keeping sex and attraction alive in long-term relationships

By Renee Slansky 

Falling in love is so much easier than staying in love. When you are dating to form a serious relationship, you want to be sure that what you are building isn’t superficial.

Typically speaking the hot and sexy “honeymoon phase” lasts between 1-2 years. It’s after this period, that couples tend to discover incompatibilities or find themselves in a rut in their relationship.

This can affect their attraction level and frequency of intimacy which eventually takes its toll on the relationship as a whole.

vector art of couple cuddling

What changes in a long-term relationship?: The Challenges

Change will always be inevitable in a relationship as we are influenced by our fluctuating circumstances and need for constant growth. So needless to say, as your relationship continues, so will the dynamics of it as well.

Here are several sure things that will definitely change in a long-term relationship:

Expectations 

Most long-term relationships will start to stagnate when expectations are no longer met. This is because they either assume the person they date will never change or they haven’t really communicated their expectations in the first place.

Unmet expectations lead to frustration, disappointment and even temptation to seek the love and desire elsewhere.

Circumstances 

The changing world and environment around you that is influenced by certain events can have a big impact on a serious relationship. Whether there was a change of location, a job loss or gain, a death or perhaps something that influenced a mind-set shift.
 Either way there is always going to be something that is out of our control that will impact a long-term relationship negatively or positively.

Physical appearance 

Unfortunately we are all going to age and end up seeing our bodies change negatively at some point. When we are in a long-term relationship we can tend to become too comfortable with our partner and allow physical self-neglect to creep in which can affect sexual attraction. 

Whilst some physical change is inescapable, it doesn’t mean we have a hall pass to let ourselves go and become unhealthy or slovenly in our appearance.

Communication

This usually goes one way or the other in a long-term relationship. Either the couple learn to be able to enhance their communication by understanding each other more and learning to work through communication blocks.

Or it starts to degrade due to lack of effective communication due to stress, conflict or incompatibility.  What was once just discussions can turn into unhealthy arguments that end in creating blocks between couples.

This can therefore effect the amount of intimacy and attraction in a relationship as it impacts our emotional connection to our partner.  

Love 

Love is a multilayer emotion that needs to be constantly maintained in order to grow stronger. Over time in a long-term relationship love will change from a surface more physical based love, to a deeper more emotional connection style of love.

However, if this love is not kept in check and neglect or lack of intimacy creeps in then one or both people can feel like they have fallen out of love with the other.

illustration of couple sleeping and not facing each other

Is it normal to have less sex in a long-term relationship?

Whilst there aren’t one model fits all, typically speaking the sex will not be as frequent as it was in the beginning. This isn’t necessarily a negative point, as long as intimacy is still maintained both emotionally and physically.

We have to remember that the sexual spark in a long-term relationship will fluctuate but it doesn’t mean your love or level of joy, peace or progress should as well.

Here are some of the main reasons why you may find yourself having less sex in your relationship:   

Honeymoon period ends

As mentioned before, the honeymoon period usually ends between 12-24 months after first dating.

Relationships will go through 6 different cycles and each term will have an effect on our desire with the other person due to growth, conflict and compatibility.

When you first meet someone, and form an attachment there is more chase, excitement and fresh chemistry to fuel the desire to have more frequent sex.

It’s after this time when you have gotten past all the rose coloured and spontaneous romance that you realise that keeping the chemistry and attraction alive actually takes a conscious effort.  

Children change the dynamics

Having children enter into your relationship means you can’t always prioritise each other or your sex life. Feeling tired or just busy means you may see a diminish in your intimacy because your children have taken up that free time.

The key here is to still find that balance between quality time with the kids and also having one on one time just with each other.

It’s not a number 1 priority

Life gets busy and when you have other responsibilities to take care of, your sexual activity  can get put on the back burner. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to be intimate, however right now you may not have the physical, mental or emotional capacity for it.

There will be ‘dry spells’ for your sex life simply due to the fact that one or both of you have other things that are taking up that space.

Feeling comfortable with each other 

Complacency can be a big mood killer to sexual desire. And that’s because less effort is needed to put in to win someone over because you already have the commitment you want from them.

Unfortunately this can lead to neglect of self-appearance or your partner which can result in more than just a poor sex life , but also lack of growth and joy.

What to do to keep the spark alive!

Keeping your sex life healthy and active during your long-term relationship is not as laborious as it sounds. This isn’t about getting kinky or going to extremes and feeling you have to have sex every second day.

The goal is always to have quality sex, not quantity sex. Your sex life should be something that enhances your relationship every single time.

So, let’s refresh on some practical and achievable ways to keep the spark alive:

  1. Keep dating one another– This simple piece of advice is fundamental to keeping your romantic relationship alive and thriving.
    Dating each other even after you are in long term commitment means still trying to win each other over.
    Think about what you did in the beginning when you first met and started dating and then try and replicate that regularly  
  2. Focus on Intimacy not just sex– There is a difference between sex and intimacy. Intimacy is about emotional connection and creating a deeper association with one another. Sex usually refers to physical intercourse and foreplay.
    By focusing on how to build a more emotional connection, this will fuel desire and attraction more and enhance your physical intimacy.
    Meeting each other’s love language, talking and sharing vulnerabilities or even just doing simple affectionate acts such as holding hands will help build emotional intimacy.
  3. Keep things spontaneous–  If your relationship has become too routine then it will affect your desire to want to have sex. Too much routine leads to neglect and complacency and leaves little room for mystery and excitement which can help keep that speak alive.
    This doesn’t mean you need to join the mile-high club, but rather work out some ideal ways that you can break up your daily regimen.
  4. Communicate regularly Communication is the glue of any long-term relationship because it creates transparency and intimacy between a couple. Ask each other’s sexual expectations and get vulnerable with what you both want to happen sexually in the relationship.
    Whether this means one person wants to experiment with sex toys or you both need to see a sex therapist to help you regain your sex life.
  5. Maintain individuality– A strong relationship is made up of two healthy individuals who know their identity and purpose outside of each other.
    Whilst you may feel like putting all your focus on your partner and relationship is the key to keeping the desire aflame, it’s going to have the opposite effect.  Becoming a people pleaser to try and fix your intimacy problem is not going to work.
    Each couple needs breathing space in a relationship so they can still keep their own identity which in turn keeps them whole and edifies the relationship.

illustrated couple talking on the sofa

Date Ideas for Couples

Scheduling in regular time to romance and connect with one another is essential to keeping the spark alive in a long-term relationship.

 However, going out to dinner every single time can become monotonous and defeats the purpose of creating a deeper desire.

Here are some more creative and effecting date ideas for couples:

  • Experiences with a twist – Creating new positive memories together through a new experience is a great date idea. Whether this be something like skydiving or more mellow such as cheese and wine making.
    Try to have something that challenges you both so that you are forced to work together as a team.
  • Stay at home dates – Dates don’t have to be expensive and grand. If you are time poor or can’t find a baby sitter than try a date at home that isn’t just Netflix and chill.
    Having a picnic on the floor or enjoying some blindfolded dessert tasting are just a few ideas to spice things up.
  • Double dates– Why not involve some other friends who also need an excuse to go out. Double dates that involve an experience rather than just a meal make things fun and helps mix up the dynamics.
  • Learning a skill together– Date nights don’t have to be traditional to be effective and romantic. Learning a new skill such as dancing or pottery can mean you have a common goal together as well as quality time each week.

FAQ

How do you maintain sex in a long-term relationship?

The key is to focus on maintaining desire and intimacy on a daily basis. By taking the pressure off to have sex a certain amount of times a week, it means you can enjoy the relationship and feel free to have sex when it feels right

What is a healthy sex life in a long-term relationship?

A healthy sex life is based off what you both need in order to keep your bond and attraction alive. For some people this may mean 3 times a week, whilst for others it may be 1 time a week or once a fortnight. There should be several goals of having a healthy sex life:
Increasing deeper intimacy
Expressing physical love
Physical release and pleasure
You may go through phases of having sex less than other times, but this is normal and shouldn’t be seen as something to worry about if it is only seasonal. Remember the goal is to have quality intercourse not just quantity.

Does sex stop in a long-term relationship?

Sex can stop in an unhealthy long- term relationship because of neglect or change in circumstances and attraction. The truth is sex doesn’t have to stop and shouldn’t stop in a long-term relationship. If it does stop, it should be addressed immediately.

How do you keep the sex spark alive in a relationship?

Here are several quick tips for references to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship:
Make each other feel like a priority
Be aware of when you have become complacent and stuck in a rut
Keep romancing each other in the little ways daily
Look after your appearance to increase desire and show self-respect
Flirt with one another
Prioritise sex at least 1time a week
Choose lifestyle activities that keep you energised and confident
Be spontaneous with where and how you have sex
Like any element in a relationship, in order for it to be great it must be maintained.

Does sex increase love?

Sex can and should enhance love as it is an expression of it. It creates a spiritual, physical and chemical bond that effects your emotional attachment to someone. Sex should not be used as a way to gain love, but rather be a by-product of love.