True or false? The can't-keep-your-hands-off-each-other honeymoon phase wears off in every marriage.
If you're like most of us, you probably answered "true." But before you panic that marriage automatically turns late-night rendezvous into late-night Letterman, know this: according to a recent survey of more than 20,000 people conducted by YourTango, Glo and Chemistry.com, 90 percent of people believe that if attraction in a relationship decreases it IS possible to reignite it.
Even better news? It's true! There's proof that the high people get from first falling in love actually can persist years into a relationship. In a recent experiment, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist and author of Why Him? Why Her?, looked at brain scans of couples who had been married an average of 21 years who said they were still romantically in love with their partners.
"We found that the area in their brain that's responsible for romantic love that was just as lit up as people who had just fallen in love," Fisher says. But what if lust and attraction have waned?
"It's totally natural for the type of love you feel for your partner to shift over time," Fisher assures. "There are three brain systems involved with falling and staying in love—sex drive, romantic love, and a deep feeling of attachment. It's natural for couples to move from one phase to another, and back."
Want to keep your marriage just as sexy as it was on your honeymoon? We asked YourTango Experts to share their secrets about how to hold on to that loving feeling through every relationship stage. Here's their advice:
1. Flaunt your sexy self. The first step to staying attractive to each other: Feeling attractive. There's nothing more appealing to a man than a woman who feels sexy in her own skin. And there's no bigger libido-booster for women than feeling that way, says Houston-based intimacy expert Mary Jo Rapini. Only you know what makes you feel sexy—whether it's wearing sexy underthings or getting in a great sweat session at the gym—but there is one feel-sexy secret that's universal: Talk about sex. Fisher's study found that women who talked about sex with their spouses for 10 minutes a day had the same sexual desire as women who took a libido-boosting medication. And chitchat benefits men, too: "Ninety-five percent of men and women say that talking about their relationship boosted intimacy," Fisher says. Talk about a win-win!
2. Have sex. Lots of it. Two-thirds of women don't get aroused until they're already in the act, says marriage and family therapist Pat Love, author of Never Be Lonely Again. Translation: Don't wait to "feel" like having sex to do it. "The more sex you have the sexier you feel and the more you'll want to do it," Fisher adds. Another bonus: The dopamine and oxytocin that's released after sex will make you feel closer than ever.
3. Be a little selfish. The happiest marriages are the kinds in which both spouses have their own hobbies and interests, according to a Monmouth University study. "People want a partner who makes their life more colorful," Rapini says. "After all, that's why you fell in
love with him and him with you." Maintaining those interests and finding new ones keeps your relationship fresh and guarantees that you'll stay irresistible to each other, she says. So take a French lesson and encourage him to indulge his love of bird watching. You'll both learn something new about yourselves—and each other.
4. Step out of your comfort zone. If your the Chinese delivery restaurant knows your Friday night order by heart, listen up: One of the best ways to stay hot for each other is to do new things together. "Novelty drives up dopamine in the brain and that's linked with feelings of intense romantic love," Fisher says. Adds Karen Holland, founder of reinventingrelationships.com: "Doing any new activity together makes people feel alive, and we connect that high with our partners." So forgo your dinner date, and take a hike through a local nature reserve or explore a local city. Anything that gets your adrenaline going will get your hearts racing for each other.
5. Have an affair … with your partner. Having an affair with your spouse can bring back the feelings of excitement and closeness—not to mention the smoking-hot sex—that you had when you first met, Love says. So send each other sexy texts when you least expect it, buy racy lingerie, sneak away for a nooner at a hotel, or meet at bar and pretend you don't know each other. "Tap into that playfulness and passion—and you'll start looking at your partner in a new, sexy, light," she says.
6. Celebrate the good times. Couples who celebrate joyous moments together have the happiest, most trusting, and most committed relationships, a University of California study found. "When you share your spouse's excitement—whether it's completing a 5K or getting a new job—you project that joy onto your partner," Holland says. "And nothing is more attractive than a person who loves her life." So celebrate each other's big and small successes to become a person that everyone wants to be around—especially your spouse.
7. Compete! Pitting yourself against your guy can boost attraction, add chemistry, and lead to a hotter sex life. A Pennsylvania State University study found that competition ups libido-boosting testosterone in men and women. "People interpret that competitive rush as a connection to their partner," Love says. Challenge your guy to a tennis match, bet who can guess the amount closest to the dinner bill, or race him to the top of the stairs—then hit the sheets!
"From my mom and dad, because they're happily married for a long time: Just listen. Listen to him. I'm so independent and driven and stubborn. Just let him talk. It's about not being so stubborn and having to win every argument. My parents set a great example. They love each other and take care of each other so much."
"It's kind of cheesy, but my mama, who you all have seen on the show, says to cook for your man. She's Southern, so when he comes home, be pullin' a pie out of the oven. That's always been her advice, and you know what? It works. Your man wants to see you in the kitchen, puttin' some love into some food; it works for Eric, that's for sure."
"The best advice I've ever been given is being handed a Bible. That's the blueprint for marriage that we go by, and that's what our marriage is grounded in. We also have other married couples who are examples in our lives. My parents have been married over 40 years, and both sets of grandparents for over 65 years. When you see couples in long-term relationships and you see them go through good times and bad times, you realize it's about being committed enough and loving your partner enough to hang in there regardless."
"My mom told me, "It shouldn't be that difficult." My parents had their moments for sure, but the majority of their relationship has been really great. It shouldn't be that much work to make love work."
"You've got to be good to each other … it really comes back to respect. I was raised in a very Catholic, Italian family and it was all about respect. Don't talk badly about [your partner] the second they walk out the door; really preserve your relationship and be good to each other. Treat it like gold."
"Don't lie to your partner. Ultimately the expression on your face gives you away, and they feel betrayed by the lie. If this is the person you're going to be with—forever and ever, for better or worse—they will love you for all of your good and all of your bad. They'll love you for you. So open communication is key. I have no secrets and no skeletons in my closet with my husband, and I love that. I feel comfortable and at ease with myself when I'm around him. I love the woman that I've become with him."
"I think the best love advice I've ever received is really about understanding that communication is key, of course, but also that there's not one perfect person for you. You kind of have to accept what are the things that are negotiable for you and what are not."
"My mom always told me, "Whatever happens, will happen" or 'Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen." I've learned you'll know when you find the right person. When I found the right person, I knew it immediately."
18. The Five Love Languages Author Dr. Gary Chapman
"Before I discovered the concept of the 5 love languages, a bit of advice I was given was to become a student of my wife and to take time to learn what makes her feel loved. I soon learned that what makes her feel loved may not always be the thing I want to do because it may not come natural to me. But learning to love her in the way that makes her feel loved is a greater demonstration of my love for her, because I've chosen to do it with a goal of pleasing her."
"Pay attention to the girl, instead of myself. A bunch of people [told me that]. It's terrible. I'm very into myself, so people are always like, "Pay attention to the other person. Don't ever separate yourself." It's a good lesson. I'm learning. I'm doing good."
"Don't get divorced after your first argument! I have a lot of friends that have one fight and that's it, they get divorced. I go, 'Wait a minute! Oh my gosh, you guys! Calm down! You'll forget in three days what you were fighting about. I promise. So just let it marinate a little bit—that's my best love advice."
21. The Real Housewives of Miami's Adriana de Moura
"When I was about 15, [my grandmother] said something I will always remember: 'Love comes before money.' I will never let anything like greed come between us when it comes to love. She was married to my grandfather for 70 years. It's very hard to have a long-term relationship and if you're not sure, it's not going to last. Make sure that you truly love."
"If you're looking for love, focus on something you love to do and work hard. Love will find you. Basically, love yourself before you love anyone else. A lot of girls have such insecurities nowadays that you have to be comfortable with who you are before you can really have a good relationship with someone else."
"Love advice is like life advice, so there are so many elements of that. I think humor, patience, admiration are really important love elements. Love and respect. You have to respect the person that you're going to love, and you have to be confident in yourself and love yourself."
'Think about how much you'd miss that if he were gone tomorrow.' This is my senior producer's advice in my ear during our news show if I'm grumbling about my hubby, whether about his habit of leaving dirty clothes around, or the way he goes into la la land while I'm talking with him, or that he wakes me up being loud overnight. How true! Heaven forbid, but if something ever happens to our loved ones, oh how we'd long for them to be back, and their little aggravating habits would be something cherished.
"On the other hand the best love advice I've ever given is: Gals, don't marry someone for their looks. Sooner or later we all age and start to droop. Don't marry someone for their position and don't marry someone for money. Money comes and goes, and since when is that love? Marry someone because they make you laugh. Humor is always sexy. Besides, it's awfully hard to get mad at someone while they're making you laugh."
30. The Real Housewives of New York's Heather Thomson
"Well, it's one of the oldest. It really is paradoxical, but it's true: You just can't go to bed mad. You have to make up, because there's only one alternative, and that alternative is not being together. So, my husband and I always decide we might as well make up, whether we agree to disagree or not. We understand we are individuals and that together we're unbelievably powerful and that we have a family that is the most important thing, and that I wouldn't trade him for the world. So, love is about give and take, and love is about understanding that you're individuals and together as a couple, you're the strongest there ever is ifyou're in the right couple."
"I was going to say, 'It's work, relationships take work,' but that makes it sound like relationships are hard, that they're work. Rebecca and I have always gotten along really well. We've always had a really strong connection. I'm the last guy that should be giving people advice on love, that's for sure. But I have a great marriage. I just got lucky, I guess."
"I lost my dad back in the fall, and my dad said something to me a long time ago. He said, 'Are you happy with who you are now?' because we just had a real serious talk. And I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Then you can't regret what got you to where you are. So whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, learn from them and grow. And just always treat people with kindness,' which I've tried to do."
"My mom always used to say, "You can't say I love you before you can say I." And I think that sort of makes sense."