In praise of maintenance…


… sex.

In praise of maintenance sex.

(I was too chicken to put “sex” in the headline.)

Anyway, hello! I’m talking maintenance sex today.

Consider sex in the context of a long-term, monogamous relationship.

When you’re in one of those relationships… the first year is pretty hot. Right?

That’s the year before you know this relationship is actually going to be long-term. You’ve got the unknown, and the danger of rejection. You don’t really, fully “have” the person, and they don’t have you. You are discovering. It’s new.

But 10 years later (JUST FOR EXAMPLE), you have each other. You are all kinds of scrambled up. You are familiar. Familiar is too formal a word for what you are.

And that’s great. But with the risk and newness gone…

You have to figure out a way to get inspired to want what you already have. And that isn’t always easy.

I didn’t make that any of that up. I learned it from Esther Perel.

Perel writes a lot about how to reconnect with the “zing” of desire. (Or maybe it’s the “schwing”? Is this Wayne’s World? I don’t know. Don’t expect me to talk about sex like a grown-up.)

Anyway, Perel has got a lot of great ideas about how to find your way back to this zing/schwing when you’re in a long-term, monogamous relationship. And you can read all about them on her website and in her books!

Here’s what’s germane to our discussion today: maintenance sex.

Even Esther Perel, who has taught millions how to cultivate inspiration… believes that in every long-term relationship, maintenance sex has a place.

I’m talking about sex that allows you to maintain your connection to your partner but is not exactly… INSPIRED.

For large swaths of a long-term relationship, through illness, injury, post-partum, when you’re both completely drained and exhausted… It’s necessary, because the lightning bolt doesn’t strike every time you have sex.

Trying to force it to strike is like trying to will yourself to sleep.

The lightning bolt is more like a puff of smoke. The more you try to force it to appear, the more quickly it dissipates.

But maintenance sex is there! If you show up for sex, but the inspiration doesn’t show up with you, you still get to have maintenance sex.

Back in the summer, I heard the writer Eve Ensler on Marc Maron’s podcast.

She talked about writing her latest book, The Apology.

She described the experience of writing it as more like her functioning as a conduit for her dead father. It wasn’t even her writing the words. It was her father speaking through her.

She was holed up in a cabin in New Paltz for 4 months, only focused on the book. The book came out in one almost uninterrupted piece, she said. That’s how completely she connected with this puff of inspiration.

OK. But that’s kind of intimidating for the rest of us.

You know, those of us who haven’t written award-winning juggernaut plays. Those of us who can’t channel dead people through our fingers.

Or spend 4 months in a cabin with no distractions.

What do we do? How do we approach writing, inspiration, and wanting to produce something really great?

We’re not Eve Ensler.

But, we, too, are writers.

And sometimes we sit down, and we do maintenance writing. We’re maintaining that valuable connection between ourselves and our alive-ness. The vitality of our ideas.

We’re not waving our arms around, willing inspiration to appear. Sometimes, it does! Like for Eve Ensler.

But those bursts of inspiration are not how we maintain the connection to our vitality.

It’s the practice of showing up.

It’s the practice of showing up—not the lightning bolt of inspiration—that makes me a writer. It’s the practice of showing up that deepens my connection to my ideas. It’s the practice of showing up that allows space for the bolt of lightning/puff of smoke to appear.

And the practice of showing up means doing a lot of maintenance writing in between… puffs (bolt/puffs?).

What about for you? Are you able to allow yourself to write some stuff (most stuff) that is just OK? Or are you trying to force everything to be inspired before it even tumbles out of your head and on to the page?

Scroll to Top