There’s a reason people call the beginning of a relationship the “honeymoon period.” In those early days or weeks of a relationship, sexual intimacy is often akin to indulging in an all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet. One simple look, and you’re both raring to go (and go). Once many couples get past the initial infatuation and discovery phase, though, they’re met with dwindling sexual intimacy. In long-term relationships, life’s stresses and obligations—chores, finances, kids—invariably start to take priority over rolling in the hay. That said, just because a sex life that goes from sizzling to fizzling is normal doesn't mean that you should be resigned to accept it.
Sexual intimacy is essential for the long-term success of all romantic relationships at all stages. But how do you keep things fresh as time goes on, and won’t it be awkward to talk about? Check out the following tips for opening the conversation with your partner and ensuring you have a satisfying sex life for a long, long time.
Identify Your (and Your Partner’s) Sexual Desire Type
First up, be honest with yourself. Who’s the person initiating sex most of the time? And who’s the one who most often rejects such “advances”? While you may be tempted to brush this off as simply a case of unavoidable, mismatched levels of sexual desire, the truth is that it goes way deeper than that. As it turns out, that person in the relationship who’s often “not feeling it today” may not have low libido levels (although this is always worth checking out) but instead, primarily experience a type of sexual desire known as “responsive sexual desire.”
According to sex researcher Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., in her book Come As You Are, there are two primary types of sexual desire: spontaneous and responsive. Spontaneous desire is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the urge for sex that seemingly hits out of nowhere that ends up with mid-day romps, sneaky escapades to the restroom, and quickies on the counter. Responsive desire, on the other hand, refers to sexual desire that comes in response to (or after) sexual activity has already (note: consensually) started. So, to sum it up: spontaneous desire is mental arousal first, physical arousal second, with responsive desire being the other way around.
So, you primarily experience spontaneous desire – while your partner primarily experiences responsive desire. Or vice versa or you both primarily experience responsive desire. Now what?
Make Sex a Priority
To bridge this difference in sexual desire types, one non-negotiable “to-do” would be prioritizing sex. How? As un-sexy as it sounds, scheduling your sexy time in advance is one of the best ways to ensure more regular sexual intimacy. That’s because it gives the individual with the responsive desire the time and space needed to seek out arousal tools (e.g., masturbation, CBD lubes, sexting, and erotica literature) that’ll help them get in the mood. It also eliminates any excuses due to busy work schedules or kids’ activities.
Also, clearing time—ideally, more than 45 minutes—from your schedules helps reassure the party with a responsive desire that they don’t have to dive right into doing the deed. But, instead, they can look forward to a more prolonged foreplay session involving showering together, kissing, experimenting with pleasure tools, etc. Still, if the idea of pre-planning sex puts off either you or your partner, consider scheduling date nights instead. Still, always make your intentions clear: would you both be okay with having sex post-date-night? Is sexual intimacy on the table? Just remember, either party always maintains the right to say no (regardless of their sexual desire type!).
Open Communication and Trust are Key
Communication is vital in a relationship—and that doesn't change when it comes to sexual intimacy. If you feel dissatisfied with your sex life, do make it a point to talk about and address it instead of stewing in disdain for your partner. Share your likes, dislikes, and expectations; take this as an opportunity to learn more about pleasing each other. In the process of doing so, though, be sure to focus on the positive. Focus on what you want instead of what they’re doing “wrong.” For example: “I loved the way you touched me just now. Could you do that more?”
Also, be mindful that communication isn’t a one-way street. Rather than focusing solely on what you need to say next, listen to what your partner tells you in response. Park your emotional response; accept what your partner is saying. Frame it as a “New Year’s resolution” if you have to. When you and your partner truly feel safe revealing your deepest desires and fears, you can expect to experience sexual intimacy for a long, long time.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.