A waning sexual connection can be one of the toughest challenges of a long term relationship. Yet, while it is a common issue, some couples remain sexually content or manage to revive their chemistry. What have couples who report being sexually satisfied figured out? What are they doing that allows connection to so easily flow between them?
Let’s explore some of the basic fundamentals that most healthy couples in long-term relationships share:
- They talk about sex: Both people are comfortable talking about sexuality in general. Either person can easily bring up needs, desires and wants as well as fears, dislikes, and frustrations. Sex can be easily discussed just like any other topic and it doesn’t create tension or anxiety between them.
- They don’t focus on imperfections: They tend to not have any major incompatibilities and are able to manage any minor incompatibilities. They do not allow those incompatibilities to become the central focus of how they relate; instead the mismatches become part of the experience and they learn to work through them. For instance; if one person has a stronger desire for more frequent sex, they work around this struggle without letting the difference dominate.
- They are present during sex: Both people are able to be erotically embodied and present in their bodies during sex. Erotic embodiment means feeling connected, comfortable and aware of the body sexually. There is also an ability to bring this forward when engaging with one another. Each person can let go of other life distractions and be with one another.
- They are open to trying new things: Both are willing to explore unfamiliar options in their sexual experiences and face the risk of discovering something new outside their routine; knowing fully that this new path runs the risk of awkwardness or not knowing quite what to do. This fear of “getting it wrong,” exploring something that didn’t work or being embarrassed doesn’t hold them back.
- They make sex a priority: There is a high value placed on connecting sexually and there is an overall motivation to stay erotically connected. They both feel sex matters and feel that the sexual closeness distinguishes “this relationship” from the other relationships in their lives.
- They know how to move into sex: There has been a creation of ritual or rituals that allows them to enter into a sexual space together. The rituals stand as a clear separating line between the non-sexual moving towards sexual. This is different than initiating sex, it’s a shift that occurs before the initiation. It’s a look, a touch, a tone of the voice that says, “ok, tonight,” “Yes, I want us to be together.” They welcome routines, predictable codes, and signs of availability as subtle signs that sex will happen.
- They don’t think maintenance sex is a chore: A mutual agreement has been made that there needs to be a good amount of maintenance sex. Healthy erotic couples have managed the transition from passionate and spontaneous lustful sex to intentional sexuality, and they treat the intentional sexuality as creative work – rather than a chore. Both people are willing to engage in sex when they are not “really” turned-on, knowing the connection will feel good once they start to get turned-on. They sense that connecting sexually will feel good and they will encourage themselves to get into the erotic space. More on that here.
- They are receptive to each other: Initiating sex is easy for both people – there is interest and motivation coming from both sides to engage sexually together and both people feel comfortable making the first move. This holds true regardless of how the first move is made. For example, in couples who like to play in power dynamics, even though the dominant person will make more decisions about what goes on during actual play, both people can invite one another into play.
- They are comfortable setting boundaries: There is freedom in the relationship to decline sex without it feeling rejected. Saying “no” to sex simply means – “not now” or “not tonight” – but could easily mean “yes” at another time or “yes” to another way of connecting.
- They hold a sense of admiration for one another, not just respect: They see the other person fully as the other. There is a deep respect for freedom and otherness. They respect and can balance the subtlety between togetherness and autonomy.
- They want their partner to be happy: They are able to rejoice in the happiness of the other even if it has nothing to do with them. They do not feel left out or hurt if the other is enjoying individual success or receiving praise or attention.
- They have realistic expectations: They do not buy into the romantic idea of “you are the only one that does it all for me – all the time.” They also have a level of understanding and awareness that one’s erotic energy is found everywhere and permeates the relationship without creating problems. Meaning, the acknowledgement of attraction to others is accepted. There is space where each person can be energized by their own erotic interest.
- They respect each other’s privacy: Both people respect one another’s erotic privacy and understand there are parts of each other’s inner worlds that the other does not have access to and this is ok. There is a sense of respect and trust around each other’s private inner world.
- They ask questions instead of judging each other: There is no major judgement about who the other person is and how they go about their day to day life, which allows for a general sense of flow. There is a clear sense of connection and fluidity energetically between the two people. Meaning, there is ease in how they move, talk and interact in the world when with one another because they are honoring and embracing who the other is.
Did you read through this list and feel like you are missing some key qualities that allow for sexual satisfaction to easily flow between you and your partner? You are not alone. Many people report sexual dissatisfaction in their relationship.
There may be other ways you connect that are not listed, but if you are wanting to improve on some of these points, the first step would be to identify from the list above ways in which you and your partner want to improve. For example, let’s say it’s the first point — when you are you partner have some alone time, ask them why they feel it’s so difficult for you two to openly discuss sex. Be open to what they are saying and see if you can also share why it’s difficult for you. Hint: it can be very useful here to share something about how you were raised to think and talk about sex. Often, the struggle to openly discuss sexual topics started very early on in life with subliminal messages that sex is private and shameful. In just discussing why it is difficult, you are starting the process.