How does sexual satisfaction change over time in a relationship? The good news is that scientists have found that it increases. The bad news is that this increase only occurs throughout the first year—and then it typically starts dropping after that.
We are, of course, talking about what happens on average. There’s certainly a lot of individual variability, which means that some people buck the trend and find that their satisfaction either remains high or keeps going up.
So let’s say you want your sex life to stay on a positive trajectory. How do you ward off that decline in satisfaction that so many of us seem to experience? Here are four science-backed tips for keeping passion alive and improving your sex life.
Avoid falling into a sexual routine. Keep mixing it up.
Human beings have a need for novelty when it comes to sex. We tend to grow bored with sexual routines because of something known as the Coolidge Effect. The basic idea here is that when we’re exposed to the same sexual stimulus over time, our arousal to it starts to drop. For example, scientists have found that people who watch the same porn clip every day for a week become less aroused with each passing day.
We need to see—or do—something new in order to get our libidos revved back up again. This explains why the couples who engage in the most acts of sexual novelty are the most sexually satisfied and report keeping the spark alive in their relationships the longest.
In need of inspiration or new ideas? Consider getting some sexy underwear or lingerie, try a new sexual activity or position, go on a date night or romantic getaway, watch pornography together, play a sexy game, give each other massages, or get yourself a vibrator or sex toy.
Instead of repressing your sexual fantasies and desires, express them.
When people have sexual fantasies that make them uncomfortable—perhaps because they’re “dirty”—there’s a common tendency to repress them. Unfortunately, however, thought suppression is a terrible way to take your mind off something because, paradoxically, trying not to think about sex just makes you think about it even more.
Instead of suppressing those sexual thoughts that make us ashamed or embarrassed, we need to acknowledge and come to terms with them. Odds are, the things you’re fantasizing about are the same things that everyone else is fantasizing about, too.
So relax. You’re probably pretty normal. And once you realize that, you can think about taking the next step of sharing and maybe even acting on some of those fantasies. Most people who decide to share their fantasies with a partner report positive experiences and say that it improved their relationship. Plus, women who share and act on their fantasies report more frequent orgasms, which suggests that sharing our fantasies might be one of the keys to closing the orgasm gap!
Try to be in the moment when you have sex.
It can be hard to let go of distractions when you’re in bed. Some people find themselves thinking about work or other stressors, while others are concerned about their appearance or start worrying about whether they’re good at sex. No matter what you’re thinking about, if you aren’t in the moment, there’s a good chance that you might find it difficult to stay aroused or reach orgasm.
There are a lot of options when it comes to getting out of your head and being in the moment during sex. Believe it or not, BDSM activities can potentially help with this. Scientists have found that sadomasochistic acts produce altered states of consciousness, including feelings of extreme absorption.
Not into kink? Consider mindfulness training. Mindfulness is based on Buddhist traditions and meditation techniques and it involves entering a state of present-moment awareness. It takes some practice to learn how to focus your attention like this, but it has been shown to help with a range of sexual difficulties. My go-to recommendation is you want to learn more is the recent book Better Sex Through Mindfulness by psychologist Lori Brotto.
Don’t get hung up on how much sex you’re having.
A lot of people think they’d be happier if they were having more sex; however, research doesn’t exactly bear this out. One study found that when couples tried to double the amount of sex they were having (from 5-6 times per month to 10-12 times), they ended up not being as happy in the end as couples who stuck with their typical frequency of sex. Why? Because sex went being fun to being a chore—it was something they felt like they had to do instead of something they wanted to do.
So don’t set arbitrary limits on how much sex you and your partner should be having. Focus on making sure that you’re having good sex rather than a specific, predetermined amount of it.
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Image Source: Photo by Wesley Balten on Unsplash
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