Your long-term relationship probably makes you feel supersecure, comfy, and confident enough to rock a shirt with food stains like it’s lingerie. But that doesn’t always make for a hot sex life.
What does? New research from the University of Toronto found that the secret to a happy sex life in an LTR is superhard…work. (Lose up to 25 pounds in 2 months—and look more radiant than ever—with Prevention’s new Younger in 8 Weeks plan!)
the study, researchers surveyed 1,900 people in heterosexual and same-sex relationships on their relationship beliefs, as well as how satisfied they were with their sex lives. Based on their answers, researchers divided participants into groups with “sexual growth beliefs” (i.e., those who think that sexual satisfaction comes from working at it) and “sexual destiny beliefs” (people who think that sexual satisfaction comes with finding a compatible sexual partner). They found that the belief that a great sex life takes hard work (as opposed to expecting that it will just happen as long as you love the person) results in hotter, committed-to-each-other sex.
Scientists also found that there’s a honeymoon phase that lasts about 2 to 3 years for everyone. During this time, people who have sexual growth beliefs and those with sexual destiny beliefs are both happy with their sex lives. But after this phase, people who were more likely to believe that sexual satisfaction takes some nose-to-the-grindstone action were more likely to be sexually satisfied.
They also found that women tend to buy into the concept of soul mates and romantic destiny more often than dudes, but are also more likely than men to believe that sex takes long, hard, strenuous work. Wink.
Lead study author Jessica Maxwell says it just makes sense. “We know that in long-term relationships, sex isn’t always going to be perfect, and sexual desire often declines,” she says. “The individuals who are best prepared to handle these challenges are those who take a more pragmatic view of sex and are ready to work to make their sex life better.”
The bottom line: Working to make your sex life better will actually make your sex life better. Just a little something to keep on the back burner.
Change the metaphor that you associate with developing your relationship. Instead of “working” at it, learn to “play”. “Work” feels heavy and makes us think of future struggles, whereas “playfulness” engages the things you associate with good times, childhood comforts and moments of spontaneity. This means that instead of navel-gazing and pondering, you’re coming at the difficult things in life with humour and a lightness of touch. A couple that can laugh together, even mid-row, is in a healthy place.
Learn to spend time alone. Developing a relationship with yourself, deepened by solitary pursuits, hobbies and taking time out from work and relationships, will pay huge dividends with your partner. You will come back to the relationship refreshed, more able to express your needs (as you’re more likely to know what they are). We will always ultimately be a mystery to each other – it’s more healthy for this to be acknowledged, celebrated even, than denied.
Don’t be cruel. According to research, people who sneer, ridicule or talk down to their partner are on a fast track to relationship destruction. Those in successful relationships hardly ever speak to each other that way, even when angry. If you find you want to be cruel to your partner, ask yourself what’s really going on. The fact they haven’t made the bed is never really the issue – it’s far more likely you fear that this means they don’t care about you. Instead of attacking your partner for their laziness, show your true feelings.
Adopt a new narrative. Instead of thinking of your relationship as an arc, with a beginning, middle and an end, try to think of it in terms of the seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Harnessing the idea of seasons can be particularly helpful when couples start a family. Despite the joy that babies bring, they often feel like a bomb going off in a relationship – the exhausting demands of parenthood can feel overwhelming. Yet get through those first few winters of despondency and there will more than likely be the spring of renewal and love rediscovered.
Judy Ford is a psychotherapist, counsellor and the author of ‘Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other’
Be prepared for surprise and open to change. Love matures and changes as we mature and change. The qualities that make a loving partner are the same qualities that make a loving person. You and your partner are dynamic creatures. Just because you believed one thing when the two of you began your relationship doesn’t mean you will still believe that same thing years, months or even weeks down the road. As the two of you grow, your partner’s desires will change and so will yours.
Understand that you can only develop yourself. We often fall in love with a person who has the qualities that we would like to develop in ourselves. We see all the budding possibilities and are excited to be accepted by such a wonderful and perfect person. Watch out! This sometimes means that rather than developing the qualities in yourself that you would like, you will try to develop the other person’s potential instead, and this creates havoc.
Realise that it is in moments of restlessness and upheaval that you find out who you are and what it truly means to love. It’s easy to be considerate and loving to your partner when the setting is romantic, when you’ve got jingle in your pocket, when you’re looking good and feeling fine. But when one of you is out of sorts, exhausted, overwhelmed and distracted, behaving lovingly requires conscious effort.
Be kind. Becoming a more effective partner is the most efficient way to assure a loving, intimate relationship. Kindness and having your partner’s back are essential. Using “argument enders” and “intimacy builders” will strengthen your connection. Argument enders include: “I never thought of it that way”; “I’d like to think that over”; “Can we continue this discussion tomorrow?”; “You’re right”; “I could have handled that better”; “I’m sorry, please forgive me”; “I know you’re sorry; I forgive you”. Intimacy builders could be: “Help me understand”; “I’m on your side”; “We are in this together”; “Good idea”; “Let’s give it a try”; “We’ll figure it out.”
It’s not about being right or making the other person wrong. Don’t allow your relationship to be about quarrelling. It is about understanding and learning to talk about hot subjects without getting heated. A relationship presents countless opportunities to rise to the occasion and be the best person and partner you can imagine. A relationship is working and playing together, it’s finding delight, joy and comfort in each other. It is about facing difficulties and eventually becoming wise.
If you have been unfaithful, you must be “giving” to your partner in order to reconnect. We get attached not only by what we receive from our partner, but by what we give to them. Thinking about what matters to them, then consciously reaching out with acts of consideration and affection will not only make them feel closer to you, it may help you to feel closer to them.
Explore the root of an affair in order to move past it. If an affair happens, both partners need to explore why it happened, and ask themselves, “What does the affair say about me, my partner, and us?” Maybe one or both of you felt ignored by the other, maybe you felt dead and the affair brought you to life, maybe you were rebelling against the rules of the marriage the way you’ve rebelled against rules your whole life. Promises never to stray again are meaningless unless the “fault lines” within and between partners are addressed.
If you want to reconnect to your partner, you need to turn toward that person and treat them in ways that foster caring and closeness. You won’t figure out if you want to be with your marriage partner by busying yourself with other people or activities. People often want to feel loved by their partner before they begin the hard work of trying to repair their relationship. But I’ve often found that the opposite works: feelings of love may blossom after you’ve recommitted, taken a fair share of responsibility for what went wrong in the relationship, and treated your partner in ways that foster trust and intimacy.
Understand the true nature of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a gift from the heart of a hurt partner – it’s a transaction between the two people held together by a violation. Unfaithful partners must work hard to produce bold, humble, heartfelt acts of repair and take responsibility for the harm they caused. Hurt partners must work hard to encourage their partner to make good, take a share of responsibility for what created a space between them, and allow the injury to recede into the backdrop of their lives.
Work to rebuild intimacy. Becoming sexually intimate is often complicated and challenging, particularly after a troubled time. Both partners need to reach out with tenderness and compassion, recognising they may each feel vulnerable and raw. This is time to take off any pressure to perform and to put aside expectations for high performance and orgasms. The couple’s sexual intimacy will grow if each partner works to warm the space between them with acceptance and affection.