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Desire in Long Term Relationships

Valentine's day is just around the corner and many couples are feeling the pressure fueled by Cosmo and the romance industry to “spice things up” with their significant other. It’s possible that if you’re in a long term relationship you will spend some time looking back on your first days spent together longing for the passion and intimacy you once shared. Entering into a long term relationship doesn’t mean your hottest days are behind you, but it just might take a little more time and effort to get there again.

One study concluded that the romantic passionate type of desire, called “limerence” in scientific terms, lasts less than two years, and often less than six months in a relationship in part due to the fact that strong sexual desire is fueled by novelty and change. If they outlast the limerence phase, partners then develop an emotional intimacy that can feel like a solid friendship. Long term relationships are signified by an emotional closeness which can sometimes feel more like you are best friends rather than lovers. But you don’t have to sacrifice a great sex life in exchange for a trusting, secure bond.

Maintaining sexual desire with your partner over a long period of time requires energy, caring, creativity, and time. Sex in a relationship brings so many benefits such as shared pleasure, a means to reduce stress and tension, and a way to reinforce intimacy. Desire discrepancies are common in a long-term relationship; however, these discrepancies are a problem not just for one partner, but for the relationship as a whole. A 2010 study by Vannier and O’Sullivan concluded that 46% of participants reported they had no desire for sex with a partner but did so anyway because they felt like they had to. Some concluded they felt like if they didn’t their partner would think they were cheating, or their partner would go out and cheat themselves.

The first step to increasing desire is to open the conversation about sexual satisfaction, and then to make it a priority in your couple. It’s important to be open and honest with your partner, so you can get creative and come up with ways to improve intimacy that is mutually satisfying to both partners. This can be sharing personal turn ons such as fantasies, initiating an erotic role play, or discussing desired future sexual scenarios. You can discuss using external turn ons together like sex toys, X-rated videos, sex in a location outside of the bedroom, music, or visual feedback from a mirror. Trying new things is exciting, and can help to refuel your desire.

If you have fallen into a cycle of friendship with no sex with your partner, you may experience feelings of anxiety or avoidance in anticipation of becoming intimate again. This is normal, and speaking to your partner will help you to get pass the fears and into a regular rhythm of open discussion around sexual intimacy. To celebrate this Valentine's Day try dropping the cliched expectations, and mark the beginning of a new intimate journey with your love.

If you would like to initiate more intimate conversations with your partner, but need some support, please reach out! Our counselors are all sex-positive and supportive of healthy individual and relational sexuality and exploration. We would love to help you and your partner rediscover your passion for each other. You can book an appointment or a free phone consultation through our Book Online portal.


This is part one in a two part series on Desire and Passion in Relationships by Taylor Cnudde for Austin STRONG: Relationship Building Center

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