I have a lot of couples practicing monogamy tell me that their sex lives were great in the beginning, but over time the passion, quality and frequency has dwindled immensely. Can that passion you felt at the beginning ever come back? Call me a romantic, but I believe it can! It might look a little different, but with some willingness to try new things, while being open to vulnerability and honesty, you and your partner can reclaim your sex lives!
How to Bring Back the Passion
We fall in love with certain individuals because we love who we are when we are with them. The beginning stage of a relationship is what I call “the honeymoon stage.” This traditionally lasts anywhere from 3 to 27 months and is a time of passion! It creates the fundamental bond you need to stay connected during the later stages of love. This is the stage where you felt alive and awake and the sex is great! However, with time it is natural to feel like your partner no longer completes you, or fulfills all of your needs, and you no longer love yourself when you are with them.
This is when I see couples begin to complain about lack of sexual interest, sexual dysfunction, and feelings of rejection, abandonment and resentment towards their partner. This is when maintenance sex starts to occur. You are able to “please” one another but do so out of physical need and habit, than out of desire to experience the intensity of your romantic interest in each other. You may view our partner as someone you feel safe with, but no longer erotic. This is when the sex slows down, when the passion fades, and when you no longer feel “in love.” If you and/or your partner recognize that you are feeling this way, try incorporating the following tips into your partnership to help return to, or begin, a new stage of passion and connection in your relationship!
Talk about it!
You most likely talk to your partner daily, but are you communicating your sexual needs, desires and expectations clearly? Are you being heard and understood by your partner? I have found that most people are not really honest with their partners concerning sex. Honest and direct communication about sexual needs can reinforce intimacy in long-term partnerships. So often the person we talk least about sex with, is the person we are having sex with!
Talking about sex in all its various capacities can be scary…and requires vulnerability. In order for this to be successful, you and your partner need to create a safe space. Set a time aside where there are few to no distractions. I suggest starting a dialogue around sex with sharing with one another things you sincerely appreciate, or like, about your intimate life (past or present) with your current partner. These can be specific sexual acts, or things done during foreplay, or little intimate acts done throughout the day that are not directly correlated to sex. Appreciations are a way of getting more of what you want! The “speakers” job is to be honest about their feelings, staying away from any jabs or blame statements. The “listeners” job is just to listen! Receiving an appreciation is a skill in itself, so practice it here! When your partner shares something they appreciate, love, like or enjoy receive it at face value and refrain from denying it. This becomes more natural over time as giving and receiving appreciation is one doorway to getting needs and desires met.
Once you and your partner feel more comfortable talking to one another about what you appreciate, it is time to open a dialogue that can turn a stale partnership into the exciting relationship you crave. Due to the vulnerability it requires to share your erotic thoughts, fantasies and/or desires, it is important to learn how to validate your partner so they feel understood and heard. Here, you do not agree or disagree with what your partner shares, but allow them to know that you heard them clearly and what they said was heard with nonjudgmental ears. This can be hard if your partner shares something with you that surprises you. Remember, having certain fantasies does not mean they must be carried out to feel sexually satisfied. Just sharing with your partner and knowing that they will not judge you creates increased connection and intimacy. Eroticism is a way to express love and it is good to express erotic desires and needs with the person you love!
Like appreciation and validation, empathizing with your partner also takes practice! Try to imagine what your partner might be experiencing and try to step into their shoes and understand how they are feeling. When you empathize with your partner it does not mean you have the same experience as them, just that you understand what they might be feeling. This process allows you to share sexual fantasies that you may have never shared before with your partner in a nonjudgmental space. By portraying sexual empathy towards your partner, improved communication and sexual generosity will follow. Working through your personal fears and anxieties concerning sex will open the doors to sexual empathy. This, in turn, will bring you closer together in an incredibly intimate way.
Etta Skoch is a marriage counselor who specializes in couples counseling, intimacy counseling and LGBTQ counseling.