Dr. Emily’s post for The Thinks I Wish I Knew blog provides insightful tips on sustaining passion in long-term relationships.

Many people wonder whether it’s possible to sustain passion in long-term, monogamous relationships. The honeymoon phase of the relationship feels wonderful; sex seems effortless, spontaneous, and hot. We also have so many neurochemicals surging through our brains that it’s like we’re high on cocaine! Unfortunately, the surge of these chemicals isn’t sustainable in the long-run, and eventually, they fall back to normal levels. The rose-colored glasses come off, and little habits that you initially thought were cute suddenly seem annoying. Many couples are guilty of letting fear take hold when the honeymoon phase of the relationship wears off. That’s why it’s important to learn how to sustain intimacy in your relationship.

It’s not uncommon for sex to feel both easy and insanely intense in the beginning of a relationship, but it can start to feel lackluster when you’re also finding yourself paying bills together and negotiating who is going to run the kids to soccer practice.

However, new research in the field of sex therapy (my own included), shows that people who cultivate certain individual and relationship qualities enjoy sexual experiences that actually improve with time. In fact, these individuals describe sexual experiences that are far better than the sex they had in the early days of the relationship.

The following four elements are keys to maintaining intimacy for the long haul:

  1. Practice. 

You’re not going to see the same level of flow and harmony in a pair of novice dancers as you would in a couple who has been dancing together for years. A newly assembled band is not going to have the necessary skill set to know when to step back and let one of its musicians rock out on a drum or saxophone solo in a way that captivates the audience before seamlessly coming back together to finish the song. The same concept applies to team sports. Teams that have been practicing together for a long period of time tend to win more championships.

Sex is no different. You’ll never learn all the little idiosyncrasies of your partner’s sexuality within the first few months of a relationship. Sex isn’t better when it’s rare. The more you practice and fine-tune your skills, the more effortless sex will feel. Furthermore—and this is part of what makes sex so exciting—what worked yesterday might be different from what works today. Think of how musicians evolve in their style and create different songs. Once you and your partner have an understanding of what each other typically enjoys, you can begin to create new and exciting harmonies together. 

Keeping reading on Things I Wish I Knew.

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