How To Maintain Sexual Desire, Backed By Science
I would argue that relationships are the most important things in our life.
It’s not the only important thing, of course. But they affect so many other aspects in our life, from both a mental and physical aspect. It can certainly make a strong case for being the most important thing.
Relationships keep us healthy, resilient, and happy. They give us purpose and meaning in life. They boost our mood, are a source of joy, and motivate us to be better people.
So maintaining those relationships – and nurturing them – is one of the most important things we can do to stay mentally and physically strong.
Your Number One
Your spouse or significant other is one of the centerpieces of your relationship foundation.
This is the person you fell in love with, knows all your quirks, recognizes your flaws, cheers you up when you’re down, and hopefully inspires you. The problem is, you spend a lot of time with them. And around them.
While this is usually a good thing, over time you may start to worry that you’ll lose the passion you once shared. It’s a scary thought, but also a common concern.
However, one of the problems with long term relationships is keeping the physical intimacy – the sexual attraction – alive. How does a couple go about staying sexually satisfied?
What Keeps Passion Alive
There are a number of important aspects in any healthy relationship. How you talk, how you compromise, and how you resolve conflict.
Physical intimacy is only one part of that puzzle, but it’s an important one. So it makes sense that couples would want to promote it in their relationship.
What can you do to make sure we keep passion alive? Or at least relight that passion if we find that it has died down?
It should come as no surprise that this is a topic worthy of psychological investigation. And a team of researchers – led by David Frederick from Chapman University – published a study in The Journal of Sex Research in early 2016.
The researchers realize that sexual satisfaction can diminish between a couple over time. And they wanted to learn from couples who were able to successfully maintain their passion over time, so that other people could do the same.
Searching for answers, they polled over 38,000 heterosexual men and women who were married or living together.
Dr. Frederick from the study explains what they were looking for:
“We looked at common romantic and sexual behaviors that are rarely assessed in the literature but are likely important contributors to sexual satisfaction.”
They also wanted to separate facts from fiction. You might read about a variety of different ways to have sex in the magazines, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been put to the test. Dr. Frederick continues:
“For example, while sexual variety is deemed important for sexual satisfaction, evidence on the effectiveness of specific forms of variety — such as showering together or wearing lingerie or use of sex toys — is lacking.”
Who’s Not Getting Satisfaction?
The team of researchers found that a large majority of us are satisfied with our sex lives in the first 6 months of the relationship – about 83 percent. But when asked about being satisfied in their current relationship that number drops to 43 percent for men and 55 percent for women.
That’s roughly only half of people in a relationship that say they are sexually satisfied. I know there’s more to life than just your sex life, but still. Those numbers seem a little depressing.
But one of the author’s of the study – Dr. Janet Lever – gives us a ray of hope, as well as some advice about keeping passion alive:
“It was encouraging to learn that more than one-third of couples kept passion alive, even after a decade or two together.
That won’t happen on auto pilot; these couples made a conscious effort to ward off routinization of sex.”
6 Behaviors of Satisfied Couples
What did the study have to say about couples who were still had sparks flying? Here are six things the experts found that satisfied couples did more frequently.
1.Intimate Behaviors. This included gentle and deep kissing, cuddling, and laughing together during sexual activity.
2.Sexual variety. Satisfied couples were more likely to try different sexual positions or act out fantasies. This could also include wearing sexy lingerie, showering or bathing together, using a sex toy together, trying anal stimulation, go on a romantic getaway, or schedule a date night for sex.
3.Set the Mood. They would take the time to set a romantic or sexual mood. Lighting candles, playing music, and using communication effectively (saying I love you during sex, or a teasing text during the day)
4.Gave and received more oral sex than unsatisfied couples.
5.Had orgasms more frequently.
6.Had sex more frequently.
A word of caution, though. Trying to target activities for the sole reason of increasing satisfaction may not have the effect you want it to.
For example, research found that couples that simply have sex more often may not boost their happiness. The researchers suspect because it feels forced instead of happening organically.
An Important Skill in Maintaining Passion
Other recent research finds that the ability to sexual desire alive in the bedroom, depends on how intimate you are outside of it.
I don’t mean doing the deed in unusual places or other physical intimacy outside the bedroom. I mean emotional intimacy.
Psychology Professor Gurit Birnbaum says it comes down to a particular skill:
“Our research shows that partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are able to maintain their sexual desire.”
Their study shows that responsiveness boosts sexual desirability. And this effect is stronger for women than it is men. So it’s important for fueling long lasting passion.
How does it work exactly? Here’s Birnbaum:
“Sexual desire thrives on increasing intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time; better than any pyrotechnic sex.”
How to Be More Responsive
Responsiveness seems like a pretty vague concept. What does that mean, exactly? Here’s Birnbaum:
“Responsiveness – which is a type of intimacy – is so important in a relationship because it signals that one is really concerned with the welfare of the other, but in a way that is truly open and informed about what the other cares about and wants.”
Birnbaum and her team say that being responsive is more about investing resources into the relationship and showing a deeper understanding of who the other person is.
It’s making sure you don’t ignore or dismiss their problems. This also means being aware of their emotional needs and also responding to them.
This helps the other individual create a perspective that their relationship isn’t just some regular, normal, every day type relationship. Instead it’s special and unique.
This is what the researchers say people look for in their romantic relationships. At least in places like America, the United Kingdom, or other Western societies.
It’s More Than Just Being “Nice”
Does that mean that if you kind and considerate towards your partner, that everything will be good?
It’s a bit more complex than simply just being nice to your significant other. Here’s Professor Birnbaum again:
“‘Being nice’ and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants.
When a mate is truly responsive, the relationship feels special and unique and he or she is perceived as valued and desirable.”
Keeping Love Alive
In the day to day hustle and bustle, we may sometimes fail to recognize that our relationships need nurturing and maintenance.
We fall into the trap of thinking that a great a great relationship happens naturally. That love is powerful enough on its own to overcome obstacles. We care, and we don’t need to constantly reinforce that to our partner.
Real passion doesn’t just keep itself alive. Love does take work.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to maintain sexual desire in your long term relationships. However, keeping love alive really starts with two people who genuinely want to stay connected with each other.