Bedroom secrets

It's taken me forever to finish the book I've been reading. Not because I found it heavy going (on the contrary, I couldn't put it down) but because I had to be very careful about where I picked it up.

I couldn't read it on planes, or in waiting rooms, for instance. In fact, I couldn't read it in public at all.

Because on the cover is an image of a disheveled bed, and the title, in fizz-pop pink letters as tall as my hand, is The SEX DIARIES.

You can't bury your nose in that when you’re in a public place without getting skeef looks.It's the most fascinating book, though. Author Bettina Arndt is an Australian psychologist who has specialised in bedroom stuff.

Fascinated by what she refers to as the desire discrepancy that plagues so many relationships, she invited couples to keep diaries of their intimate lives. She got 98 takers: couples in their 20s and people old enough to be their grandparents; very happy couples, and very sad ones.

At intervals, either or both partners would send Arndt their "diary" about what had been going on, and how it made them feel.

Some of the stories make for such sad reading, as (mostly) men write of the loneliness and loss they feel when their wives lose interest; and these same wives write of the guilt they feel, and their frustration at not being able to meet their husbands halfway in the bedroom.

There's some pretty horrible over-sharing from smug loved-up people too, but you can skip the lingerie anecdotes.

Why do some people live happily ever after? Why, with all the love in the world for their partners, do some people simply go off the boil? Can we blame hormones? Lifestyle? Boredom?

I could tell you the answer, if there was one. But there isn't one, though there are many theories which make greater or less sense, depending. If it's a subject that you'd like to explore further (and most of us have a need to, at some stage in our lives), you can order the book here.

Health24 takes the subject of sex pretty seriously. If things are going swimmingly – if you're in a good, happy relationship – your whole health picture perks up: you tend to drink less, eat better (though, in the case of women, also eat more), sleep more, and the support of a solid relationship frees you up to be braver in other areas of your life. You're physically and emotionally better off. Get to know our dedicated zone here; and interact with our experts here and here.

(Heather Parker, Health24, August 2010)

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