Reinvigorating Sexual Passion and Desire in a Committed Relationship
By: Gregory E. Koch, Psy.D. | October 29, 2021
In the early days of a relationship, sex can seem fun, exciting, and something to look forward to for many couples. Of course, every couple is different. For many, even those still profoundly in love, sexual passion and behaviors can change throughout a long-term relationship. Couples who maintain a higher level of passion in a relationship may have a higher level of individual sexual passion to begin with (Busby, et al., 2019). But, as we know, life happens. We get older, our bodies change, some of us have children, stress can get the best of us. Such events can impact our sex lives even if our sex drive and sexual desire remain high. But here is the reality, sexual problems are normal, especially sexual desire problems (Schnarch, 2019). This might sound like new information if you believed the romantic fallacy that good relationships don’t have sexual problems. The fact is, good relationships and healthy people do have sexual problems.
So, how do we bring passion back into our committed relationships?
Understanding what you want and asking for it is powerful medicine in the bedroom. Believe it or not, “sexual passion can be developed and increased over time in relationships as couples learn to be more differentiated and are thereby able to expand their sexual intimacy, repertoire, and passion.” (Busby, et al., p. 736).
Follow the suggestions below to help improve your sex life:
1) Make time for intimacy
One aspect of improving our sex lives is prioritizing sex. But how do we make our sex lives a priority when life gets in the way? Consider scheduling sex with your sexy sex partner! “Scheduling?” you say? “How unromantic,” you say? I get it. And yet, when we want that special time with our partner knowing when and where can be helpful. It might surprise you, but most couples intentionally plan their sexual experiences (McCarthy & Wald, 2015).
2) Take time to look and smell good
At the beginning of romantic relationships, we are likely to try to impress each other by looking and smelling good. Of course, over time, we may put less effort into trying to impress our partners. This change certainly makes sense once we have dated a long time, if we live together, or raise children together. As relationships become long-term, knowing when sex is expected to occur gives us the chance to prepare to impress our partner at times when it matters most. As silly as it may seem, smelling and looking good can help improve the sexual experience. Having the opportunity to shower, brush our teeth, etc. can help us feel good about ourselves and our time together. Perhaps most importantly, the anticipation can be sexy and fun.
3) Learn about, and understand each other’s differences
What about relationships where one partner appears to be asking for sex more than the other? In my experience, every couple has a difference in their level of sexual desire: one partner is always going to want more sex than the other. As I mentioned above, many factors can change our sexual desire over time, but even without these changes, one partner will want a different amount of sex than the other. For example, perhaps you want sex a few times per week, and your partner wants it once every other week. Schnarch writes that simply understanding this difference can take pressure off couples.
On the other hand, this dynamic might cause a situation where one partner always seems to be initiating sex. This can start to feel like pressure when always in the lead when asking for intimacy. And the pressure to have sex can harm our sexual satisfaction. In such cases, it can be helpful to switch up the lead using what I call “Keeper of the Sexual Relationship Days”. Make an agreement between you about who will first “take the lead” to request sex, and then switch to the other partner next time. Using a strategy like this gives each partner time to think about what experience they might like to have and how they might set the scene. It allows setting up a romantic night, for example. Expressing and enjoying an individual’s desires and passions can bring alive sex with your partner.
4) Try new things together
As our lives with our partners become more routine, so do our sex lives. So, how can we improve sex in relationships? Schnarch (2019) writes that the best way is to create a collaborative partnership regarding sex. This approach means agreeing to work together. And we can’t do this without having good sexual communication. This suggestion might be another area where you would tell me, “How unromantic!” But the reality is your partner can’t know what you want unless you ask for it. And if YOU don’t know what you want, then you have some exploring to do. Thinking and talking about what is erotic for you and your partner, as it turns out, can be sexy. “Eroticism invites taking emotional and sexual risks; asks each partner to be open to creativity, mystery, and unpredictability…” (McCarthy & Wald, p. 292). If you find yourself feeling anxious doing this for the first time, keep it up. You’ll feel less anxious with practice. Books like Jack Morin’s “The Erotic Mind” or Justin Lehmiller’s “Tell Me What You Want” can be a good start to increasing your curiosity and erotic self-knowledge.
Finally, keep in mind that flexibility is a crucial element when it comes to sexual satisfaction. Desire, pleasure, eroticism, and satisfaction won’t be the same every time you have sex. However, accepting this variability can enhance the bond you have with your partner (McCarthy & Wald). Most importantly, make it like play, relax, and have fun.
If you and your partner are feeling stuck, having a hard time communicating or trouble reinvigorating passion and desire into your committed relationship, consider Imago Couples Therapy. Imago Therapy is a unique and interactive therapeutic process that brings you and your partner closer together and deepens intimacy. When you are feeling closer to your partner and more deeply connected, your sex life can improve dramatically. Don’t wait any longer. Contact a professional San Diego Psychologist at Therapy Changes today to learn more and schedule an appointment.