Keeping a sexual connection in a long term relationship is not a given, but with some intention and self-awareness, I believe it’s possible. In some ways, I think it’s a choice to believe that it’s possible—I am invested in loving someone over a long period of time, and I want it to be possible. I think, like many of life’s great adventures, that my choice to continue loving and working on myself and this unique combination of myself with this partner will make a difference in whether or not it, for the long haul, works.
What is “long term?” It’s an arbitrary measure of time, and for all of us that might mean different things. A couple together for forty years might think that three years is just barely starting out, but for someone who has never had a relationship last over a few months, making it to the year mark might feel like long term. In looking at some of the stages of relationships, many of the models would put the initial “honeymoon” period at 5-8 months, and the “growth struggles” at 2-3 years in, which I would say is the beginning of the long term. Once the struggles start, usually the couple has to reevaluate if it’s worth it to stay in the relationship or not, whether the struggling is, ultimately, worth it.
Assuming that you decide it is worth it, you’re in the “long term” stage of the relationship where you’ve got an established sense of couple-ness, you’ve established that you want to stay in that couple, and you’re still working out how to precisely do that.
So how, in that process, do you continue to be mutually satisfied with your erotic life? Regardless of whether you are monogamous, monogamish, or open to whatever degree, your erotic connection with this particular partner is still relevant, and important. Unless you decide that you’re going to stay in this relationship and agree that it is, for all intents and purposes, sexless—which many people do for many reasons, and a perfectly fine choice – you will be faced with this question.
Many couples, on the other hand, are monogamous, relatively sexless, and perfectly happy, and they may have their own version of this question. In this culture of sex sex sex, sex positivity, and the constant focus on how important it is for a couple to stay erotically connected, is it bad if a couple is satisfied with sex once a month, every two months, four times a year? The short answer to that is: No. There’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you are both sexually satisfied. It is perfectly normal to go through periods (that may last years!) where you are basically uninterested in sex, and that is perfectly fine. The problems with sex in a long term relationship arise when what one partner wants is incongruous with the other partner, when shaming happens for needing more or less sex, or when needs don’t get met.
In other words: It is not about the quantity of sex that you’re having in your partnership. It’s about your level of satisfaction, about the deep pleasure (to use a tantric term) that you are taking from the relationship and sexual interactions.
So how do you continue to be mutually satisfied with your erotic life in a long term partnership? Particularly, how do you figure out how to keep—or add back—the spark and growl that you had when you were starting out, but that might’ve faded over the years? Many sex columnists would have you “light candles” and “talk about your fantasies,” but frankly those are fairly elementary suggestions that most of us have already experimented with. The real question, for me, is: What do you want? And what is keeping you from getting to what you want?
I have some ideas.
Really, the best suggestion I can make is to go back in time and make sure to establish a few things from the very beginning of your relationship: A) That you are interweaving your sexual selves, regardless of whatever degree you may be exclusive, and that you therefore are going to be key players in each other’s erotic lives; B) that you therefore are invested in each other’s erotic edges, in getting what you want, in exploring new and interesting things, and in, at the very least, meeting each other’s basic needs; and that, oh yeah, C) you are willing and eager to talk about sex.
But since you can’t actually go back in time, perhaps you can start establishing those things now in your relationship. Do you want to stay with this person? Do you want to have a satisfying, sexual relationship with this person? Do you think they would be willing to do some work to assure that you both have a satisfying sexual relationship?
Then there ya go.
Time to talk about what you want, what you crave, how often you want to get fucked, how often you want to just pound the shit outta them, and what kind of things you’re interested in exploring that you have either never done or wish you could do more of. Keep a sexual bucket list. Periodically update it, because things change constantly. Don’t be invested in who you used to be, six months or a year or two years ago. You’re these people now. Start where you’re at, and get what you want.