5 Practical Tips For Keeping The Spark AliveRelationships
Romantic relationships often begin with the partners feeling an overwhelmingly intense attraction to one another. The sex is exciting and they may feel as though they can’t physically connect often enough. But within a period of months or years, that sexual intensity—that passion—usually begins to fade.
When this happens, it can lead to feelings of concern. You may feel as though your relationship has lost some of its luster. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship. This is a perfectly normal and very common experience.
But this doesn’t mean that long-term relationships have to persist without passion. With a little bit of effort, you can bring the passion back again and again—and keep it going. In this article, I’m going to share five practical, science-backed tips for keeping passion alive.
1. Try New Things in Bed
A big part of the reason sex is so exciting early on in a relationship is that it’s new and different. Human beings are inherently turned on by novelty, whether in the form of a new partner or new sexual activity. However, as the novelty factor starts to wear off, desire and arousal usually begin to drop.
In long-term relationships, partners often settle into sexual routines. For example, sex might only occur at predictable days and times of the week, or it might start to follow a consistent script featuring a limited number of activities or positions that you progress through. When there’s no longer any novelty and sex becomes so routine, our interest starts to wane.
As an analogy, think about the best dinner you ever had. Now imagine you’re going to have that same meal every day. Odds are, you’re eventually going to desire something different to eat!
One of the keys to boosting passion, then, is to keep mixing it up and trying new things in the bedroom. Research bears this out: the couples who engage in the most acts of sexual variety are the most satisfied and most likely to report keeping the spark alive.
Need some inspiration? Some of the key activities that differentiate the most from the least sexually satisfied couples include: one partner wearing sexy underwear or lingerie, having sex in the shower, going on date nights or romantic getaways, trying new positions, sharing and acting on sexual fantasies, and experimenting with sex toys.
It’s not the case that everything has to be different about sex to keep it novel and exciting, so don’t feel intimidated by this. Simply adding one new element every now and then can be enough to keep excitement and interest up.
2. Try New Things Out of Bed
Our need for novelty isn’t limited to sex. Humans have a fundamental need to grow and expand the self through varied life experiences. So just as trying new things in the bedroom is important, so is trying new, non-sexual things outside of the bedroom.
When we engage in novel activities in daily life, it causes physiological arousal. This arousal, in turn, can amplify sexual arousal. Research has found that everything from watching a scary movie to riding a roller coaster can have this effect.
There are a few reasons for this. One is that when we do new and exciting things (like riding a roller coaster), there’s often a little bit of fear involved in them, which releases adrenaline and gets your heart pumping. This also increases blood flow to the genitals. At the same time, we sometimes misattribute the source of physiological arousal. For example, when you’ve just done something exciting that boosts arousal and then you find yourself in the presence of an attractive person, we sometimes interpret that arousal as being sexual in nature.
You can use this to your advantage in the pursuit of passion. For example, plan some dates where you and your partner are going to do something active and exciting, such as visiting an amusement park or taking a new workout or dance class. Or, if weather doesn’t permit, consider an action-adventure or scary movie. Again, the options are endless!
3. Stop Trying to Read Each Other’s Minds and Communicate Instead
Another reason passion can wane in a relationship is because the partners aren’t communicating about what they really want and enjoy during sex. They’re expecting the other to read their mind and automatically know exactly what they like.
However, when sex starts to turn into a guessing game, that can take a lot of the fun out of it because our partners might not always make the correct guess. And when sex isn’t fully satisfying, we tend to want it less.
For this reason, it’s important to find ways to communicate what you like to your partner. This isn’t a one-time thing, either. What feels good can change over the course of time, so just because you communicated this at the start of your relationship doesn’t mean that you’re good to go forever. It also means you may be operating under outdated assumptions of what your partner wants if you haven’t checked in for a while.
Different people are comfortable with different communication methods. Verbalizing what you like is the clearest, most direct way (“I like it when you…”), but you can also communicate non-verbally through moans and groans when they hit the right spot or gently guide their hands (or other body parts) where you want them to go.
4. Incorporate More Touch into Daily Life
In their pioneering research on sex therapy in the 1960s and 70s, William Masters and Virginia Johnson found that many sexual problems couples experienced could be solved simply by increasing intimate touch.
This makes sense in light of research finding that non-sexual touch promotes relaxation. It has a calming, soothing effect that reduces stress and anxiety. At the same time, it promotes feelings of connection.
It’s difficult to maintain passion or to even feel sexual desire when you are stressed and/or feeling disconnected from your partner, so finding ways to add more touch into daily life can help to stimulate more arousal and desire.
There are all kinds of ways to do this, and different people may be comfortable with different things. However, this could take the form of everything from giving each other mini massages or back rubs to cuddling in bed to giving a long hug when you get home.
5. Maintain Some Mystery
While the idea of “two becoming one” may sound incredibly romantic, it can actually put a damper on passion.
Sex therapist Esther Perel has written and spoken extensively about how, in long-term relationships, one of the keys to maintaining desire is keeping some sense of mystery alive.
As she describes it, it’s possible for partners to become too close to the point where they completely give up their individuality. Partners need to give each other some space to be themselves. In doing so, you can add some element of mystery to your relationship and see your partner in a different light.
This doesn’t mean you need to live completely separate lives; rather, it’s simply about having some time and space to pursue your own interests. Again, this can take many forms, but one easy way to do this is to set aside some dedicated personal time where each partner can engage in their hobbies or passions, interact with friends, or just have some time to relax and unwind.
Passion typically declines over the course of a relationship, but it doesn’t have to disappear entirely. You can bring it back over and over with just a little effort. By trying new things together in and out of bed, practicing good sexual communication, incorporating more touch into everyday life, and maintaining some personal space, you can set the stage for bringing the spark back—and keeping it alive for the long haul.
Carswell, K. L., Muise, A., Harasymchuk, C., Horne, R. M., Visserman, M. L., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Growing desire or growing apart? Consequences of personal self-expansion for romantic passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Frederick, D., Lever, J., Gillespie, B.J., & Garcia, J.R. (2017). What keeps passion alive? Sexual satisfaction is associated with sexual communication, mood setting, sexual variety, oral sex, orgasm, and sex frequency in a national US study. Journal of Sex Research.
Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons.
Perel, E. (2007). Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence (p. 272). New York, NY: Harper.
Triscoli, C., Croy, I., Olausson, H., & Sailer, U. (2017). Touch between romantic partners: Being stroked is more pleasant than stroking and decelerates heart rate. Physiology & Behavior, 177, 169-175.