Keeping the passion alive in long term relationships

Keeping the passion alive in long term relationships

Read about the author Samantha Evans

How do you keep the passion alive in your long term relationship? We all hear about couples splitting up after years of marriage or living together, often because the passion has left their relationship.

Many couples who stay together for their children have nothing to keep them together once they leave home, and they have become increasingly bored with each other throughout those unhappy years.

However, being intimate with your partner is ageless. Sex at 70 or 80 may not be the emotional and physical whirlwind it may have been at 20, but for some it may be even more amazing. As you grow older, your self awareness and self confidence increases and you become wiser, knowing what works best for you when it comes to sex.

A study by psychologists at Chapman University, published in the Journal of Sex Research (February 2016), looked at sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction for heterosexual couples in long term relationships to find out exactly what keeps the flame of desire burning for some couples.

The study “What keeps passion alive?” looked at the relationships of 38,747 married or cohabiting heterosexual couples in the US who had been together for at least three years. The average age of the women was 40 years old and 46 years old for the men. They assessed the level of sexual satisfaction by asking the couples to rate their sex satisfaction in the first 6 months of their relationship and then rate it how it feels now.

Overwhelmingly 86% rated higher sexual satisfaction in the first 6 months, dropping to 43% of men and 55% of women still being satisfied.

They found that foreplay, mixing up sex play, setting the mood and expressing love all contributed to increased levels of sexual satisfaction. Almost half of the satisfied and dissatisfied couples read sexual self help books and magazine articles; however, the more sexually satisfied couples tried out some of the ideas in their sex play.

The sexually satisfied people engaged in frequent intimate behaviours, such as cuddling, gentle and deep kissing and laughing during sexual activity, they tried new positions, or acted out fantasies, experimented with sex toys, set the mood by lighting candles or playing music, and sent teasing texts to their partner throughout the day.

Wearing sexy lingerie, taking a long bath or shower together, setting a date night each week to have sex, and taking a romantic break together were all ways in which couples kept the passion alive.

These couples talked to each other about their sexual needs, said I love you more often, gave and received more oral sex and had more sex and orgasms.

Sexual activity also lasted longer for the satisfied couples with 45% of women and 49% of men saying their last sexual encounter lasted more than 30 minutes, compared to only 19% of women and 26% of men from the dissatisfied group.

Nearly half of the dissatisfied women (43%) said they were just going through the motions for their partner’s sake. Oddly more of the dissatisfied men (59%) felt they were no longer desired by their partner compared to 43% of women feeling this way.

Keeping the flames of desire going in a long term relationship takes time and effort; it doesn’t just automatically continue in the same way it did when you first met. If what once worked for you sexually no longer hits the spot, tell your partner and explore other ways in which to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure together.

Many reasons affect desire for both men and women, such as hormones, childbirth, illness, disease, injury, stress, disability or just drifting apart.

Being honest with your partner about your sexual satisfaction rather than just going through the motions as some of the dissatisfied women said they felt they were doing will not increase your sexual desire.

If medical or physical sexual health problems are affecting your sexual satisfaction, there are many ways in which to overcome them, from using sexual lubricant, trying different positions, changing your medication if you think they may be affecting your sexual function, and taking medication at different times of the day.

Reinventing your sex life every few years and focusing on building confidence, self-esteem and openness can improve satisfaction. It’s not always easy to talk about sex with a partner because we don’t want to criticise so it’s best to frame things in a positive way – explain what you enjoy, where you like to be touched and what sexual activity you’d like to try. Never feel coerced into trying a new sexual act, consent is just as important in a long term relationship as in any relationship. Often people think they have a sexual fanatasy, when in reality, it does not live up to expectations.

A third of Brits admit to using sex toys to improve their sex lives. Using sex toys together enhances sexual pleasure for both people involved. It is so easy to buy a high quality sex toy online in the comfort and privacy of your home.

Writing down your sexual fantasies and sharing them with your partner not only lets your partner know what you desire in bed but will also help you identify what it is you need to set your sexual flame alight. The more in tune you are with what you both want sexually, the better your sex life can become. Often couples discover they both have similar fantasies. You may even want to explore some of them together including swinging, kink, sex clubs, sex dungeons or intimate massage.

A good sex life at any age isn’t just about the physical act of sex, it is also about intimacy and touch, both of which can benefit anyone. By letting go of expectations of what your sex life should be like, you are more likely to improve your sex life.

Personally I think this research would produce similar results if conducted within the LGBTQ community.

Also we know that sexual preference can change with age as sexuality is fluid. Many people are enjoying same sex and heterosexual relationships in later life having been in a same sex or heterosexual relationship for years. Psychologist Lisa M. Diamond followed the sexual behavior of nearly 100 women over 10 years, and found “that one of the fundamental, defining features of female sexual orientation is its fluidity,” something she wrote in her as she wrote in her book in 2008 called Sexual Fluidity:

“A predominantly heterosexual woman might, at some point in time, become attracted to a woman, just as a predominantly lesbian woman might at some point become attracted to a man.”

Too often we are presented with rules dictating what good sex is, yet there is no normal sex. Attraction and desire change over the years too. Sex is whatever feels pleasurable for you, whatever your age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or health issue, it is fun, concentual, embarrassing, messy, noisy and most of all, pleasurable.