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03 Oct 2019 (Last updated 05 Feb 2024)

Reprogramming desire in a long-term relationship

Pleasure Tips 4 min read
Expert Charlotte Creplet
Smile Makers Author
two hands each holding a vulval vibrator

At the beginning of a relationship, everything is exciting. We discover each other’s body, one touch at a time, and desire for our partner builds up. With the novelty of the relationship and the discovery of new sensations, a new sexual choreography blooms. Then, very often, as the relationship matures, desire wanes to some extent, and the frequency of sexual fun decreases.

Sometimes, there is a gap between how the partners experience that change: one partner continues to feel desire, while the other does not. Sex then becomes a source of disconnect in the relationship, possibly leading to conflictual situations…

But can we rekindle desire that we no longer feel? How can we revive the flame? And why does desire tend to decrease over time?

According to experts, the most common reason couples lose their passion for each other and stop being sexually intimate is a pursuer-distancer pattern that develops over time. Dr. Sue Johnson identifies the pattern of demand-withdraw as the “Protest Polka” and says it is one of three “Demon Dialogues.” She explains that when one partner becomes critical and aggressive, the other often becomes defensive and distant. Dr. John Gottman’s research on thousands of couples discovered partners that get stuck in this pattern in the first few years of marriage have more than an 80% chance of divorcing in the first four to five years (Gottman Institute).

Like all things in life, desire evolves.

Above all, it is important to remember that desire evolves: it is not fixed, and does not necessarily have to "stay the way it was". Just like the relationship, desire evolves according to life events. Living together, having children, going through changes in one’s career, daily stresses, health...

When a couple settles for the long term, and as time passes, the daily routine and its list of "things to do" interfere with the intimacy of the couple.

It is therefore useful, and advisable if sex is important for both partners, to set up a personal system between the two partners, in order to protect the couple’s intimacy. But this requires first to accept the fact that desire naturally varies over time, it is not a fixed thing of the relationship that we are entitled to, and it deserves some attention.

Yes, desire can be rekindled!

Desire is never lost, and can be grow again between partners. Here are some tips usually given by sexologists:

1. Make sure that all is well physically.

Check with your doctor or gynecologist that you are both in good health. Indeed, a lower libido is not always “all in your head”. Some conditions may cause this symptom, such as depression, giving birth, taking certain medications, certain hormonal disorders, …

2. Make room for sex in your life.

Often, sex ends up at the bottom of our priorities. However, sexual intimacy deserves as much as the rest our time and attention, and that we make room for it on a regular basis. A practice that goes in this direction is the concept of micro-dating: keeping every day a moment just for the two of you. It does not have to be the most memorable night of your relationship or last for hours. It may just take 5 minutes in the morning to start the day together (with or without morning sex!), or 10 minutes in the evening to share about your day and really listen to each other. The purpose of these precious moments is to have your attention fully and solely dedicated to your partner, and to be genuinely curious about them, as they are today and now. This makes room for surprise and seduction.

3. Develop your own way to talk about sex.

Talking about sex and waning desire doesn’t mean telling your partner bluntly that you don’t lust after them anymore. Or having them say that to you! It is rather about sharing with each other how they can play a role in rekindling desire. Daring to express one’s dislikes and what one would like instead is often part of the game, but in many cases, the fear of hurting the other person’s feelings leads to leaving things unsaid. As a result, the couple’s intimacy ends up built on misunderstandings. Reviving one’s desire often requires having the courage to tell the other about changes one would like in the relationship. For this, the other must also be able to hear it, and be open to these changes. Couple therapy can provide a safe structure for this conversation to be constructive.

All in all, it is possible for desire to be revived. It is a common and quite normal phenomenon that it wanes down over time. Yet, it can be useful to understand why it did, as you might find the key there to rekindle it. But first and foremost, make room for intimacy in your life, and see how you can open up a dialogue with your partner about your sex life.

For sexual wellness content that inspires even more pleasure in your life, follow @SmileMakersCollection - or check out our colorful collection of different types of vibrators for beginners and beyond.
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