When you are in a long term relationship, sex will get better in the early years. But after those first years, many couples experience a downward spiral. Sex becomes a routine and – on average – the tension decreases. Still there are people who succeed to have a satisfying and exciting sex life, even after a long time. What is it that those couples do differently? And what can you learn from them?
How can you ensure that your sex lives keeps improving over time? How can you make sure that there will be no decline, that so many people experience after several years in a relationship? This is what science says.
Novelty is wat sex makes interesting and fascinating for humans. When we have executed a certain act a large number of times, the tension becomes less. That could even led to boredom or dullness. New sex is always better. This is also called the Coolidge Effect, to an anecdote about Calvin Coolidge and his wife.
The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When Mrs. Coolidge came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
The scientific explanation is that, when we are exposed to the same sexual stimuli, our level of arousal reduces. Research shows that when people watch the same porn movie everyday for a week, they get less excited every day.
This means you have to try new things often to keep your partner interested and excited. Research shows that partners with a varied sex life are more satisfied. These people also say that they are able to have a long lasting satisfying sex life.
When you are not sure how to bring some variation into the bedroom, consider some role playing, or bring a sex toy or sexy lingerie into the bedroom. Try a different position, watch porn together, play an erotic game, or give each other a massage.
Express your desires
Pretty much everyone has sexual fantasies. Our own research (Dutch) shows that many people believe that only a small number of others share their fantasy. Usually we underestimate how common our fantasies actuelly are. But because of our shame we don’t express our desires. In stead, we suppress our cravings.
Suppressing might be the worst thing you could do, however. When you try not to think about sex, scientific research shows it could have the opposite effect. In psychology this phenomena is called the ‘ironic process theory‘, better known as ‘the pink elephant in the room’. When someone tells you not to think about a pink elephant, it suddenly becomes really hard not to think about a pink elephant.
So in stead of suppressing your fantasies or desires, because you might be ashamed for them, it is better to express them. Often it appears you are not the only one with those desires. Many others – perhaps even your own partner – shares exactly that fantasy. As soon as you have expressed that fantasy, you can think how you can make that fantasy come true. Research shows that women that act out their fantasy even have orgasms more often.
Mindfulness, for your sex life too
I know. I dislike the term ‘mindfulness’ too. But when it comes to sex, many people get distracted at the moment they have sex. They have a hard time to let go of their thoughts and they keep worrying about work, or that presentation they have to give the next day, or they fret about money or the kids. Others are obsessed with their appearance, or whether they smell bad, or they have doubts about how good they are in bed.
No matter what you think, if you are not thinking about what you are doing with your partner (being in the moment), there is a huge chance you are not enjoying it, you don’t get excited and you will eventually not reach an orgasm.
There are many ways to take your mind off things and to get your head on straight. Scientists have determined that BDSM is an activity that can help. In some SM activities people reach an altered state of consciousness. They can even get absorbed in the moment.
But if you’re not this kinky and – different than me – don’t have an aversion to the word ‘mindfulness’, you could try taking a course. Mindfulness origins from Buddhism, and is a meditation technique to be more in the moment. There is scientific proof that this can help resolve different sexual issues.
It’s not about quantity
Do you believe that you would be happier when you would have sex more often? Yes? Think again, because you might be wrong. Research shows that the opposite is true. At an experiment, couples were asked to have sex twice as often as they were used to (from 5 to 6 times a month, to 10 to 12 times a month). These couples weren’t exactly pleased. They started to see sex as a chore; something that they had to do, in stead of something they liked to do.
So don’t let yourself be guided by the frequency you think should be average. It’s much better to focus on quality, rather than quantity.
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