Three YourTango Experts share how to bring emotional and sexual closeness back to your relationship.
Our expert tips for how to revive intimacy in a long-term relationship.
Teresa Atkin's tips:
Human brains are wonderfully complex, and don't always work in our best interests. For example, did you know that our perception of pleasure changes as we become used to something? Research shows that we get a healthy shot of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) when we are seeking reward, and when there is something new to experience. Also, excitement is transferable, so the heightened arousal that follows say, a roller coaster ride, can be used to rev up your sex life.
With that said, here are my tips for reviving intimacy in a long-term relationship:
1. Resolve to deal with, or put aside resentments, and seek help to do that. Anger and unresolved issues often play out in the bedroom.
2. Reconnect! To reestablish connection, start to look into each other's eyes whenever you are talking to each other. If you can eye-gaze fully clothed, oxytocin (the bonding hormone) increases, and the desire to get close, and naked increases. The good news here is that if one person starts to initiate eye-gazing, the other will often follow.
3. Increase touch. Once a pattern of increased connection is established, then increased touch can start. This includes hand rubs, feet rubs, neck rubs, and more. This can progress to massage—a wonderful way to get the body ready for sex (massage decreases the stress hormones, and increases the bonding hormones).
4. Allow tension to build. Our brains experience so much more pleasure when the anticipation of a reward is allowed for some time before we get the reward. So take your time.
5. Try something new, like taking it out of the bedroom. Remember a particularly hot night you might have spent together, or a particularly exciting location you were in.
6. Share your fantasies. Start letting your partner know what you like by saying, "I've always wanted to try xyz … want to try it with me?" Treat it as an experiment. Invite your partner to share their fantasies. Be willing to share yours.
7. Use technology to build anticipation. Saucy texts can be wonderful. For example, "Guess what I want to do tonight ;)"
Rebecca Marquis' tips:
1. Get rid of some chores and get back in the mood. We often get caught up in the day-to-day chores and responsibilities of life, especially if children are involved. In order to reconnect with yourself and your partner, free yourself of some of those responsibilities. Hire a cleaning service. Find a babysitter. Instead of feeling weighed down by life, you'll feel lighter and freer to experience intimate moments.
2. Get closer by sharing a new experience together. Sharing a new experience gives us the opportunity to express our feelings about something novel together. That openness can then carry over into conversations about sex and intimacy. Take a cooking class or a couples massage class. Arrange for a private yoga lesson. Explore something new so that you can get back to exploring each other.
3. Bring sexy back! Forget about the few extra pounds you've gained or the new dimples in your thighs—bring back your sexy self! Ladies, take the time to find the right clothing or lingerie to highlight your body's best features. Spend a little time on your hair, and get a mani/pedi. Guys, wear her favorite cologne and get a fresh haircut. A little effort goes a long way in rekindling the flame!
Susan Campbell's tips:
1. Remember what first attracted you to each other. When couples come to me for coaching, I often ask them to tell me the story of how they met. Have a conversation where you share what drew you to each other in the beginning. Each person should take a turn reminiscing about how things felt when they were first discovering one another and falling in love.
2. Clearing the air, so you're really present. When couples have been together for awhile, little conflicts tend to get swept under the proverbial carpet—where they can't be seen. The only trouble is, these unseen, un-aired issues can linger in your mind and make it hard for you to be present. Invite your partner to do a clearing session where both of you get uninterrupted time to speak about anything you have been reluctant to bring up or have put off bringing up because you were waiting for the right time.
3. Gaze, touch, speak softly. Many of us did not bond very well with our parents or early caregivers—so we tend to become defensive or walk around with our guard up. But did you know that as adults, you can help one another heal insecure attachment and develop that secure "I am loved" feeling that's usually associated with healthy early bonding? Research in adult attachment has shown that the things that help babies feel safe and secure—soft, loving gazes, nurturing touch, and soothing voice tones—are the same things that help partners become "securely attached." So, whenever you sense that your partner is stressed or upset, offer reassuring touch, words of support in a soothing tone of voice, or gaze at your partner with love in your eyes.