves and feeling good about ourselves so we feel that we're desirable.
LISA BIRNBACH: Now, what are some other pointers you have for creating desire? Do you recommend, for example, that couples watch erotic stuff on TV?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: I think couples need to be really honest with each other about what they find desirable. And in a long-term marriage, let's be real, what you find desirable at 23, might not be what you find desirable at 43. Your fantasies and your interest sexually are evolving and changing just like you're evolving and changing in other ways. And if you need to introduce some visual stimulation, some erotica, some toys, have fun. Go for it.
LISA BIRNBACH: Okay. Let's say you've been through a lot together, there have been stressors of all kinds, you're growing old together--which is a lovely thing--and you look over in bed and there is that old person lying next to you. How do you get over the fact that this man or this woman lying next to you isn't as trim as toned, their hair is growing out of their ears, there is a paunch, a vein or two sticking out. I mean, maybe your self-image is of a young and frisky person, and you're lying next to an old person.
RACHEL SUSSMAN: Well, listen, aging is inevitable and acceptance of aging is really key, as well. But that being said, it doesn't mean we have to grow old ungracefully, you know? Talk to your partner about joining a gym together, go for walks together, go for runs together, trim his ears, really work on keeping each other feeling young and healthy and make it a group, a joint, project that could be really fun.
LISA BIRNBACH: Is there anything we can start doing to plan for growing older with our partner that will keep our libidos intact?
RACHEL SUSSMAN: Well, I definitely see couples in their 40s generally starting to worry about aging or talking about different physical ailments or things aren't the same, and I think that it's really important that a couple communicates these things with each other and talks about staying healthy and staying fit together.
LISA BIRNBACH: Thank you, Rachel.
RACHEL SUSSMAN: Thanks, Lisa.
LISA BIRNBACH: For howdini, I'm Lisa Birnbach.