How To Bring Back Sexual Desire In A Long-Term Relationship

It's all about "otherness" as well as closeness apparently, but what does that actually mean in practice?
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As the years tick away in a relationship, sex can sometimes lose its mojo.

Things happen that may impact desire: work schedules clash, libido-limiting health stuff shows up – or you might just have kids. For some couples, issues that arise in the relationship can fuel resentment, meaning sex is the last thing on their minds. For others, life simply gets in the way.

Sexual desire tends to be considered an important element of a positive romantic relationship, so researchers wanted to know how couples in long-term relationships can get that elusive spark back.

The key appears be in learning new experiences together that expand your worldview and sense of self – also known as self-expansion.

Across three studies – a 21-day daily experience study, a one-month weekly experience study, and an experimental study – researchers tested whether closeness (feeling close to a romantic partner) and otherness (seeing them in a new light by learning new things about them) helped boost desire.

They found self-expansion was associated with higher closeness and otherness, and, in turn, higher sexual desire. So it’s important to foster closeness and otherness in your relationship if you want to keep things spicy.

And no, simply feeling close to your partner isn’t enough to increase desire, the studies suggested. You need to gain that sense of otherness, too – and that involves learning new things about them.

It’s a very fine balance. As Psychology Today puts it: “Individuals in a romantic relationship often function best when they feel connected but distinct and have both a sense of belonging and autonomy.”

So how can you do that? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take a cooking class together
  • Attend a life drawing class
  • Visit a gallery or museum you’ve never been to
  • Join a couple’s dancing class together
  • Try a new activity like kayaking or paddle-boarding
  • Try a new recipe at home together
  • Probe your partner on an opinion they’ve always held and you don’t
  • Take the opportunity to ask your partner something you’ve never asked before – that could be about their favourite memory as a child (and why), or what they want to achieve in the next 20 years.
  • Learn a new language and use it to chat to each other
  • Visit a new town or city and make a great day-trip / mini-break of it