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 re-ignite 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!