Relationship Flatline (And the Incest Taboo)

If you live with a woman, have you ever wondered if there’s some mysterious force that is actively de-sexualizing your love life? A force that’s so strong and unconscious, it’s almost as if you’re powerless to keep it from happening?

I hear about this all the time from guys who I coach who are in long-term relationships.

There are lots of reasons for this situation (including the famous “Coolidge Effect”), and an entire industry designed to help you overcome this challenge. The one thing I never read about in any of the “re-romanticizing” literature is any mention of The Incest Taboo.

The theory of The Incest Taboo is simple: After a couple sets up housekeeping, childhood experiences are recreated and the mate appears more and more like the parent, primary caretaker, or sibling we once lived with. As this unconscious projection gets stronger, we are less able to get turned on by our mate because of the cultural taboo against having sex with one of your family members.

In some families, the draw to brother-sister incest is as strong as the parent-child draw. Either way, the Taboo is running in the background ALL THE TIME with you and your live-in honey bunny.

The Incest Taboo theory has always made a lot of sense to me — especially since I believe I’ve experienced the phenomenon myself.

I’ve had four live-in relationships — each lasting a minimum of two years — and in all of them I noticed a steadily increasing urge NOT to have sex with my partner. Objectively, the women hadn’t become less attractive, but gradually I tended to think of them as more of a roommate or a good friend rather than the hottest thing on two legs.

The only place I’ve ever seen The Taboo mentioned is in the book “Loving Relationships” by Sondra Ray.


Begin the process of overcoming The Incest Taboo by understanding that there are very good reasons for its existence. Actual incest is not OK, and very confusing for the children involved. Let’s be clear about this.

As with so many patterns, simply being more aware of the tendency can go a long way in helping you overcome it. But because the Incest Taboo is such an unaddressed and unconscious pattern, awareness alone won’t completely defeat it.

To help build your plan of attack, I’ve got a few menu items for you to choose from:

  1. Start talking to your partner about this. If either of you are blaming the other’s low sexual desire, maybe having this conversation will ease the “blame game” that you’ve found yourselves caught in. Forces much greater than the two of you are at work here.
  2. Distance and individuation can recreate sexual polarity and counteract the effects of The Incest Taboo. Spend more time apart from each other. Do your own thing, and spend less time focusing on “merging” in the relationship.
  3. For the ritually inclined: Create a ceremony where you release any conscious or unconscious incestuous urges. The intention would be to set yourself free from the chains of cultural oppression and re-choose your relationship with fresh eyes.
  4. Work out an agreement with your partner so you can to say things forcefully to each other, like “You’re not my mom!” or “You’re not my sister!” whenever you need to loosen the grip of The Taboo.
  5. Or head in the other direction: Role play the incest situation. This is an edgy, advanced practice, but can prove to be a thrilling way to ameliorate The Taboo. Ask your partner to play the role of your mother or sister, and act out what you never were able to do in real life. (Repeat as necessary.)

I believe that overcoming The Incest Taboo is an important step in restoring sexual fulfillment in long-term, live-in relationships. Practicing any one of these menu items should go a long way in helping you fight The Taboo.