Here’s how the happiest long-term couples keep up the excitement year after year.
Anybody who’s been in a long-term relationship remembers how exciting it was in the beginning—the butterflies, the racing heartbeat, the constant sex. But the truth is, for most couples, the heat eventually starts to cool. In fact, a 2016 study of heterosexual couples published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that while there’s an upswing in sexual satisfaction during the first 12 months of a relationship, it’s followed by a steady decline after the one-year anniversary. (Womp, womp.)
Still, the happiest long-term couples among us obviously know a thing or two about keeping up the excitement—if they didn’t, nobody would be monogamous. We sussed out their sexy wisdom by talking to Amy Jo Goddard, sexual empowerment coach and author of Woman on Fire: 9 Elements to Wake Up Your Erotic Energy, Personal Power, and Sexual Intelligence, who regularly works with couples in long-term relationships. Here, the seven best tips we can learn from them.
Time brings a deeper connection
When that overwhelming can’t-keep-our-hands-off-each-other feeling fades, people often think something’s wrong, says Goddard. “But you’re simply moving into a new phase of the relationship.” Rather than freak out, solid couples take this comfort and closeness as an opportunity to explore a deeper level of intimacy that isn’t possible when you first get together, she explains. In other words, while all new relationships can be fun and passionate, the best is yet to come.
Unselfconscious sex is better sex
After you’ve been together for a while, your partner has learned all your weird quirks, witnessed your ugly crying face, and seen you naked more times than you can count. And guess what? They still want to have sex with you. Which means you get to stop worrying and embrace your confidence. It’s pretty common to fear judgment or rejection in the early stages of a relationship, explains Goddard. But as your emotional connection deepens, so does the opportunity for honesty and exploration.
Fantasies are meant for sharing
Being open and direct with your long-term partner doesn’t just nix awkwardness; it uncovers a whole new realm of sexual satisfaction. According to Goddard, it often takes couples a long time to be truly honest with each other when it comes to fantasies and fetishes. “They might be excited about something internally, but have a hard time sharing with their partner,” she says. With time brings comfort and the confidence to tell your partner about the deep dark desires you’ve been hiding from the world—like your dream to have a threesome or get it on in a public place. After all, your boo’s there to love you, not judge you.
Practice makes perfect
Sure, the sex may have felt exciting and magical when you were first hooking up. But, reality check: it takes time to learn just what makes another person tick. “You get to know someone’s body in a very different way over time,” says Goddard. So while a new beau may be able to get you going, only a long-term love can create a roadmap of every spot that makes your toes curl.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
With a new partner, it can be tough to explain exactly what you crave sexually. “I don’t know where the idea started that talking about sex ruins it,” says Goddard. “Because it’s truly the number one thing that will open up a relationship in general, and especially with sex.” In fact, according to the Archives of Sexual Behavior study about long-term relationships, communication was one factor that had a positive influence on sexual satisfaction with the couples. Learning to discuss your desires is anything but unsexy, explains Goddard, and having an honest conversation about what’s working and what could use some improvement is totally empowering—and leads to even better sex.
Great sex transcends the bedroom
Many great artists were inspired by a muse who, more often than not, was also a lover. That’s not surprising, says Goddard, because a strong sexual connection can impact much more than your time between the sheets. “It starts with that core sexual energy and how we choose to direct it and use it,” she says. “We feel more alive, we’re more productive, we have more energy, and we feel healthier. I’ve watched it in so many people in my career. When you wake that part up, you wake up other amazing things.”
You’ve got to be open to learn new things
There’s one trait that keeps sexual excitement alive more than anything else, says Goddard: Curiosity. “We have to stay curious about our partners and not think ‘oh I know them so well I can finish their sentences,’” she says. Remember that sexuality is a lifelong growth process, and just like your mind changes over time, so does your body. It’s only when people stop exploring, expanding, and growing their sexuality that they get bored and stop having sex, Goddard explains. Instead of just mindlessly going through the motions when you hit the bedroom, successful couples keep bringing new energy, she says. “Sexuality is not meant to go on autopilot. It’s far more dynamic than that.”