Sustaining Desire in a Long-term Relationship

It is a textbook Catch-22. As a sexual relationship matures, and our comfort level with a partner increases, physical desire pays the price. Therapists maintain that loss of sexual desire is the most common relationship problem that they see in practice and it is the reason that couples most often seek counselling.

With sex seemingly everywhere, loss of desire in a long-term relationship may put extra stress on a couple. It is easy to think that something is wrong with you when the whole world  appears to be engaging in sex  at all hours of the day and night, while your lovemaking has settled into a boring and predictable routine, or worse, an infrequent and inconvenient “duty”. Studies and anecdotal reports show that a satisfying sexual relationship is crucial in maintaining relationship harmony.

What do other couples do?

It is no wonder that some couples go to extreme lengths to try to recapture the sexual magic they once shared. Whether they pursue them individually or together, some practices can be more destructive than useful. This could include cheating, separating, or simply accepting a life without sexual intimacy. Some couples have been known to engage in activities such as swinging, or open relationships, threesomes or other somewhat taboo practices in an effort to rekindle the spark.

Some find it difficult to discuss or remedy a loss of sexual desire because of cultural or religious strictures, and others simply accept it as an inevitable part of ageing. The difficulty of sustaining desire in a long-term relationship isn’t just a problem among the old and experienced, however; as research shows that it is not the age of the partners, but the duration of the relationship, that is the key factor in dwindling desire. Simply put, the longer a couple is together, the more difficult it is to sustain the sexual appetite. And, it turns out that “long” is a surprisingly short period of time, perhaps only a year or so, and that women tend to lose interest in their partners faster than men.

So what should a couple do when faced with this relationship challenge? Most couples wish to maintain a healthy physical and emotional relationship, but it is not always clear what the best approach may be, and it is not always easy to ask for help. Some couples may be embarrassed, or feel that they are abnormal if they are not having enough sex. On the other hand, some couples may believe that it is inappropriate to reveal their intimate details, or that they might appear to be too focused on sex.  Shame and fear are, unfortunately, two of the biggest obstacles to finding methods to enhance sexual closeness.

What is the solution?

The solution could be as simple as making sex a priority in your relationship. Recognizing how important it is to sustain desire in order to keep a healthy relationship can be a powerful motivator. Research shows that for many couples, desire increases with frequency, so it could just be a matter of making sex more of a priority and allowing things to develop naturally. Making time for sex, and setting a deliberate schedule in which to practice, may prove to be incredibly helpful in getting desire back in synch.

Of course, it is critical to stay as healthy as possible in other regards. Plenty of sleep, adequate exercise, and a healthy weight and diet go a long way in both maintaining your attractiveness to your partner, and ensuring that you are physically fit enough to participate. Alcohol, drugs, and medicines can have a negative impact on desire and performance. It is best to avoid these whenever possible, but if medications are necessary, it is helpful to talk to your physician about sexual side effects and what might be done to minimize them.

It is also useful to remember that life is full of ups and downs and because desire has faded temporarily it does not mean that it cannot be restored. Just by acknowledging the importance of sustaining desire in a long-term relationship could provide couples with the motivation they need to refocus on one another. As always, trust, privacy, and communication are invaluable qualities in a healthy relationship and much pleasure can be derived by nurturing the commitment you long ago made to each other.

Images on Creative Commons license courtesy of smkybear, yellowskyphotography

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