Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


In “The Drought” episode from the first season of Sex and the City, the very promiscuous Samantha decides to take a break from sex after an enlightening cup of coffee with her handsome yoga instructor who practices tantric celibacy.

The exercise in abstinence doesn’t last long. Rabid with desire by her next yoga class, a frustrated Sam propositions the men stretching and breathing within earshot until she gets a taker for an afternoon romp.

It makes for good cable, but can celibacy really put the va-voom back in your bedroom?

Oh, yeah, say relationship experts who believe that taking a breather from all sex, or from just intercourse, can rev up desire, promote greater intimacy (if you spend the time doing other things), and lead to new avenues of mutual pleasure.

“For long-term partners, sex becomes convenient — like going to the refrigerator and grabbing something to eat,” says Carol Kaplan, a marriage and family counselor in Monterey, Calif. “Sometimes by going straight for the dessert, we forget about the meal.”

If sex is the dessert, the meal is everything else that deepens your relationship and strengthens your bond.

Sex and marriage counselors have long used the sex moratorium as a way to see what’s going on in a relationship. Is he pressuring himself to perform? Is she getting the hugs and kisses she wants? Are they having sex because they think it’s something they should do?

Kevin Gogin, a marriage and family counselor practicing in San Francisco, says the bedroom is a “microcosm” of the relationship as a whole. Change the dynamic there, and you learn a lot about patterns of relating and communicating.

Even a couple that feels they have a fun and fulfilling sex life unburdened by large problems can benefit from a break.

A moratorium, writes Jack Morin, Ph.D., inThe Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, allows you to gain “fresh perspective” and detach yourself from “well-worn habits” that prevent experimentation.

You are voluntarily creating an environment of uncertainty that is usually the framework for discovery, he writes.

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