You’ve been together years and know each other inside out. You love each other – but hardly ever have sex. In day-to-day life you are simply juggling too many things – work, children and then housework. At the end of the day, you just want to sleep – sexual adventures aren’t part of your life anymore. But of course, as a consequence sex in long-term relationships becomes increasingly rare, or even tails off completely. However, sex is an integral part of a relationship, otherwise it’s just a close friendship. So, what do you do when the passion disappears? We’ve investigated, and put together some tips for you.
Day-to-day life and passion are not usually great bedfellows
It’s so easy, and yet so hard. You love each other, generally even more deeply than in the early days of the relationship. But all of your other obligations mean you don’t have any time – neither for yourself, nor for each other – or your head is full of so many other things. Day-to-day life, stress and routine are real desire killers. Gradually the sexual urge tails off. And at some point, you simply forget to have sex with each other. And then suddenly it’s weeks or even months (maybe even years) since the last time.
While there might be other reasons for having less sex, like hormonal imbalance or discomfort when having sex, a lack of desire caused by stress is often responsible for the drought. Men have “caught up” in the last ten to fifteen years when it comes to lack of sexual desire, however, it tends to be women who are affected by a drop in libido. Women between the age of 35 and 50, who are trying to juggle children and career, and are therefore at a very stressful time of life, are particularly affected. Some studies claim that one in two women in this age group complain about problems with desire.
When it comes to sex, women are intrinsically more sensitive than men. Men generally only need to think about sex to feel desire. It’s more complicated for women. In relationships, the context needs to be right. In other words, women want consideration, respect, affection and attentiveness. If they don’t get that, women simply don’t want to have sex, particularly if they feel like they’ve been reduced to nothing more than sex. If women feel that they always have to work at everything, this leads to stress, and consequently to a lack of sexual desire.
The result is often a differing sexual appetite within a relationship: the man wants it, the woman doesn’t really. Women consent to sex because they feel bad, and because of the idea, still strongly rooted, that women can only find sexual satisfaction by fulfilling a man’s desires. This turns sex into a chore, another obligation – which of course doesn’t really help! So, a little shout-out to the men out there: if your partner doesn’t want to have sex, don’t put them under pressure and don’t worry that they don’t love you anymore. Talk about it, and make time for each other!
As a general rule, there’s no normal when it comes to how often you should have sex. It depends on each couple. But surveys show that having sex once a week is ideal for a happy life. Couples who sleep together more often are no happier. However, couples who have sex less frequently are unhappier. The key factor for how often you have sex is how long you’ve been together. The longer you’ve been together, the less you desire sex.
How the different relationship phases affect your sex life
A relationship doesn’t stay the same as it was in the early days. Like people, relationships develop over the years, as do the associated sex routines – highs and lows included. Psychologically, a romantic relationship can be roughly divided into four phases:
1. Honeymoon phase
During this phase we still see everything through rose-tinted glasses. We think about our partner practically the entire day and can hardly wait until we see them again. Couples have sex more often than later on, and find it hard to keep their hands off each other. New couples have sex on average two to three times a week. However, after 12 to 24 months at most, the concentration of hormones responsible for the increased libido declines, and sex happens less often. In the next relationship stage, long-term couples have sex on average 12 to 50 times a year.
2. Familiarisation phase
The second phase begins when the couple builds a day-to-day life together. Everything is worked out; some kind of routine develops – and unfortunately most of us let ourselves go. We make less and less of an effort around our partner and succumb to comfort. This frequently leads to everyday sex. This is where partners agree on the lowest common denominator for sex. In this phase, women in particular lose their desire for sex. This is as a result of day-to-day stress and feeling that they are being taken for granted by their partner.
3. Rediscovery phase
This stage of a relationship is full of opportunities, but is also a difficult time. Couples need discipline and patience by the bucket load. It is really important to make time for each other – both for sex and for communication. Rediscover your partner and reinvigorate your relationship. Patience is particularly important – give your partner time and don’t force them. We’ve got a couple of tips for this relationship phase later on.
4. Final phase (yes, that really is what it’s called)
The final relationship phase is linked to the age of your partner. It refers to the period when you grow old together. Women have their menopause behind them and are usually more hormonally balanced, while the male hormonal balance has also generally levelled off. But just because we generally calm down as we age, that doesn’t mean you don’t desire sex anymore: around 30 percent of the over 80s that are in a relationship still have regular sex.
So exactly how do you achieve this balanced sex life with your partner? The rediscovery phase is the important element here – and we’ve got a few tips to help you with it.
How to re-ignite the flame
Some of you might not want to hear this, but you have to regularly work at yourself and your relationship to sustain sexual desire. Yes, it’s work, yes, it’s demanding. A relationship is not 50/50 – it’s 100/100. You need to be at peace with yourself to be able to be there for your partner and have an impact of some kind on your side of the relationship. All our obligations and often also self-induced stress mean we can forget that a relationship doesn’t just work by itself. You can’t just leave it be, invest nothing in it, but then expect everything to always be perfect.
Think back to the start of your relationship and everything you did for each other. The small gestures and attentions in particular show your partner how much they mean to you. So here are a couple of tips to help you re-ignite the flame for each other:
- Flirt with each other from time to time. Touch each other, stroke or massage your partner. Put your arms round each other – this creates intimacy and closeness.
- Don’t take your other half for granted! Thank them for managing the housework and just ask what you can do to help. Saying thank you shows that you see and value their efforts.
- Surprise your partner every now and then. Whether it’s a bunch of flowers or a homemade meal – small attentions emphasise how much you appreciate your partner.
- If you have children, it’s also important to enjoy some child-free time. Consciously spend time with each other without your mobiles or any other distractions. Maybe try something new. Make it a regular date, a fixed habit, just for the two of you.
- And we can’t say it often enough: talk openly and honestly to each other. Listen. Try to understand your partner’s side of things, or ask questions. Consciously sit down with your partner and discuss your relationship.
And this is the secret to long-term relationships where the couple still have sex even after years together. Both partners continually work on themselves and on their relationship with each other. They make time for each other, are attentive, don’t take their partner for granted and discover new things together. This maintains the emotional connection that makes both partners feel secure. And in turn, means they still desire one another.
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