- Monotony kills desire in long-term couples, says an analysis of 64 studies.
- Sexual novelty is the secret of happy relationships.
- Studies show building up anticipation for sex keeps the flame alive.
- Couples who talk about their intimate ups and downs have more stable levels of desire.
It all starts well. You’re in love. You’re horny. You can’t get enough of one another. You sacrifice sleep for a night of passionate lovemaking. But the honeymoon never lasts too long.
After some time, the excitement wears off. As your relationship stabilizes, reality kicks in. The stress and demands of daily life win out over the need to connect on an erotic level.
No wonder most couples seeking sexual counseling complain about low desire. Some end up living in a sexless marriage or relationship and want to get the spark back. But is it possible?
Researchers have identified several factors that protect desire in long-term relationships. And novelty plays a huge role in keeping the flame alive.
Study of Sexual Desire in Long-Term Couples
In 2018, scientists from the University of Kentucky analyzed 64 peer-reviewed articles about sexual desire in long-term relationships. They wanted to understand the factors contributing to sexual flow in couples.
They came up with a conceptual model for maintaining desire in long-term relationships. It’s important to understand that their proposition has certain limitations. The conclusions refer mostly to male-female couples; the study team was able to find only three studies that considered same-sex partnerships.
What’s more, study participants lived in monogamous relationships, so we have no way of knowing how desire evolves in open partnerships.
That said, here are some of the most common desire killers:
- Erotic monotony. If we stick to the same stimuli, if we don’t change anything in our sexual rituals and practices, they will inevitably get boring.
- Lack of erotic stimulation. When we are young and in love, we don’t need much encouragement to get in the mood. After ten years together, it’s a different story. Desire dies if we don’t make a conscious effort to keep it alive. A sexual atmosphere is something we need to create daily.
- Overfamiliarity with a partner. Let’s face it. Living under one roof with the same person means the loss of mystery. Before you know it, one of you forgets to close the bathroom door when clipping their nails or (worse) taking a quick pee. Knowing everything about your partner is great in all aspects of the relationship except for sex. Desire thrives on the unknown.
Novelty is Key to Happy Sex Life
Understanding why libido levels drop in long-term couples is one thing. Answering the question “how to keep desire alive” is another. The literature review revealed several factors that helped couples keep the sexual flame burning. Researchers identified three levels to our desire:
One of their most interesting findings concerned the importance of novelty in long-term relationships. The idea was described within the broader definition of self-expansion.
The concept was defined by E.N. and A. Aron in a 1986 book “Love and the Expansion of Self: Understanding Attraction and Satisfaction.”
Self-expansion means “including the other in the self and engaging in opportunities for growth.”
As researchers began to examine the impact of self-expansion on desire, they learned that breaking routine and continuously exposing yourself to new, positive experiences helped nurture interest in sex.
Here’s what sexual novelty could look like in your relationship:
- Build up anticipation for sex. Many studies point out that desire likes anticipation. Contrary to popular belief, planning for intimacy does not kill libido. When you know that you have a hot date scheduled in your calendar, you will think about it, and your arousal will grow. To boost erotic appetites, you may exchange sexy letters or text messages during the day.
- Experiment with sexual practices and accessories. Women’s magazines are filled with techniques and sex toy recommendations to “spice up your sex life” for a reason. Research shows that finding novel ways to make love helps to keep desire levels high. Go ahead and get some books or video tutorials and try that tantric massage or light spanking. And if you don’t know where to start, a sex coach can give you some tips.
- Surprise your partner. While creating tension and expectation is great, surprising your partner works wonders, too. One study showed that men aged 30 to 65 love unexpected sexual encounters with their female partners. Time to put those hot shower quickies back on the menu!
- Make room for some flirtation. Another study revealed that engaging in flirtatious behavior and having a crush on someone else might, paradoxically, heat up the atmosphere in a monogamous relationship.To make things clear: People who reported positive impact of flirting on desire never crossed the line of infidelity. It seems the mere possibility of having sex with someone else increases the appetite to make love with the current partner.
- Talk about it. Studies confirm that good partner communication is crucial to maintaining sexual desire. Don’t underestimate the value of sharing gratitude and encouragement after a sexual session. Address bedroom problems, such as erectile dysfunction or mismatched libido levels, as they happen. The longer you wait, the bigger the problems become.
- Solve your sexual problems together. Making an effort is another secret of lasting relationships. Living together is not always ideal. Couples face multiple problems, including in the bedroom. Those committed to solving sexual issues, such as erectile dysfunction, have a better chance of keeping the flame alive. While most men suffer from ED due to underlying health conditions, like cardiovascular problems or diabetes, additional psychological support helps solve the issue faster. Go to a sex therapist together and learn how you can enjoy great sex even on those days when erection is not an option.
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Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.