How to Sustain Good Sex in a Long-Term Relationship

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By Danielle Simone Brand

If you’ve been in a committed relationship for any length of time, chances are you’ve hit some kind of roadblock, rut, or lull — at least once — in your sex life with your partner. A German study on this topic found that sexual satisfaction often grows during the first year of a committed relationship, and declines starting near the beginning of the second year. It’s true that the ordinary things that make up a shared life (work, bills, chores) are not exactly aphrodisiacs. And if you’re a parent, lack of time and sheer exhaustion can undoubtedly dampen your passion.

If you and your partner find yourselves talking primarily about everyday tasks and responsibilities, your relationship may start feeling unsexy. “Practical conversations are important — however, allowing them to replace intimate and personal discussions can take a toll on your intimate relationship as you shift from lovers to co-parents or roommates,” Dr. Jess O’Reilly – Astroglide’s resident sexologist – told Civilized. Staying engaged with one another inside and outside the bedroom means taking time away from your routines, together, and making space for interesting conversations, she says.

While peaks and valleys are considered normal in a long-term relationship, couples who remain emotionally and mentally connected are better able to keep their sexual connection thriving. “Good relationships don’t happen by accident,” Tina B. Tessina, PhD – a.k.a. “Dr. Romance” and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together – told Civilized. Most couples have to work to keep their intimate connection strong. And a strong connection, she says, leads to better sex.

In her 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist in southern California, Tessina has developed a set of recommendations for couples on how to improve intimacy, which includes taking ample time to relax together, not holding grudges, reminiscing regularly about shared experiences, and going out of your way to express appreciation for your partner. She tells couples to touch frequently, since even just a light brush of a hand or a quick kiss, can help you feel closer. “Today’s popular culture is cynical and cool,” said Tessina. “But keeping love alive and flowing in your relationship is essential to being happy with each other.”

But what if it’s not intimacy, exactly, that’s missing? Over time, a lack of variety and spontaneity can make even a red-hot sexual connection cool. Commit to growing and exploring together, and your passion will grow, too.

Add to Your Sexual Menu

Wendi L. Dumbroff, a sex and relationship therapist in Madison, New Jersey, advises couples to create “sexual menus,” which can include “anything they might like to do with each other, from the most vanilla to the kinkiest things they might be interested in, and everything in-between. Examples might be taking a walk and holding hands, bathing together, wanting dirty talk during sex, or possibly venturing into the world of kink.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you will sample all the items on the menu, but it can expand your sexual repertoire and help you feel closer to your partner.

For those who enjoy cannabis, layering in one or another of the plant’s many consumable forms that are meant to enhance sex could be a natural choice. “The interesting thing about cannabis for sexuality in a long-term relationship is that, not only does it help get couples in the mood and have better sex, but it increases the release of hormones that further feelings of intimacy and bonding,” Dr. Jordan Tishler – cannabis specialist and Massachusetts-based internist – told Civilized. Research suggests that 65 to 72 percent of women who use cannabis believe that it enhances their sex lives.

Some women rave about mind-blowing orgasms with cannabis-infused lubes. For anal play, cannabis suppositories are starting to make a name, and THC-based erection-enhancers may prove to be a lively addition to the sexual menu. Numerous other products, from vape pens to edibles, claim they can help you get there, too. And of course, there’s always the old-fashioned way: smoking a joint with your love and diving into bed.

According to Dr. Diana Urman, a sex therapist in San Francisco, cannabis’ ability to heighten sensuality, calm anxiety and elevate mood can all have a positive effect on sex with a partner. “It reduces inhibition, making us more spontaneous and adventurous,” Urman told Civilized. And what better state of mind can help you share fantasies and grow your levels of trust?

Many people find that divulging their fantasies to their partner, and possibly exploring some of them, can open up greater intimacy inside and outside the bedroom. While you and your partner may or may not ever feel ready to jump into a cannabis sex party like Danksgiving, there are still many options for taking advantage of the bodily relaxation, freer mental state, and possible arousal, that comes along with cannabis use.

Aside from leaning into novel adventures, there are certain mental shifts that may help you feel closer to your partner sexually. Dumbroff suggests that couples “expand the definition of sex” because sex, she says, does not always have to end in orgasm. Snuggling while naked and flirting with your partner are both sexual activities that don’t take a huge investment.

Every relationship therapist worth their salt recommends that you and your partner keep talking and communicating about your needs. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and ask for what you want may yield pleasant surprises. Remember, too, that intimacy is much more than sex, though great sex can help you feel closer for at least 48 hours. Be kind and compassionate with your partner. And if you’re inclined, add a little weed to your sexual menu.

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