“How do I keep the sexual spark and passion alive in my relationship?”
This is one of the most asked questions by couples who’ve passed the first-year milestone.
When they started dating, there was an automatic flurry of sexual sparks. They fucked like bunnies – every night, and every morning. Maybe they moved in together after 6-12 months of being together. Everything seemed smooth and rosy. And it seemed like this effortless sexual connection would go on forever, without reprieve.
Then, one day they woke up to realize that that shower of sparks had suddenly reduced to a drip. The impulse to ravage each other had begun to disappear, and the once blazing fire of their sex life felt like a faintly glowing pile of cooling embers.
For others, the spark might not need to be completely brought back from the dead, but just stoked before it gets too close to the brink. Their sex life is pretty good, and they want to do preventative maintenance to keep it running as strong as possible.
In either case, if nobody cheated, or was mean, or really did anything wrong, then why does the fire die? Why does the pulsating desire to ravish each other flat-line? Is it just boredom, or something more? And is there anything you can do to keep it alive? (Obviously, my answer is “Yes.”)
This is an incredibly common pattern for a lot of people. Quite often, the beginning of relationships will come with shimmering fireworks. But at some point, left to their own devices, that flush of pyrotechnics will fade.
For some, that pattern takes two months to unfold, for others it may take two years.
As a result, many people become serial daters. They hop from one medium-term relationship to another; riding the waves of sexual passion, and bailing once the finale of the honeymoon phase is over. They’re addicted to the automatic lust, but aren’t relationally mature enough to handle the next, more intentional, phase.
All the while, they think it’s the other person’s fault, or “just the way relationships go”.
But it’s not.
You can absolutely keep the sexual spark alive in a long-term relationship, or create them if they’re gone (that is, if the partnership is not abusive, or dysfunctional, and still ultimately healthy and worth salvaging for both people.)
Sex in a relationship is like a monthly subscription service. The first month is free, and then you have to actually start investing to keep getting the value.
People who believe in the stereotype that sex just “stops” after a certain point either: A) aren’t willing to put in the effort, or B) aren’t aware of what can be done. It’s easy to rationalize laziness. It’s harder to prioritize, take action, and be vulnerable.
(Note: Hi. Before you keep reading, I need you to know something. You clicked on this article for a reason. You’re looking for ways to keep a healthy sex life, with someone you love. And I really, really want you to. Now, to do that, there’s a conversation we need to flesh out. Skimming a quick list of tips won’t take you deep enough to make lasting change. There has to be a shift at the level of understanding and awareness. With that foundation, the right actionables will then become useful. If you don’t take the time now, you’re just kicking the can further down the road. So, is your sex life worth the extra five minutes of reading? I’d say so.)
The Phases of Love
At some point, as the couple grows and deepens their bond, the dominant energy in their connection will switch from passionate love to companionate love.
One is not better than the other, they’re just different. Just like someone who is in university isn’t better than someone who is in high school… they are just in different parts of their journey. They’re both natural parts of a continuum, and they each have beautiful things to offer.
Passionate love is largely based in erotic desire, and not so much in comfort and emotional support. Passionate love can start a relationship, but it’s not what will drive it to go the distance.
Companionate love is based in a deep bond established over time through intimacy. This is what we can lean on to carry us through the realities and trials of life, as well as the psychological friction of co-existing with another human being. It transcends the realm of sex, but does include it. It’s what makes someone feel like your best friend, who you can trust with anything.
The transition between these two is where most people jump ship, or simply start to feel confused – where the momentum of passionate love begins to wane, and the internal work within the safety of companionate love must be embraced.
This isn’t to say that a relationship in the phase of companionate love doesn’t have passion. It absolutely does. It’s just that passion is no longer the primary driving force compelling the couple to stay together, nor is it what brings them the most value.
Companionship becomes the incentive and the glue.
Mapping The Road To Ruin
There is a clear set of common patterns that cause the sexual spark to die in couples as they transition out of the passionate phase and are presented with the companionate phase.
We rarely see all the little things that build up over time until it’s too late. This is what leads to the sudden feeling of confusion about what happened, and being resigned about things ever changing.
One of the biggest killers is a creeping sense of apathy and lack of gratitude.
Over time, we get used to our partners being around and at hand, and no longer feel much risk in losing them. We forget what it’s like to not have them as a fixture in our lives (which is just an illusion, anyways. No person is permanent or guaranteed, no matter what you put on their finger, or get them to sign.) It no longer occurs to us to express our gratitude for the simplest of things throughout the week, or for their very presence.
At the beginning of your relationship, you might truly feel into your gratitude about them making you a delicious, home-cooked meal… but then two years into the relationship, when they put down the same meal in front of you, you just see it as food and don’t make any mention (or feel any emotional response) to the fact that they put just as much energy into this meal as they did the first time they made it for you.
In short: we stop paying quality attention.
They move from being a novel, main attraction in our life to a background set piece. Other priorities and new action in life begin to take up all our attention. The message you start subconsciously receiving from each other is “I don’t want you/you’re not important/I’m not that interested.”
This apathy is what causes the next issue, which is displacement.
At first, we can’t stop thinking about our partners. Communicating and connecting with them is usually the most exciting thing happening at the time. As the novelty wears off, we stop leaving time and energy for foreplay and basic intimacy, and let that space get filled up by other things in life, like work, other people, family, etc. We rearrange our priorities according to where we’re putting our attention. For a lot of people, their partners don’t end up sitting very high on that list.
After your mindset, this is the next thing that has to change.
Everything we’re about to talk about in reviving the sexual spark takes dedicated time and space. If you don’t prioritize your relationship by blocking off time in your schedule, and honouring those boundaries, don’t act surprised weeks or months from now if nothing changes.
The Good News & What You Need To Succeed
Knowing the simple things that cause the sexual spark to die out, and the fact that it’s completely normal, puts you in a position to do something about it and prevent it from happening in the future.
Sexual sparks can be engineered. It’s not all just automatic chemical flushes reserved for new mates. That’s just the easy form.
But like starting a real fire from scratch, reigniting your sexual fire is going to require some strategy and determination. I’m about to give you the strategy, but the determination is completely up to you. And you might say it’s the most important part of the equation. It’s the constant source of steam that will drive the engine for years to come.
What do you need in order to develop determination?
Knowing that – without putting in the work – the spark will die out with any other partner, no matter how much you feel up front. So if you have someone who compliments you, who loves you and treats you well (and you do the same), who you have fun with, and your goals and direction align, you’ve probably got a fantastic partner – for sex and for life – who is worth the effort. Acceptance gives you staying power.
When connected to a sense of gratitude for your partner, and getting present to the odds involved in having so many parts of yourselves and your lives lining up, you start to realize how rare it is to find a great companion, where things feel easy most of the time.
You own the fact that you’re bringing your own internal bullshit and obstacles to every relationship. When you stop making the other person solely responsible for the friction and moments of disconnection in the relationship, your willingness to do the work and sense of responsibility increases.
Once you have your determination online, you’re ready to start implementing the following tips.
10 Ways To Keep The Spark Alive In A Long-Term Relationship
1. Proactively guard against distractions
When the day is over, it’s common to feel so overstimulated, stressed, or drained that all you want to do is have a drink, or zone out while watching TV. The vital energy you’re giving to work, or squandering throughout the day, is what you need to fuel your sex life.
Start protecting your attention and fighting back these energy leeches.
Start with your smartphone.
It’s a portal to a tsunami of unnecessary data and media. On top of everything swimming in our minds with work, errands, family, you have constant access to e-mails, incoming messages, news stories, and social media feeds. Our brains simply aren’t able to cope with the volume. So when you get home from work, plug your phone in and turn it onto airplane mode so you stop getting bombarded with messages. You should get to your phone when you decide to, not when it beeps/rings/vibrates itself into your life.
If you have kids, invest in your sex life by hiring a babysitter (or passing the kids off to the grandparents) to look after them at least once a week. Liberate yourself from the responsibility of parenthood to create room to be playful with your lover. Go on a date. Rent a hotel. Do what you need to do.
Yes, children are precious and important. Love them. But they shouldn’t always be taking priority over your significant other. In that way, they are a distraction, and one that’s very easy to get lost in. The health of your primary relationship should (at least some of the time) come first.
Going several months without 1-on-1 dates should never happen. Because, remember, your relationship deserves prioritization and an active sense of gratitude.
2. Maintain your own individual lives
As couples form, people tend to lose their individual identity and become enmeshed to form a singular blob. Their individual interests and private time evaporate. They start making constant compromises to appease the other. They become inseparable in the wrong ways.
When we stop doing things to feed our sense of individuality, and develop ourselves, a core piece of sexual attraction gets eliminated.
This makes the difference between wanting and having your partner.
Wanting creates polarity and interest. The feeling of having creates comfort and complacency.
When you first start seeing someone, it’s the mystery and separateness you feel that creates such a magnetic pull.
You can keep this feeling by maintaining your own lives and creating a healthy distance. Make your own dinner plans, have close friends, be in a men’s/women’s group, take a course by yourself, book a trip for just yourself and/or other friends.
Focusing on individuality keeps a sense of flow and aliveness in the relationship – like riding a moving river, rather than floating in a stagnant pond.
3. Report your mind
Interest in sex can be killed when either partner isn’t voicing particular thoughts and feelings, and stubbornly harbours even the smallest resentments.
Without being voiced and cleared out, these things stack up like bricks in a wall between you.
“Reporting your mind” looks like sitting down, with no distractions, and saying the things that aren’t being said. The things you say don’t have to be rational, or spark discussion. It’s just about saying things out loud and getting the chance to air certain parts of yourself.
Usually, once you do, you see that a lot of it might not even be true, but just the voice of an old wound, or trigger. While other things might spark really important conversations that you’ve been avoiding.
Most of the time, the things we need to report are the result of so many communication errors through the course of a week. They could be unmet expectations, unheard desires, misunderstandings, or times where you felt off in the moment but either weren’t about to speak up in the moment, or didn’t think it was worth mentioning. But everything adds up!
After doing this a few times, you will notice a dramatic shift in the quality of intimacy and connection between you.
Exactly how long you do it for, and the structure you use, will depend on what works best for both of you. But here’s a general format on how to report your mind:
- Set aside at least 30 minutes where you both know you can be fully present and focused on each other.
- Start by taking a moment to connect with each other. This could look like a quick round of eye-gazing, holding hands, etc. Any way that brings your focus to that person and pulls up your thoughts and feelings.
- Each person gets 10 minutes to speak without interruption. What you say could be anything from moments of upset to moments of appreciation, or hopes, worries and fears, but the point is to stick with more of what’s getting in the way of feeling more connected.
- Neither person is allowed to take a defensive or attacking tone. Keep it healthy and objective. Stick with the facts of what happened and how you felt about them.
- The partner listening stays silent and non-reactive
- If you’re feeling stuck, try repeatedly completing the sentence, “Something I want you to know is…”
- Once both people have gone, take another few minutes each to speak without interruption. To clear new things that have arisen, or voice responses to what’s been said.
- Before completing, ask if there’s anything that was brought up that needs to be furthered, or promises that can be made.
- Finish with a long embrace (recommended minimum is 30 seconds to a minute)
For more on this step, I’d recommend checking out my articles Clearing: The Single Greatest Connection Exercise For Couples, and 5 Questions To Ask Your Partner For Better Sex.
4. Explicitly talk about your sexual needs
Leaning into being direct about your sexual needs has many benefits. It requires you to step into your power and ask for something, and let go of any shame surrounding your desires. It pulls you out of the default setting in relationship, which is running on autopilot and engaging in covert contracts. We expect our partner to read our mind (which is an understandable regression to childhood when our parents seemingly read our minds) as to the things we want to do, and see, or how we like to be loved.
When we’re not honest about our fantasies, or forthcoming with our dark sexual energy, it ends up creating a dam, which looks for an outlet in pornography, fantasizing about other people, or any other number of ways that people leak their relationship energy toward something outside of the relationship.
Open the floodgates and bring this stuff back to your relationship. We want to feel like our partners are on our side in fulfilling our sexual fantasies. Simple sexualized conversation like this is often enough to get the juices flowing. It’s just that so many of us are trained to not talk about it openly.
Talk with your partner about what you would like to do, and what fantasies you have that turn you on. What have you not explored that you want to, or want to explore again?
Even if your partner can’t help you with that fantasy, or isn’t comfortable with actually doing it, they can dirty talk with you and walk through imagining the scene play out with you, which is insanely hot. The safety and willingness you feel from them will make you want to fuck their brains out.
5. Incorporate more of your senses
Mindfulness combats the numbness and superficiality of the conventional world, which trains us for overstimulation and novelty. This is especially the case if you regularly consume pornography. It’s all visual stimulation. And, if you have been a porn user for any considerable length of time, you’ll notice you tend to need a larger amount of more intense porn over time to keep getting off.
Get yourself out of the routine of sex and escalation, and get back to true sensuality. Explore your partner’s body like you did in the beginning. Discover their shoulders and lips again for the first time.
Think deeper instead of wilder, and quality over quantity.
Recreating your sexual spark doesn’t have to mean buying a bunch of kink gear and building a dungeon (but it definitely can). Sinking deeper into the experience and the simplest stimulation of every sense can reawaken your sexuality.
Start stroking each other with a single finger, and slowly bring in a second, then a third, then your whole hand. Smell their hair, feel the temperature of their skin. Let their sensual breaths kiss your ear. In other words, truly slow down and be with them.
6. Get to know each other better
Remember how I said taking someone for granted and a lack of curiosity kills eroticism? This is a good antidote.
Once people start acting like they know everything about each other, they eliminate the sense of novelty around their partner, and stop taking so much of an interest in them.
People are not fixed. We’re constantly moving, flowing, evolving and changing. That is, especially, when the two people in question are growth-minded individuals (which is likely if you clicked on this article and have read this far down the page).
Here’s a list of questions you can ask to rediscover who you’re with. This experience is best when done out on a date.
- What are you learning right now?
- How do you feel you have changed in the last year?
- What is your biggest goal?
- What does the perfect life look like to you, and how has that changed over time?
- What do you want to do that you haven’t done?
- What’s something you’ve never told me?
- What do you need from me right now?
- What are five things you’re grateful for?
- What would you do if you found a winning lottery ticket for 500 million dollars?
As your partner answers these questions, make sure that you aren’t listening through the subconscious filters of ‘Yeah, yeah, I already know what you’re going to say…’… but rather, hear them as if it’s the first thing you have ever heard them say. Truly be present with their words. See them anew, in every moment.
7. Take turns doing ‘Spoiling Sessions’
A spoiling session is a dedicated amount of time where one partner gets to have whatever they want done to them/on them/for them (as long the other partner consents and is comfortable with it.)
As far as what happens, when it happens, where it happens, and for how long – that’s all up to you and your desires! You get to choose if it’s in the bathtub, the kitchen, the bed, or the floor, as well as what smells, what candles, what music, and what both of you are wearing.
Literally everything is up to you to design. Get very, very specific. What time will this happen? How will the room be set up? What props will your partner use? What will you be doing and what will they be doing?
It’s a fantastic opportunity to let yourself value and prioritize your pleasure, and actually ask for it to be honoured.
Leading into it, make sure you prepare yourself and your space to be de-stressed, de-cluttered, and that you feel fit to sensually open.
It’s always good to voice what you don’t want to have happen. Set some boundaries so your partner can more comfortably play within them. Maybe you don’t feel like being spanked or receiving firm touch, or being dirty talked, or having your nipples touched because they’re more sensitive. It’s all up to you.
You can do spoiling sessions as frequently as you want. But I recommend using this at least as a weekly exchange. If your lives are busy, pick one hour on a certain day and have one partner go one week, and the other goes the next.
For a deeper dive and more inspiration, read my full article on spoiling sessions here.
8. Keep a relationship bucket list
Start a running list of things you want to do together in your relationship, and it put it somewhere you can both see it. This can range from simple date night activities to seeing crocodiles in the Amazon.
You should both contribute to the list, so that both of your ideas are accounted for, and you cross something out after you’ve done it (but keep the crossed out things visible/on the list so you can rejoice in all of the memories that you have as a result of having written it down in the first place).
It’s important to feed your individual lives and be your own people, but then feeding your relationship by growing together and experiencing mutual novelty is also important.
My partner and I have used this to great effect. Some of the entries on our relationship bucket list (which we refer to as our ‘Love List’) have been ‘Do a week long tantra/sexuality couples retreat somewhere beautiful’, ‘Get a side by side couples massage in the same room’, ‘Go to Paris’, and ‘Learn how to make five new dinners this year.’ Again, the sky’s the limit.
9. Keep a relationship ‘fuck-it’ list
Start a second list of all the things you want to do together sexually. Really lean into your sexual growth edges for this one, and do things that arouse yet challenge you.
Sure, you could simply include your sexual desires in your relationship bucket list, but in my experience, many couples benefit from having a place where they have that much more explicit permission to write selfishly about their sexual fantasies, desires, and curiosities.
- Having the more submissive partner get bound and teased
- Film your own porn together
- Visit a sex club in a foreign country
- Massage each other with oil for an extended period of time (with each person having their own dedicated evenings of focus)
- Have a threesome
- Try analingus for the first time
- Have sex secretly in public
- Watch your partner self-pleasure
How “wild” and “tame” anything is will be subjective. All you can do is open a dialogue with your partner and follow your own edges. If you feel a little unsure about something, no need to rush into it. Let yourself feel it out for a few days. But, fuck it, you do only live once…
10. Schedule it
Okay, so you know what you want to do. Now actually SCHEDULE it into your life. Pick one of these tips (reporting your mind, creating a ‘fuck it’ list, doing spoiling sessions, etc.) and talk with your partner and write it down at a specific time on a specific day.
All the ideas in the world are useless until they’re put into action. As mentioned in the first point, beat back the distractions of life and our crazy schedules, and prioritize your partner and your sex life. If you don’t, time will continue to fly by without any progress being made, and you’ll be searching the internet six months from now trying to find different answers to this same question.
That’s really it.
A lot of what keeps the sexual spark alive could be boiled down to communication, curiosity, and effort.
Be curious about what your partner wants, and what you want. Make time to talk about it, and put in the effort to be proactive about meeting those needs. It’s making the time to practice where most people slip up. I promise that once you get started, you won’t want to stop!
Dedicated to your success,
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