The Intimacy Plateau
This is a pretty simple idea.
Some people can just turn it on. Their partner is changing for bed, slipping down his jeans or unfastening her bra. The flashbulb pops. "Hey, wanna fool around?"
For those people, that approach works fine. If they are married to each other, it seems so simple; they are able to access their sexuality with a trivial cue, a moment's connection, a shared laugh. Maybe they haven't seen each other all day. Maybe they have been discussing the budget, and how they have to cut back. Maybe they even had a little disagreement. It doesn't seem to matter.
Well, that's just dandy. But the world is full of people who can't do that. This second group cannot just go from no connection to total intimacy. They can only get there from the intimacy plateau.
Okay, so what is an intimacy plateau? That is a place a couple operates that feels tender, that feels connected, that involves touch and warmth. It involves acknowledgement. It involves teamwork, feeling like best friends, laughing together. And very often, the couple has to have been there more than just a few hours for that person to be comfortable going forward. Sometimes, it has to be all week.
It is a good idea to operate on an intimacy plateau all the time in marriage, of course. But let's get real: sometimes we are exhausted, sometimes we are stressed out, sometimes we really can't stand our partner. But in that case don't expect sex from a partner who needs to plateau first. Just work on getting back to the plateau.
Operating on the plateau does not guarantee there will be sex, by the way. It does not obligate anyone to participate in sex. But many partners just can't get to point C without traveling through point B. This is normal. This is acceptable. If you are in the first group, this can be frustrating.
Deal with it.
PS: Maybe most marriages end up having a partner who insists on the intimacy plateau. Maybe that is exactly because their partner doesn't seem to need it. Sort of like parenting: one parent ends up looking like the strict one because the other parent is just kind of permissive. Or vice versa. Just a thought.