Maintaining Sexual Intimacy in Long-Term Relationships

Grayscale Photo of a Romantic Couple Kissing on the Bed

There may be love. There might be dedication. At its heart, there might be a strong friendship. But, this does not imply that there will be a desire for a long-term relationship. No wonder they're so exhausting! Worth it, but difficult.

Desire fuels physical closeness, which fuels connection, nurturing, and the protective wall that surrounds partnerships. Housemates or coworkers might represent intimate relationships in which passion has waned. There may still be love and a profound emotional link in these partnerships, and there may even be sex, but without desire, the way we view and feel about ourselves changes, and this will eventually manifest in the relationship. Understanding the nature of desire is critical to regaining it.

In partnerships, the intensity of desire will ebb and flow. Kids, work, life stress, hormone fluctuations, and those 'but-they're-just-so-comfy-feel-them' grey trackies that cling to you in the winter have a way of putting out the fire a little, but difficulties arise when it burns too long. Intimacy may diminish, the connection may weaken, and sex may just cease to exist.

Slowly, the protective shield around your connection may begin to erode. The one thing that distinguishes your connection from every other relationship in your life gradually fades away. You can spend time with other people, laugh, cry, dispute, eat together, and even go on vacation with them. But, sex is something that is solely for the two of you, creating and sustaining intimacy and connection that is shared by the two of you and no one else. This is why it merits consideration.

The waning of desire is gradual. It comes with vacuuming, cleaning, stress, work, craziness, familiarity, routine, and simply getting through the day. Above all, it entails taking responsibility for our partner's needs rather than our own. Desire decreases when we separate from ourselves and become unselfish, as indicated by Esther Perel, an expert in the field of desire in partnerships.

The answer is in the word's-less,' as in the absence of a self. It's difficult to turn on desire if we're not there to do so.

Desire, then, is about what we do and the connection we have with ourselves, not about what our partner does. It's about a psychological zone we enter during intimacy when we're with another person but can let go of responsibility for that person and focus entirely on ourselves - our physical needs, our sexual demands, and our dreams. In the best meaning of the word, we become selfish -'selfish'. We are entirely present. We're completely open to ourselves, which is essential for the desire to thrive.


1. Communication is essential.

Our sexual interactions might be difficult to discuss due to social stigmas around sex and personal emotions of vulnerability while discussing it. According to studies, we are afraid of obtaining unfavorable replies to our sex fantasies, therefore it's tempting to avoid any potential shame or rejection by not mentioning it at all! But, studies suggest that concern over sex-related communication leads to lower sexual pleasure, which harms our relationships in the long term.

Communicating appears to be worthwhile. Research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at the communication practices of 76 heterosexual couples and discovered that there were substantial links between interpersonal communication and sexual pleasure.

We've gotten to the point where we're extremely honest with one another about changes in our sex lives, and we always try to find common ground when we talk about it. This has made both of us happy and has undoubtedly enhanced our bond.

Wondering how to broach the subject of sex? The American Sexual Health Association (AHSA) suggests a few subjects to discuss with your partner, ranging from health issues like STI status to enjoyable inquiries like what makes you happy! It's also a good idea to follow the same principles you would when having any mature, adult conversation—plan out the points you want to be sure to communicate ahead of time, and use "I" statements (I feel, I enjoy, etc.) instead of "you" statements during the conversation.

2. Spend some time away.

This one is well-known to us. In the absence of desire, it thrives. It is something that we all share, regardless of gender, culture, or religion. While we are separated, we disconnect from the daily responsibilities we feel for (and share with) our spouse and reconnect with what is new and interesting. We progress from 'having' to 'wanting'. The familiar stifles desire. Distance allows us to experience mystery, longing, and anticipation, all of which are hallmarks of desire.

3. Make a sex date.

According to a sex therapist and relationship counselor Désirée Spierings, making frequent meetings with your spouse merely to have sex may seem more like a method to approach your work than a strategy to spice up your sex life.

"Whether or not sex occurs isn't the issue; it's about being physically acquainted with each other and ensuring that happens," she explains.

While many of us are glad to prioritize a date that includes supper and a movie, relatively few of us do the same with our sexual life. And, unfortunately, by the time we come home from a date night, we're frequently too tired.


4. Your best buddy is research.

You are not the only one who has struggled to sustain intimacy in a long-term relationship, and you will not be the last. We've found it beneficial to use the internet age in this regard, obtaining knowledge through Google.

For example, Laura Newcomer's post includes a tonne of strategies to get out of relationship ruts, ranging from sexless times (make a dream jar! Increase non-sexual contact!) to near-constant squabbling (mention what you enjoy about each other! Exercise together!). Other studies have looked into the routines of sexually content couples and published their findings online for individuals like you and me to benefit from.

5. See them in their element.

When we see our spouse accomplishing something that is motivated by their passion and knowledge, our desire develops. Others are drawn to them, and they emanate a confidence that we don't often see. Regardless of how much we love the person we see at home, on vacation, or in everyday life, seeing them in an unexpected light as a confident, educated, expert, and sought after evokes the unknown, which fuels desire. We are not closed at these hours. We observe from a safe distance, and in this setting, this person who is so familiar becomes fascinating, thrilling, and unpredictable.

For a little moment, we are transformed, and we are receptive to the excitement and mystery that lies just outside our grasp. This is the point at which love and want coexist.


6. It's not all about sex.

Sex does not have to be the be-all and end-all of physical intimacy, and concentrating on other types of physical closeness can benefit couples who have mismatched libidos.

"I advocate occasionally prohibiting real intercourse entirely and focusing on everything else," Ms. Spierings says.

Bathing or showering together, giving each other a massage, or cuddling up on the sofa might help you feel more connected.

"A partner may not experience any impulsive desire, but she or he may still be up for a beautiful massage or a bath together.

"As individuals begin to feel stimulated and relaxed, the responsive urge comes in, and they don't mind continuing and participating in more intensive physical activities," Ms. Spierings explains.

7. Don't Worry

Don't be alarmed if your relationship appears to be lacking in closeness. That does not imply that the end is imminent or that your partner no longer cares for you. Long-term couples frequently have intimacy concerns.

Fatigue, stress, concern with everyday life, and poor self-esteem are all common causes of detached intimacy.

These are elements that can have an impact on one's emphasis on intimacy or desire to commit time and energy to maintain it. Couples may counteract these consequences by simply observing the parts of their lives where their closeness is jeopardized and committing to improving those aspects of their lives.

8. Understand what turns on and off desire for you.

To find or restore desire in a relationship, we must first turn to ourselves, rather than focus on what our spouse may do to make us desire him or her more.

Consider this: When do you close yourself off to desire? Is it when you're completely exhausted? Old? When you don't like your appearance? When you haven't communicated with one another? When you feel self-centered for wanting? When do you feel like you can't ask? When do you feel as though you can't take anymore? When you've had enough of giving? When experiencing pleasure feel unnatural? When?

Similarly, inquire as to when you activate your desire. When do YOU activate your desire? This is not the same as asking what makes you tick. One comes from within, the other from beyond. Is it when you long for your partner? When do you have a nice feeling about yourself? While you're not working? When will you be able to let go of responsibility? When you're sure of yourself? When do you believe you have earned the right to look for yourself?


9. Set the tone

Life in a long-term relationship is typically hectic, and going from cleaning the dishes to making out with your lover might feel strange.

Ms. Spierings believes it is critical to smooth the transition from daily life to couple time by 'building bridges' and providing opportunities for closeness.

This may involve sharing a drink of wine or a cup of tea at the end of the day, going on a stroll after dinner, or giving each other a neck rub while watching TV.

"You might not have been thinking about sex before, but now that you're getting a foot rub and being told you're beautiful, you could think, it might be a wonderful idea to get a little sensual with my partner," says clinical sexologist Tanya Koens.

Check this article out for Erotic Sex Games. 

10. Examining the Disconnect

Examine some of the elements that may be interfering with your closeness as you investigate the reasons for its breakdown. Are you or your spouse in pain? Exhausted?

Is your self-esteem a part of your lack of intimacy? Take an internal inventory of what is impeding your efforts to sustain closeness and seek help from your spouse on how to overcome that obstacle.


11. Recognize that every one of you has the right to sexual privacy.

For the desire to grow, you must be able to mentally 'leave' the relationship and enter your erotic place. We've made the mistake of mistaking closeness for openness, which it isn't. You don't have to know every idea, fantasy, and imagining of each other for the connection to survive. It's simply too much. Accessing someone's psychic space is a privilege, not a right, and while being accepted into that place is vital, staying there all the time would stifle desire.

12. 'How was your day?' begins foreplay.

While the honeymoon period is all about becoming lost in the throes of love, long-term partners must actively work on developing reciprocal sentiments of desire.

"'How was your day?' begins foreplay. It's all about connecting and starting a dialogue "Ms. Koens explains.

"It's not so much about the tingle in the loins as it is about the concept of it."

Throughout the day, the sexologist advises sending humorous or sensual text messages.

"Saying lovely things to each other daily keeps the simmer going, so you don't have to start from scratch every time," she explains.

13. Forget about spontaneity. It requires work.

It requires conscious effort to reintroduce passion into a relationship. It is critical not to remain motionless and wait for it since it will not come to you on its own. When you've done packing the dishwasher and discussing which tiles would look best for the kitchen backsplash, passion won't erupt out of nowhere. That just does not operate that way. What works is intentionally establishing chances and space for people to interact with one another.

14. Turn off your electronics.

Ms. Koens suggests that couples spend one night a week without using electronics.

"It is beneficial to have meals at the dining table without watching television. You may communicate with each other and truly bond. Take a bath together after supper and a glass of wine "she claims.

While sex may or may not occur, it is critical to spend time away from your devices, checking emails and social media.

"It's one night a week that busy individuals set out for themselves — no other commitments, no working late, no seeing relatives. Simply put, this is our night, and we're going to make sure we're bonding on it" Ms. Koens explains.

15. Renewing Intimacy Ideas

You don't have to plan an all-inclusive couple getaway at an expensive resort to reignite the romance, but if you have the means, you could. Intimacy is a much simpler seed to cultivate, often requiring simply time and attention to detail.

Make time for connection: Your daily life will drive you away from your basic connection with your companion. Dedicate a set amount of time each day (half an hour to an hour) to letting go of the day's tension and focusing only on each other.

Establish eye contact and put your phones and other devices away. Discuss your feelings and views.

Touch is important: It satisfies one of our most fundamental wants. Reintroduce the practice of caressing your partner's neck or back, holding hands, or laying your hand on their shoulder or leg.

Such a little deed may convey so much concern and affection.

Make time for sex: Even if you're fatigued from everyday duties and feel ugly, find time for sexual activity with your spouse.

Make up a sex date at different times of the day to keep things fresh. Experiment with different postures and utilize toys to make your interactions more exciting.

Create a strategy to have fun without having sex and see who can hold out the longest.

Couples who laugh: Have fun together and frequently enjoy the finest emotional and physical closeness. There is solidarity in sharing humor that may strengthen a connection even more than normal.

Intimacy may have highs and lows. If you can identify the areas where your intimacy is at risk, you may work with your spouse to restore it and make it stronger than before.

Couples who are still having problems with intimacy may benefit from couples counseling to help discover the underlying issues.



Perel often speaks on the concept of space. She says that desire needs room to develop to exist. We require room for our imaginations to roam and discover our erotic seclusion. In one of her prior research on desire, Perel asked participants when they felt most drawn to their relationships, to which the most common answer was, "while they're gone".

We need to be able to miss our spouses, not know everything about them, and enjoy a little mystery. Consider this: the familiarity and intimacy that comes with living with someone for an extended period can also suffocate sparks of desire. If you've witnessed your spouse's less-than-pleasant daily ablutions, washed their dirty underwear, and heard and smelled them in the toilet, it might be difficult to distinguish that version of your mate from the person with whom you're meant to enjoy hot and passionate sex. Amma concurs. "In addition to devoting more time to each other, I distanced myself from my spouse slightly. I'm now locking the restroom door and encouraging him to do the same. It's not that I'm uncomfortable with him, but there are some things he doesn't need to see and I certainly don't need to hear. It's like a polite distance."

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