Keeping the spark alive in long-term relationships

Tips for long-term relationship intimacy

When I work with couples I’m often asked the same question: how do we keep the sexual alive in our long-term relationship? The couples I see have been married for a short while, or a long while; they have little (and not so little) kids; they’ve been through life milestones together and have many more to go. Whether you’ve been in relationship for 5 minutes, 5 years or 5 decades, keeping the sexual side alive and kicking can be a challenge! It’s so easy (and common) to fall into routine, to end up beholden to stressful jobs, the distractions of raising a family, and all the other things that life throws at you. Sex and intimacy can often end up at the bottom of the priority pile or become something that is as mechanical and predictable as tying your shoelaces.

Falling into predictable routines

Often the couples I work with are overly focussed on one tiny element of what sex actually is (or can be). They have been limiting their intimacy to the act of putting one person’s genitals inside the other’s. The thing is, there’s only one way to really do that! it’s no wonder ‘sex’ gets a bit routine and uninspiring over time if that’s the only thing you’re doing. It’s like only playing three notes on the piano when the whole keyboard is right there! So, here are a few of the things that I share in my couples coaching sessions, and in my online courses, that have helped hundreds of couples to re-ignite (and maintain) the passion in their relationships.

1. A new beginning for intimacy in long-term relationships

Too often sex and intimacy in long-term relationship is something that happens from a starting point of distraction. This doesn’t really foster the potential for juicy, exciting and deeply satisfying interactions. Maybe this (or something like this) resonates for you: you get home at the end of a long day, you’ve fed the kids and put them to bed, you’re still chatting (whilst getting undressed) about the arrangements for the weekend and who will make sure little Martha’s school gets the note about her dentist appointment and then, well, you might as well sort of kiss and cuddle a bit and maybe have a quick 5 minutes of cock-in-pussy action before lights out…

When did you shift from the ‘shared responsibilities mode’ (basically colleagues in your job of life and parenting) into ‘lovers mode’?! You need to allow yourselves time to slow down and meet each other not from that headspace of DOING and THINKING, but from a place of FEELING. Make time to connect to your own bodies, and each other, in a non-verbal way before you begin anything sexual or intimate. Mark the beginning of your time as Lovers, and give yourselves a chance to change gear, to be present just with the sensations and energies of your bodies. A game I use to do this in my sessions is ‘Breathe With Me’:

  • Sit back-to-back, feeling the contact points along your spines, no talking.
  • Move gently back and forth, exploring your connection and body contact.
  • Gradually come to stillness and agree on a leader for the first round.
  • The leader guides the other in a breath journey: play with breathing fast, slow, deep, shallow, holding your breath or using different patterns of breath (e.g. two inhales through the nose followed by an exhale through the mouth).
  • The follower mirrors the leader’s breath, focusing on being present and allowing themselves to be led.
  • Set a timer (1-3 minutes) and take turns leading and following.

This is a simple interruption to the usual way of coming into connection with each other’s bodies – after you’ve done a round or two of breathing, let your hands start to wander and explore from this foundation of presence not distraction.

Intimacy in long term relationship

2. Take the pressure off the 'main act' to keep the attraction alive

Are you stuck in the ‘routine’, doing only what I call ‘Big Sex’ (that is what you would typically think of as ‘sex’ – genitals inside genitals, culminating in male ejaculation and maybe female orgasm)? This is sort of like only eating roast chicken every time you have a meal. It gets boring after a while. A very effective way to mix things up is to focus instead on what I call ‘Little Sex’ – that’s everything else that isn’t ‘sex’. The possibilities here are almost endless! This can take the pressure off at the end of a long day: it’s not about achieving yet another task; it’s about connection with your partner. Set yourself an agenda: every third or fourth time you’re intimate with each other can be ‘Big Sex’, otherwise it’s ‘Little Sex’. This could be spread across a week, a fortnight, a month: this is down to you and your individual schedules. This is a space to try out new things without just falling into the usual pattern, or avoiding sex altogether because you don’t feel ‘up for it’ and you are stuck with the rigid idea of what it ‘should be’. It builds up anticipation, and can stop you taking each other for granted. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun to not have ‘sex’ and set some limits and restrictions e.g. get intimate but agree that there will be no penetration today. Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of things to try out as ‘Little Sex’:

    • The ‘Breath with me’ game as outlined above.
    • Full body massage – one partner receives on that day, or both. Check out my blog article, or my online course, for some inspiration.
    • Tantric genital massage (i.e no ‘happy ending’) – enrol on my online course and follow along with the instructional videos for a very pleasurable ‘date night’.
    • Kissing only – this is one of my favourites; ‘snogging’ like teenagers, with clothes on.
    • Pleasure mapping – check out my other blog article for a full guide.
    • Taking a shower or bath together – definitely a nourishing and relaxing form of intimacy!
    • Oral/69-ing only – my partner and I love to do this for 30-45 minutes and then go and have dinner: it’s like having an appetiser 😉
    • Breast massage – the area of the brain that lights up when you touch the nipples and breasts (of any gender) closely overlap with the area that lights up when you stimulate the genitals so why not spend a whole evening playing there!
Intimacy coaching for couples
Desire in long-term relationships

3. Talk about sex more to maintain intimacy

A lot of couples struggle to overcome a stalemate in the bedroom simply because they don’t talk about the intimate and sexual part of their relationship in a practical way. Many couples find themselves 3 years, 5 years, 10+ years into a relationship or marriage that is pretty devoid of sex or physical intimacy and it’s just become something that they’ve silently agreed not to notice. Most of us have some kind of annual review at work where we discuss our progress, our aims and our needs within our company. If you’re not applying this to your relationship you’re far more likely to end up unsatisfied, unfulfilled or looking for a way out. So often we’re led to believe that the ‘perfect relationship’ will just be all blissful and happy and won’t require effort or challenging conversations. This is a dangerous myth. Make time to sit and talk honestly about your sexual longings, how you feel sex is panning out right now, what you want less of or want to change etc. A structure I suggest for this is based in Active Listening:

  • Set a timer for person A to share their thoughts without interruption.
  • Person B doesn’t respond or interrupt. They actively listen, making notes if necessary.
  • Switch roles after the timer ends.
  • Pause, breathe together, and feel into your bodies.
  • In the second round, respond to each other’s sharing – again without interruptions.
  • Continue until issues are resolved or the conversation reaches a natural close.

This is very different to having a conversation – you’re not interrupting each other or speaking over each other. You each have the time and space to fully express how you feel and want you want or don’t want. 

Intimacy evolves in long-term relationship

The bottom line is that physical intimacy in long-term relationships will naturally evolve over time. Your bodies, minds and situations will change – ‘sex’ in your 70s will not be the same as it was in your 20s. That doesn’t mean that your sexual energy has to be suppressed or allowed to wither; physical intimacy is a major benefit of being in a long-term relationship and it’s worth investing time and effort in. It requires you both to take responsibility for your desires and boundaries, and to look honestly at the patterns that might hold you back from being truly vulnerable and open with each other.

If you are interested in a couples coaching session to help you continue to expand the physical intimacy in your relationship feel free to get in touch via email, check out my in-person couples workshops or online massage courses.

With Love,

Libby

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