Each long-term relationship is different and sex in each relationship is different. Many factors impact the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of sexual enjoyment and pleasure, including though not limited to, emotional connection, medical conditions, relational conflict, sexual preferences/interests or a combination of many factors.
Although many people can enjoy physical sex without an emotional connection, the emotional connection adds a different element to sex. For some, it means becoming vulnerable with another person and feeling safe to explore sexual interests or activities. In our society, many sexual activities are taboo or come with an element of shame or guilt. Finding a partner who you trust to share and explore a fetish, kink, or behavior that falls into that category creates a strong emotional connection that you may not have with a “hook up” partner. Therefore, if a couple begins a relationship with no or limited emotional connection, sex could improve as that connection becomes stronger in the long term. Keep in mind that, at any point, sexual satisfaction could decline if the emotional connection declines or is severed such as with the loss of trust or safety in the relationship. A couple can still have sexual desire and enjoy the act of sex, though; it may be different if the connection is different.
Tip: Remember what you’ve worked hard to create
Relationships are hard work and there is no manual or guide to help us create them. Why let a decision or neglect ruin 10, 15, 20, 30, or more years spent working hard to create a positive relationship with your partner. Create time to emotionally connect on a regular basis whether this is a weekly or monthly date or a daily gesture to remind you both what you’ve built.
Another tip: Indulge in self-care
Your relationship is a product of you and your partner. Therefore, it is only as healthy as the two of you combined. If you begin to neglect yourself, it will show in the relationship. Therefore, take the time for you whether it is a regular hobby, spa day, regular exercise, eating healthy, visiting the park, and the list goes on.
Medical condition is a factor that changes sexual experience
Medical conditions are another factor that can change sexual experience in a long-term relationship. Medication(s) used to treat medical conditions can also impact sexual functioning. When medical conditions or medications become a factor, sex is more than likely going to change though it does not mean it becomes worse. During the adjustment period or “learning a new way of sex,” one or both partners might experience frustration, which is normal and understandable.
Communication is a great skill to navigate this life event and change in sexual functioning. Not only communication with your partner but also communication with your medical providers. Again, sex is taboo in our society and even some doctors are uncomfortable talking about sex. I have many clients with severe medical conditions, and their doctors never mention sex until I become involved in treatment. I encourage all my clients to bring up sexual functioning to their doctors. Not sure what to say? Practice your talk with your therapist or partner. For added support, take your partner to your appointments to share concerns with the doctor. In regards to communication with your partner and type of medical condition, it is very important for you both to communicate before, during, and after sex. If one person is uncomfortable or physically hurting, this could not only cause more damage to the medical condition though also to the relationship.
All relationships have conflict and sexual satisfaction or desire, which can be affected during these times. It’s not fair to say that a longer-term relationship has more conflict, as it depends on each relationship and conflict resolution skills. However, when a partner is mad at another partner, sexual desire may decline until the conflict is resolved. On the other hand, sexual activity may continue, though negative feelings may change the satisfaction of sexual activity. For a minor conflict that is resolved in a short amount of time, this change may not have a large impact on the relationship or sexual satisfaction level. However, when conflict is severe or conflict resolution skills are poor, some couples go an extended period of time without sex, therefore, changing the satisfaction level AND frequency of sex. The tip here is to develop strong conflict resolution skills in order to keep the relationship strong and healthy, and don’t let conflict make sex a symptom. Many couples enter my office reporting, “Sex is our problem,” though I discover that unresolved conflict is the real problem. When this occurs, sex is removed from the relationship. Even if you are upset at your partner, it’s acceptable to still want and engage in sexual activity as long as each partner consents and feels safe in the relationship.
Sex in some long-term relationships becomes stagnant
There are many reasons for this including comfort with the same routine or fear of exploring due to shame, judgment, or guilt. If you notice your sexual relationship is stagnant and this creates dissatisfaction for you, talk with your partner. He or she may feel the same way or be willing to listen to your needs (this is where strong communication skills help too). To prevent sex from stagnating, be willing to try something new in bed whether it’s a toy or activity. Many major cities offer sexually related workshops for couples including learning about Tantra or how to safely use sex toy devices. Make a point to attend one or two and try things out. Plan what I call a sex-cation or a vacation for sex! Many of my couples love the idea of planning a weekend getaway with the intention to emotionally and sexually connect with one another. Plus, you have a different environment to mix things up! Who says sex is also physical? I suggest clients plan a sexy boudoir session where one or both partners participate or watch. After half a day of sexiness, I guarantee your bedroom romp will be different!