December 3, 2018
Here’s the unhappy truth about long-term relationships. Over time, as couples get used to each other, they have less sex.
There I said it. Sad but true. In fact, Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has found the amount of time two people have been together as a couple is a better predictor of decreased sexual frequency than the chronological age of the people in the relationship.
In his classic book ‘What You Can Change and What You Can’t’ Prof Martin Seligman is even more explicit…
“The sad fact is that the passionate attraction that so consumed them when they first courted dies down as they get to know each other well. In time, it becomes an ember. Often, an ash. (P, 173)”
Seligman uses the term ‘Acedia’ (from the Greek, roughly translated as sloth or neglect) to describe this phenomenon. He argues Acedia, or sexual decline in otherwise healthy couples, should be recognized as an unfortunate and costly disorder that demands more research into understanding and preventing it.
In his book Flourish, while being highly critical of most popular approaches to relationship counseling, Seligman describes Dr. John Gottman as his favorite marriage researcher. Along Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work, here’s a summery of some of the best tips for keeping passion alive.
In the mornings, as you and your partner are about to go your respective ways for the day, ask about their plans for the day ahead. Find out one noteworthy thing they have planned. is can also be done over social media).
Then, when you catch up at the end of the day remember to ask questions about how it went. This show that you remembered. It shows the person was in your thoughts during the day and that you are more interested in keeping up with the events in their life than following the Kardashians.
Enhance Your Love Map
Your ‘love map’ describes how much you actually know about your partner. We all like to feel appreciated and understood. We all like to know we are harder to replace than a set of used golf clubs. So how well do you actually know your partner? How would you go being tested on your partner’s favorite music, or favorite movie, their dreams for the future, favorite interests and favorite people? Start by learning more about their likes and dislikes.
Think of the most important person in your life. Each week try to find out something new about them. For example…
Who is currently their best friend?
What is their favorite song or TV show?
What is the biggest problem they are they currently facing?
What are their life dreams?
Which relatives do they like or dislike most?
What is the best or the worst thing that happened in their childhood?
What is their favorite holiday destination?
If you do this over time your partner will soon realize there is one person on the planet who truly understands them; – you!
Mix up the kindness.
Traditional relationship approaches advise people to perform acts of kindness. This works for a while however, the improvement soon becomes the new the new normal and staleness returns.
So shake up your routines. Blend kindness with spontaneity and novelty. Perform acts of kindness, big or small, but remember it can’t be the same act next time. Surprise your partner with ‘kindness ambushes.’
Please remain calm. Touch doesn’t have to be sexual. The occasional hug, an incidental hand on the arm, a squeeze of the hand. Gently touching your partner’s shoulder as you pass by.
These gestures can be so incidental they go seemingly unnoticed. But they are registered, either consciously or unconsciously. Touch registers in the brain- lowering stress hormones such as cortisol and increasing oxytocin (the cuddle hormone*). Incidental touch builds trust, bonding, and intimacy.
A Take Home Message
Chris Peterson famously said ‘other people matter.’ And yes, I understand your partner leaves their towel on the floor, watches tedious reality TV, spends too much money, snores, embarrasses you in public and thinks your family are morons (be honest, they are).
Well sunshine, none of us are perfect and loneliness is everything it’s cracked up to be. So unless a relationship contains deal breakers like abuse, infidelity or reality TV there are simple things you can do now to strengthen your relationship.
Take an interest in your partner’s day, learn more about their likes and dislikes, celebrate their good news, mix kindness with spontaneity, and introduce more physical touching. Do all this and let nature take its course (I think ‘Brad’ is an excellent name for a baby). positive psychology