How to keep sex interesting in long-term relationships

How to keep sex interesting

I’m often asked by couples that are married or in long-term relationships about how to keep sex interesting. For some of these couples, there is a painful lack of intimacy they’re trying to overcome. And for many, they have an enjoyable sex life that just feels a bit ho-hum.

Whether you and your partner are struggling with a lack of intimacy or you’re seeking ways to keep sex interesting and passionate, we can all benefit from the advice of couples who have been together for a long time—couples who have successfully navigated the challenges inherent to long-term love. And today we’re lucky to hear from one such couple.

Stewart and Kate have been married for almost forty years. Both are now in their mid-sixties and they continue to have a rich and fun sex life. As they reflect on their shared history, they highlight five points they believe made a positive impact on their sexual relationship.

How to keep sex interesting, from a couple who’s been together for forty years

1. Expect fluctuations in sexual interest, activity and passion

“Sexual intimacy is going to fluctuate with the seasons of your relationship, so be realistic about what you expect.” ~Kate

Kate makes an important point about our expectations that center around sex and intimacy. Intensity levels will naturally shift and change over the years, with sex bouncing back and forth on your priority list. Keep this in mind as you reflect upon the level of sex and passion that exists in your relationship.

Expecting a seamless consistency of sexual engagement can lead to trouble, causing unnecessary tension between you and your spouse/partner…tensions that can end up hurting your sex lives.

2. Is it time for some relationship housecleaning?

“If there is a total lack of sex in a marriage, maybe there are some underlying emotional issues that need to be flushed out.” ~ Stewart

Stewart went on to share a time in their marriage when his sexual desire for Kate pretty much flat-lined. And when she asked him if something was wrong, his knee-jerk reaction was to deny any problems. But this clearly wasn’t the case. It turns out that he was hurt that Kate had shared a personal issue (one that involved him) with a co-worker of hers a few months earlier. His feelings about Kate sharing something he felt she didn’t have the right to share started to fester and impact other areas of their relationship (including sex, communication, emotional intimacy).

As Kate explained, “He had to come clean with his feelings for this wall to come down. Emotional walls follow you into the bedroom, so make sure the emotional channels are flowing if you want good sex!”

3. Being overly cautious can lead to stilted (and boring) sex

“When Stewart and I first met, I was somewhat of a prude. No, I guess I was just anxious and afraid to take risks. But the more I grew to trust him, the wilder I became. But I had to make the decision to take risks. Emotional risks as well as sexual risks. I turned out to be more wild then Stewart!” ~Kate

Stewart laughed as he listened to Kate describe her unfolding sexuality. He then added, “She almost got us arrested on a few occasions!” She playfully smacked his arm and told him to shush.

Couples are always walking the fine line between emotional security and emotional risk-taking. It was only when Kate felt a deep level of security to launch from that she was able to explore her wilder side by taking greater risks with her husband.

Each of us has to find the edges of our boundaries. Some of us like to stay close to these edges, even stepping past them from time to time. When Kate remained ensconced in the center of her sexual comfort zone, she felt bored with herself and their sex life. Trust in Stewart helped her go to places that made her a little anxious, but that also excited her.

4. Let romance take you there

“Sex isn’t something you turn on like a light switch. Something needs to get you in the mood. Find out what that something is for you and your spouse.” ~Stewart

The couples who come to see me for counseling are often dealing with long “to do” lists and obligations that pull them in many different directions. It’s pretty difficult to feel sexual when you’re feeling stressed. So for much of the time, these couples are existing in a non-sexual state of mind. You can’t go from that state to one of being sexually-charged without some kind of transition.

Too many couples miss this point, and even the couples who plan for sex oftentimes do not give enough attention to turning each other on — when you get each other sexually aroused, you are creating a movement that awakens eroticism, the erotic part of ourselves that feeds desire. Stewart loves seducing his wife and she loves being seduced by him. Their transition from a non-sexual state of mind to sexual arousal was reached through the playground of seduction. Each couple needs to find what works for them.

5. It’s all in your head

“Over the years I read a great deal about the psychology of sex, and it’s amazing to consider the different things that sexually excite people. It took some trial and error, but I found what works for my husband, and it gets him so aroused. Having that kind of power turns me on!” ~Kate

I’ve worked with many couples who have tried something new sexually (different sexual positions or a new sexual act), only to report, “It was okay, I think we both liked it.” In these instances, what they tried didn’t bring the hoped-for sparks. While a certain amount of trial and error may be just what’s needed in order to find out what excites you both, knowing each other’s turn-ons can go a long way in setting the stage for greater sexual fulfillment.

Communicating your needs (sexual and emotional) is an important part of creating an enriching sex life. But too often we fall short when it comes to sharing our deepest sexual desires and longings. We hesitate. We may feel sheepish. We may not even know what our own desires truly are. Embarrassment can block effective communication, even for couples who have been together many years. Talking about sex can act as a powerful emotional connector as well as a powerful aphrodisiac.

And as you listen to your partner’s/spouse’s sexual turn-ons, try to make sense of the psychological terrain of what s/he is sharing.

What are the sexual themes that excite you both?

These themes are threaded throughout the fantasies that arouse us. If you feel emotionally secure enough to share your fantasies, you’ve taken a big step toward discovering how to keep sex interesting in your relationship or marriage.

I’d like to thank Kate and Stewart for sharing what has led to a rewarding sex life over the last forty years of their marriage!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Rich Nicastro