It's such a familiar story in long-term relationships.
You love each other, but you've lost "that passion you used to have." You're more like friends than lovers, and you're not quite sure how to start rekindling intimacy.
Loss of sexual desire and intimacy is one of the most common reason couples seek help in Sex Therapy.
So how do we sustain passion and desire?
How do we keep that spark, along with love alive?
Firstly, know that changed desire levels are normal and this doesn't necessarily spell disaster or mean that your sex life is over for good.
We often have a belief that desire should remain at the same, constant level throughout the relationship. But the truth is, it will fluctuate over time.
When we move into a new relationship, we're flooded with hormones and endorphins that mean we can't get enough of each other. Our libidos go through the roof. However, when we've been together for 18 months to 3 years, these hormones start to flatten out. It's common for sexual desire to drop at this point.
The challenge many couples face is that as these desire levels settle, they can often settle at different points to that of their partner. It's usually not low desire itself that's the problem - it's each partner having different desire levels.
Loving, passionate couples know this is just another area to be navigated and explored together.
Relationships need effort and attention. Our sex lives need that too.
Sexual desire needs to be nurtured and cultivated, and we also need to pay attention to the surrounding conditions so it can thrive.
Here are 5 ways loving, passionate couples sustain their passion and desire:
1. Maintain a thriving friendship
Staying intimate and connected outside the bedroom is vitally important to intimacy in the bedroom. Your overall relationship satisfaction will affect your sexual desire.
- Stay good friends
- Don't let tension or resentment build (they do nothing for libido)
- Make time to spend together as friends and lovers
2. Practice equality
Although power play in the bedroom (think 50 Shades of Grey) can be fun, an overall equal power balance is important in relationship satisfaction and sexual desire.
Couples who work together and have equal say in decision making have happier relationships and are shown to have higher sexual desire than those where one partner has more control.
Research has also found that sharing household chores equally leads to more frequent sex. So there's a good reason to help each other to do the washing up at night!
3. Make time for sex
To maintain passion and desire, sex needs to be a priority. Our lives can be so busy that if we wait for sex to 'just happen' we can be waiting a long time.
I know it doesn't sound very spontaneous or romantic, but scheduling "sex dates" can help. Set aside time for sex when you know you won't be rushed and aren't too tired.
4. Don't wait for desire to arise spontaneously -- encourage it
We sometimes have a belief that desire should "just happen" but that is a myth. We need to encourage and nurture desire.
Get yourself into a sexual state of mind. Perhaps by planning what you'd like to do, talking about it with your partner or buying yourself some lingerie or something that makes you feel sexy.
We can also find that, although we may not have been 'in the mood' to begin with, if we start intimacy without our partner, the response is often increased desire.
And remember to woo and seduce your partner. Don't get into bed when you're both tired and expect fireworks to happen.
5. Enjoy variety and expect your sex life to change
If you're not enjoying the sex you are having, you're not going to want to have it again anytime soon. So don't let yourselves get stuck in a routine.
Maintaining novelty is important to keeping the passion alive so be willing to experiment and try new things together, making sure you're both enjoying yourselves.
Let go of expectations of what your sex life 'should' look like and focus on just enjoying yourselves.
Maintain positive, realistic expectations of sex and understand it will evolve throughout your life. When we're okay with that, we can find new ways of maintaining intimacy, passion, and desire together.