The Too-Comfortable Zone
Cozy in Love
It's a big milestone in any new relationship: entering the Comfort Zone. You're there the first time you two rent a movie in sweats instead of dolling up for dinner, when you do something silent and separate (like work you've brought home) together, when -- perhaps most romantic of all -- you both do...an errand. No, really: that's when you truly start to feel cozy and couple-y. When he's seen you without makeup in your avocado masque, without your contacts, you know you're in A Relationship. So, paradoxically, it's "exciting" to be boring.
But not forever. Spouses and long-term partners do have a tendency to "let themselves go" over time. Cozy can become routine, sweats can become unsexy -- not to mention never used for actual sweating, say, in a gym -- and sex can become...wait, what sex? And of course, the pounds can pack on. Studies show that men and women gain six to eight pounds after getting married -- and that's just in the first two years. (From the No Fair files: Women seem to be especially prone to gain.) Overall, eventually, "boring" can become, well, boring -- and possibly unhealthy, for both you and your partnership.
Still, at its core, "letting yourself go" is normal, both psychologically and physiologically. "When you're wooing each other, you work and plan to try to please. But when you roll over and your partner is next to you, you stop thinking you have to seduce each other and cultivate your rapport," says Sandra Leiblum, PhD, professor of psychiatry and Director of the Center for Sexual and Marital Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey. "And once you're past the courtship phase, other priorities become pressing: work, the household, children, extended family. People are genuinely stressed, low on time, and distracted from each other."
Like Rachel, 34, of Clifton, New Jersey. "Try having three little kids and working full time, with a husband who works two jobs. My mustache is braid-able and my hair is salt-and-pepper gray, instead of Clairol medium brown. Even my sweatpants are tight now!" she says. "Letting myself 'go' was the only way to meet all of our basic needs!"