Reigniting passion in long term relationships

What to do when sex stops happening in your relationship. The challenge can be to communicate at depth about your needs. Talking about and exchanging sexual fantasies can help to create anticipatory excitement.

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Maintaining an active sex life in a long term relationship can require both parties to continually work at their relationship in order to maintain spontaneity, passion and fun.

Desire does not always occur spontaneously. Arousal is actually more “responsive”. It is possible that you might not want to have sex with your partner straight away by just getting naked. However, when you start to hug, kiss and caress you can feel more in the mood and to feel more physical urges. Researchers have found that affectionate touch boosts the body's feel-good hormones. This can sometimes feel like hard work since it requires engaging in stimulation before you might actually desire sex.

The challenges for couples and the task in therapy can be about communicating needs and to start having physical intimacy in the bedroom without the expectation that sex will happen, while knowing it’s a lot more likely. Sex does not mean it always has to be about penetration. Sex can also be about closeness, caressing, having giggles and sharing at a deep emotional level.

Here are some suggestions to help reignite passion:

Do something different

Couples who engage in spontaneous and fun activities together are more likely to feel better about their relationships than those who stick with routine and run of the mill activities. The challenge for couples who are time-pressed yet keen is to maybe start exchanging sexy texts whilst still at work. Talking about and exchanging sexual fantasies can help to create anticipatory excitement. Another desire-inspiring tip is to go for a run. “Transfer of expectations” studies show that if your heart rate is increased and then you see your partner you are more likely to interpret your excitement as being due to your partner. Also, dopamine levels soar when you are physically competing and experiencing new things together. (Simply put, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centres, amongst other things). This may have the effect of replicating those early butterflies of when you first met and could get you feeling excited again.

Communicate with each other

Try not to second guess your partner. Ask them what is going on for them. Open and frank dialogue can often lead to more passionate and loving sex. Think about it we have been taught most how to speak but rarely have we been taught how to listen yet listening to your partner can open up a channel. It can also be a way of transforming feelings of resentment and hostility and ca help to bring you closer together.

Prioritise your own needs

Love could be seen as the unqualified wish to help another person to get to where they want to get to. However, in meeting someone else’s need it is important to not expect something in return. Avoid the victim role and learn to take personal responsibility for your own decisions. You will become less predictable and more interesting to your partner when you look after your own needs and become more passionate about reaching your own goals.

Remind yourself why you are with your partner

A useful exercise is to make a list of the things that you loved about your partner in the early days. It can be beneficial to know what works well in your relationship so that you can aim to do more of it.

A therapist can help to mediate your discussions if there are historical resentments and arguments and should be fair in making sure that each of you gets heard. Recognising each other’s attachment pattern can help you both to better understand your strengths and vulnerabilities in your relationship and to heal rifts. This can be transformative if one person feels dominated or overpowered by the other or when discussing past betrayals and hurts. However, it may also be necessary for each person to have their own separate therapy if there are issues of historical abuse, trauma or early abandonment impacting on the physical relations. It is important that any individual therapy is separate to the couple’s therapy in order to maintain appropriate boundaries and to avoid dual roles.

When the passion fades it may be because one person has become overly parental. Who wants to have their mother or father the object of their sexual lust? If that is the case the work in therapy could be about addressing the power imbalance and opening up dialogue between each other. Healthy relationships are when each person takes responsibility for their own contribution. You can only be responsible for your half of the partnership, but people acting in a parental manner want to assume more of that responsibility for the other.

Noel Bell

I have spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. I am integrative in my approach and tune my work to the uniqueness of each individual I work with.