During the early stages of a romantic relationship, sex is new, exciting, and likely occurring fairly frequently. But as the years go on, is it possible to keep the passion alive—and prevent sexual satisfaction from declining over time? According to new research published in The Journal of Sex Research, the answer is yes: but not without some effort.
The findings of the study suggest that couples who are most satisfied generally seem to have a few things in common: they try new things, take time to set the mood for sex, and communicate openly about what they need and desire, among others. To determine how couples can begin to implement these habits into their own sex lives, Lori Leibovich, editor of RealSimple.com, spoke with Ian Kerner, sex therapist and founder of GoodinBed.com, and Vanessa Marin, a psychotherapist, writer, and sex educator, on the most recent episode of The Labor of Love. Read on for some of their best tips, and listen to the full episode below. Don’t forget to subscribe and review on iTunes!
1. Evaluate whether your partner's sexual temperament matches your own: If you're sexually adventurous, you'll probably be most satisfied with another adventure seeker, according to Kerner. And vice versa. "So many of the real conflicts that I deal with between couples around sex is this difference in sexual temperament... it isn't always easy," Kerner says. "When two thrill seekers get together, it's really successful, and [same with] when two comfort creatures get together."
2. When it comes to making changes to your sex life, start small: A lot of people get intimidated by the idea that they need to spice up their sex life, when really, the smallest, non-threatening changes can have a big impact, says Marin. "The people in the study listed very manageable things that made them happy and made them feel satisfied... like lighting candles, and showering together, and putting on music," she says. "Things that any couple can do."
3. Add a psychological degree of stimulation to your relationship: "What I really find with couples is that they often have a good physical vocabulary for how to communicate with each other, but they have little to no psychological vocabulary," Kerner says. Start by sharing your sexual fantasies with your partner, and working to stimulate their imagination and creativity. If you're nervous, start small, such as telling your partner you had a sexy dream about them.
4. Communicate with your partner while you're being intimate: The optimal time to communicate with your partner about sex is as it's happening, because it helps you stay connected to your own sense of pleasure, says Marin. "If you're a beginner to this or if you're shy, or just not a very vocal person, I usually encourage my clients to start with a post-sex download session so in those moments after you've just been intimate... tell your partner some feedback."
5. Say “I love you” to your partner during sex: In the study, about 75 percent of the satisfied men and women said that in their last sexual encounter, at least one of the partners said "I love you." "I think is really the base of the pyramid that you can build up from," Kerner says.
6. Re-create vacation sex in your own bedroom: Vacation sex is universally some of the best sex couples report, says Marin. But it's possible to re-create it in the comfort of your own home. "Make your home feel more like an oasis, especially focusing on your bedroom and your bathroom," she says. "Clean the space out, get rid of clutter and distractions. Try to make the space feel really beautiful and luxurious and really comfortable."