Yes, it's totally common to have desire fatigue set in when you've been together a long time. The more comfortable you get (which is a good thing) the more energy you need to put into keeping the passion alive.
But where do you direct that energy? How do you actually shift things back in the direction of desire?
Couples who keep things sex long-term have a few key things to teach us. Overall there are five ways they focus energy in their sex lives that keeps the momentum flowing.
Couples who report long-term sexual satisfaction do one thing a lot of others miss. They share fond memories of previous sexual encounters with each other. That might sound like any of these:
- "The way you kissed me last night was really hot."
- "Remember the time we did it on the beach at your parent's condo? I'd love to re-live something sneaky like that again."
- "I was just thinking about the first time you spanked me and it made me smile."
Reminiscing isn't the same as giving feedback or making requests. It's simply sharing fond memories of things that worked well for you. It's food for thought.
Couples who still love making love often have a solid practice of sharing what I call a highlights reel after sexual contact. Shortly after they finish they share a few specific highlights that worked well for them.
These might include:
- "Oh my god it was so hot when you pulled my hair."
- "I couldn't tell what you were doing with your fingers this time... but something about the beat and the circles you were using really worked for me."
- "I loved watching your face when you climaxed tonight. It's such an incredible turn on to know you're so comfortable with me."
In addition to giving positive feedback to your partner, this helps them more confidently build a repertoire of acts to draw from in the future. If you clearly let them know a few favorites you there's less to be confused about.
Play by Play
Relationships with long-lasting passion talk more during sex than others. Period.
Let go of the fantasy your partner can/should/will read your mind and intuit your desires. That just will not last the test of time as your bodies and desires grow and change.
This doesn't necessarily mean dirty talk or roleplay (though you can incorporate those) but it does mean positive feedback and positive re-directs in the heat of the moment. Even if you can only manage a few words, try talking during the act. Here are a couple phrases to try:
- "Yes! Keep going."
- "Don't stop what you're doing with your mouth!"
- "More pressure. Just like that!!"
Not only are you giving feedback but this is a way of building your consent practices to make sure you're on the same page about what you're doing and what you want to do. The converse of this is to ask more often during sex:
- "How is this position for you?"
- "Do you want more of my hand inside you?"
- "Can I go faster?"
Getting clear on what's working and what you both want helps you stay on the same page.
Finally, couples who report a satisfying long-term sexual connection share fantasies openly. This means they're both brave enough to be vulnerable and share their desires, AND their partner is compassionate and empathetic when hearing them.
Again, these are not requests, but ideas. They might sound like this:
- "I've always had this idea that dressing up in matching tuxedos and going commando would be really hot."
- "Sometimes I daydream about eating chocolate off your body."
- "I think you'd look hot tied to the bed."
- "I don't know if I ever want to try this, but I have secretly loved gay porn so long, I sometimes imagine you with other men."
These are not requests. Only statements about what is and might be hot. It's really important for the receiving partner not to fee pressure in the moment to figure out how to (or if) they could fulfill these desires. Only to honor them in the moment.
It's also really important these desires are received without judgment or laughter. There's nothing wrong with having fantasies (in fact, they're very healthy). Being able to share them openly with a partner increases trust and often desire between you. Here are some options for responses:
- "Wow. I can tell you're super into that."
- "I'm so glad you told me. Let's talk more about it after I have time to do a little research."
- "Ooooh. Let me think about how I could make something like that work for us."
Maybe there's some part of these fantasies you'd be into. SIt with them, honor them and be careful not to yuck your partner's yums. Sharing openly is far more important than ever acting on all of the fantasies you hold.
How to make these first four tips work for you:
keep it specific - "that time in Chicago was nice" gives a lot less information than "The time in Chicago was so hot because you came first."
keep it positive - focus on any little thing you liked or found hot
Why they work so well:
you're practicing getting vulnerable with each other by sharing these intimate details
you're giving feedback about what works so you can possibly replicate at another time
you're fueling sexual chemistry by focusing on what works for you
you're improving both your sexual confidence by identifying strengths
Finally: Investing in Personal Passion
Most long-term couples desire wanes because they stop investing in their personal passions, friendships, creative pursuits, and desires. Over time these fall away as we focus on building our shared life, home, and family with someone.
But when these are out of balance it is really difficult to feel sexy. Think about when and where you feel confident and/or sexy. Make a list of the factors that contribute to those sexy times. Then commit with your partner to investing in those confdent and sexy individual pursuits.
Here's an example from one of my clients (offered with permission):
Her: "I feel most confident when I'm on the dance floor with my girlfriends. I like getting dressed up, having a fancy cocktail and getting swung around to salsa music. I love the confidence of proud lead dancers, the feeling of the beat, and the change of pace when I put that kind of energy into looking good. I usually wear my good underwear, a cute dress, I do my hair... I don't do any of those things on a regular basis!"
Him: "I feel most confident when I've been running regularly. Like I feel better at work, at home- everywhere if I've gotten a few miles in each day. I notice my head is held higher and I'm in a better mood. I'm not sure it's 'sexy' but I feel like I get more done and feel better so getting laid is a higher priority when I work out. I also feel really confident at work. I like being in charge and feel great because I'm usually the only one in the room who knows my specialty. I am kind of an expert on [this thing] and people come to me for advice."
Think about the situations and factors that fuel your more passionate self and find a way to build those situations into your life on a more regular basis.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
- change communication & codependent patterns
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.