Sexual desire naturally fluctuates, but many partners and couples struggle to accept the inevitable fall in sexual frequency and desire following the initial romantic love stage of a relationship. Sexual desire often comes willingly and easily in the early stages of a relationship, and many couples are left unprepared to initiate more active efforts to maintain desire and sexual fulfillment in later phases of a long-term partnership. As a result, too many partners feel undesired and fall into perpetual cycles of avoidance that constrain sexual desire.
It is hurtful to feel undesired, and it can be a powerful turn-off. However, it is rarely the case that partners fully lose desire for each other. Instead, lack of open communication and awareness of sexual preferences leaves many partners afraid, unwilling, or unaware of how they can renew desire and rectify their sexual relationship. You can either sink into avoidance and resentment of this issue or take action into your own hands to benefit you, your partner and your relationship.
What you can do:
- Discuss your likes and dislikes.
In the beginning of a relationship, we are less picky about our partners — from poor cleanliness habits to preferred activities in the bedroom. Because detailed discussions of sex are often conveyed as taboo in our culture, many partners are unaware of what a significant other actually likes and dislikes sexually.
An important and easy way to increase desire is to increase the pleasure received by sexual interactions with your partner. You can take it upon yourself to initiate a discussion of sexual practices that you like, dislike, are curious about, and are completely turned off by. You can also communicate your expectations for sexual frequency. This gives your partner a chance to correct behaviors that turn you off and increase efforts to turn you on. It also gives you the opportunity to learn more ways you can please your partner and foster a more sexually fulfilling experience.
- Educate yourself.
Men and women respond differently to sexual arousal and desire, but we all long to be desired. Educate yourself on anatomy, ways to introduce playfulness, and why sexual desire naturally fluctuates. This can normalize your experience, reducing shame and increasing your comfort with talking about sexual preferences.
- Communicate your desire.
Many partners feel scared to initiate sex if they do not feel like their partners desire them. This often leads to avoidance of sexual activity with both partners waiting for the other to make the first move. Stop trying to read your partner’s mind, and avoid making assumptions about how he or she feels about you. If you desire your partner, it is your responsibility to directly communicate it.
You can also communicate to your partner how he or she makes you feel desired. Do you feel desired when your partner compliments your looks? Do you feel desired when your partner does a favor for you, such as cooking dinner or vacuuming? Give your partner a fighting chance to light your passion in a world of variable turn-ons and turn-offs.
- Aspire to novelty, not spontaneity.
Make it happen, do not just wait for it to happen. Rather than trying to replicate the more spontaneous style of physical intimacy that existed in the early stage of your relationship, try to introduce new turn-ons and sexual activities into your usual routine. Ideas should naturally come to you after discussing your partner’s likes and dislikes, and it is up to you to communicate your curiosity, openness, and desire to please your partner.
Sometimes partners, especially women, are mentally aroused before they are physically aroused, and it is through physical acts of foreplay that sexual desire grows. Use physical touch to foster connection and feelings of attachment. You need to feel safe and like you are not simply following a routine to give desire room to grow. Building trust in your partner can make you more adventurous in the bedroom.
Two of the biggest killers of desire are self-expectation and self-judgment. Often, it is not that your partner lacks desire for you but simply the fear that your partner does not desire you that constrains many partners from overcoming sexual ruts. Work on making you desirable to you before assuming that your partner does not desire you. Practice meditation, yoga, and mindfulness techniques to quiet your mind and help you stay in the moment during sexual activities. Try using a gratitude journal or positive affirmations to increase positive self-talk.
Not only does self-judgment create a turn-off for you, but it can also negatively affect your partner’s desire. Rejection of yourself means rejecting a partner who loves you and finds you desirable. If you constantly rebuff your partner’s compliments and efforts to be physically intimate with you, he or she will be conditioned to stop trying and may even think that you find him or her undesirable.
It is okay to communicate your anxiety and share your efforts to deal with shame, but your partner is not responsible for eradicating all self-expectation and self-judgment. Maintaining sexual desire in a relationship depends on maintaining desire and respect in yourself.
Written by: Meghan Emerson, MSFMT