5 Ways to Keep the Fire Alive in Your Relationship When You've Been Together For So Long
Miya Yamanouchi at YourTango gives her expert opinion on relationships.
Not lusting over your long-term lover anymore?
When a couple has been in a relationship for so long, the sexual attraction can diminish.
But it doesn't have to.
Our mind is programmed to take notice of new things. So when things remain the same, our attentiveness diminishes and we turn our attention elsewhere. This is referred to by psychologists as the process of habituation.
Yes, the mind notices differences.
When things stay the same, the mind tunes out because our trusty brains don't actually register things that don't change. And our bodies, well they tend to be oblivious to anything that isn't likely to make a difference to us (a.k.a be something new).
When we've seen our lover naked so many times, we become completely desensitized to the visual, despite the fact that the first time they undressed, the display was highly titillating.
Remember back in limerence (the "honeymoon phase" of your relationship) when your lover seemed like a surreal dream you simply couldn't keep your mind, eyes, and hands off of?
When their touch was intoxicating and you couldn't get enough of that feeling of a drug-like high you would get from merely being in their company?
When being beside them gave you butterflies, watching their call come through on your phone made you feel like a million dollars, kissing them swept away to another place and time, and sex made you giddy with oxytocin (the love drug)?
Well, I'm guessing if you're reading this, those feelings are now nothing more than a fragment of the past, a memory that you hold on to and wonder where those precious and insatiable moments went and how can you possibly reclaim them.
And you know it's not that your lover has lost their sex appeal, in general. Neither of you has had a decrease in your libido or sex drive.
And you know this because others find them as mesmerizing and irresistible as you once did — strangers can't keep their eyes off your lover, just wishing to be in the place that you have the privilege to be in.
Yet, you just don't feel those same feelings of lust and desire you used to. And you want it back, ever so desperately, but you question whether it is possible at this point.
In her 2013 Ted Talk, world-renowned sex therapist and sex researcher Esther Perel perfectly puts it all into perspective in summarizing our sexual expectations in committed long-term relationships:
"So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe, all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it's a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that."
Perel then goes on to share her research findings on interviewing thousands of men and women on the topic of long-term sexual desire from 20 countries across the globe.
To summarize her findings, here are 5 things you need to know to reignite passion and sexual attraction in your long-term relationship.
1. Understand the ingredients of sexual attraction in order to recreate them.
The main elements of sexual attraction include:
- The unknown
- The unexpected
2. Have time apart.
It has to be long enough to be able to imagine being with your partner. Know that absence and longing are critical elements of desire.
When we are attracted to someone, our imagination conjures up thoughts of what it would be like to be with them, to express a sexual moment with them. But, when we are with our loving partner, we stop imagining.
That's why being away from them for a long enough time to begin imagining again how it would look like and feel to be with them — and recreating the scenarios in our mind — is essential.
3. Be out of sight and out of reach.
We are most drawn to our lover when they are just a little out of our sight and reach.
You know, when you attend a social function together and you see them mingling with others across the room and you suddenly feel an urge to take them to the bathroom and do bad things to them?
And this can even be an energetic thing as well, like when they are in the same room as you but are focusing on something entirely different like being on the phone or deeply engrossed in their work?
It makes you want to naughtily distract them, doesn't it? But contrastingly, when they're giving you their full attention, the challenge is gone.
4. See your partner in their element.
Think back to those times when you've seen your lover doing something they are highly skilled at and exuding radiance and confidence. We are automatically attracted to that.
It's when we are seeing them in their element, that they return to being a mystery to us, an elusive being that we desire to get close to.
Our usually familiar partner, at that moment, becomes a separate entity to us and that is what makes them sexually appealing. The great French writer, Marcel Proust, once said, "Mystery is not about traveling to new places, but it's about looking with new eyes."
So when you look upon your lover when they are on their own, passionately engaged and focussed on something, you instantly see them in a different light, through an altered perspective, enabling you to remain, as Esther Perel puts in, "open to the mysteries that are living right next to me."
5. Become independent of your lover on all levels.
There is nothing sexy about someone who is needy, we all know that. In desire, there is no neediness.
Perel describes care-taking as a "powerful anti-aphrodisiac." Make sure you make yourself as independent as you can to enable optimum desire.
So now that you know how to kick-start your desire for your long-term love, if you implement all these into practice over a period of time and still you feel nothing, consider talking to your partner about an open or polyamorous relationship style.