Early in relationships, couples are often very passionate. New lovers may obsessively think about each other and be consumed by desire to be together. The stereotype is this desire goes away over time and that passion isn't sustainable. But many people are able to maintain a satisfying, active sex life over the long haul. What makes that possible?

The science of love

There is a time limit on the manic, obsessive phase of attraction. When we first fall for someone, our brains are flooded with dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. When we see or hear our crush, it doses us with these monoamines, just like taking a hit of a drug. But we become acclimated over time. Crazed feelings of attraction fade after 18-24 months, but hopefully are replaced by something more substantive that was built in the meantime. Passion can be retained, but it looks different after intimacy has replaced novelty.

Comparison is useless

We cannot return to how a relationship used to be -back when we didn't know each other and didn't have all these shared experiences. It's also important to note that ebbs and flows in desire are completely normal: even the best couples have hard times and dry spells.

Expectations need to be realistic about what people can do, what bodies look like, and the limitations that come with aging. Be adaptable and adjust accordingly.

You may not have needed lube before, but now you do. Oh well, get some lube. You may have previously been able to have an erection last for an hour, but now it's briefer, if at all: ok, find other ways to show affection and look into buying toys.

Just because you can't have sex the same way you always did doesn't mean it's time to throw in the towel. Be adventurous: there are no limits to the ways we can find pleasure and share intimacy.

There's also only so much to gain from looking at other relationships, even our own previous ones. Comparison is rarely helpful because situations are always different and we lack enough data. It's impossible to know the inner workings in other couples, no matter how close we are. Ultimately, there's no One Size Fits All solution for satisfactory, sustainable sex. The key is finding what works best for our current needs in particular. And that first requires identifying our needs.

What's your sexual mission statement?

Your sex life is a mutual investment. Then it's not about who owes whom or who has more power. Commit to putting effort towards a sexual relationship that nourishes both of you. That includes:

  • Identify and voice your desires, be brave enough to share the stuff that might not be immediately welcomed. Be as receptive as possible, assume good will and be open to try new things, as long as they don't make you feel bad.
  • Prioritize and make time for each other, treating the relationship with reverence. Plants wither if they don't get watered. They grow best when tended.
  • Busy? Schedule dates and sex. We plan parties all the time, it doesn't make them less fun. It's something to look forward to.
  • Compartmentalize roles: remember that this person is your lover, even though they may also be your roommate or co-parent.
  • Find opportunities for spontaneous make out sessions. Even if it can't go further than kissing, seize on chances to be physically passionate.
  • Have plenty of Me Time: prioritize self-care to be the best version of yourself.
  • Woo each other. Love is decision we remake every day. Keep devoting energy to seducing your partner, even if they haven't done anything for you lately. Someone has to get the ball rolling. Send flirty messages during the day, buy small but meaningful tokens of affection for no reason, or offer a backrub without the expectation of reciprocation.
  • Keep some degree of mystery and decorum. Farting or peeing in front of each other might mean there's comfort, but it also means a degree of desexualization.
  • Mix it up. It's easy to find a 1-2-3 sexual method that works over and over, but this leads to boredom and being stuck in ruts. Instead of ticking off a checklist, approach every session like you've arrived at a playground, excited and full of creativity.
  • Come up with a Bucket List of things you want to accomplish together. They can be exotic trips, short adventures, kinky experiments, or just date activities that you've never tried.
  • Be individuals with separate interests, spending enough time apart. It gives you something to talk about when you meet up again.

Maintaining sexual passion is about approach: being collaborative, communicative, adventurous, and focusing on pleasure and intimacy instead of emphasizing goals and doing things "right." Your partner is your teammate and you can support each other to make the game last as long as possible.

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Dr. Timaree Schmit earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University, where she now trains future sexologists and clinicians. Her passion is bringing rational, empirically-based, sex-positive information to the world, empowering others to celebrate their bodies, build intimacy and experience pleasure. 

She has an award-winning podcast, "Sex with Timaree", and hosts a BYOB sex ed, comedy/game show "DTF: Darryl and Timaree Fun Hour" which can be seen every second Friday at the Franky Bradley's (1320 Chancellor St.)