How to keep the passion alive in a long-term relationship

Is your long-term relationship more fizzer than fireworks? Here’s how to rekindle the fire if the sparks have stopped flying.

You meet a new flame and it’s a whirlwind of giddy excitement and lust.

But once the “honeymoon” period is over and the relationship settles into a familiar rhythm, how do you keep the passion alive? And does it even matter if there are no constant fireworks?

Relationships Australia Victoria senior clinician Alexandra Barbas says new relationships are exciting because they offer variety and surprise.

“The more you get to know someone the less excitement, because it becomes more familiar, more routine,” she says.

“While it creates a sense of safety and security, it can also create a sense of boredom or indifference for some people.”

Throw in children, work and other commitments, and you might find that sex is the last thing on your mind.

But therapist, sex and relationship expert Cyndi Darnell says if your love-making has waned, don’t panic.

“To lose your erotic connection is not unusual and not necessarily a sign that the relationship is going down the toilet,” Cyndi says.

Firstly – there is no normal, so do what’s right for you

“We have this culture that love and sex must go together – but for a lot of people, the experience is different,” says Cyndi.

“Some couples will happily go along in relationships where sex is not really the imperative and that’s fine.

“If their relationship is based on child rearing, financial security, there’s no need to change it up. It only becomes an issue when one or both partners feel like they want more sex.”


But if sex important to you, make it a priority

“You need to make it a priority, the same as going to the gym,” says Cyndi.

“There’s no magic pill or cream you can rub on; it’s really that simple.”

Tune in to your partner

It’s important to recognise that each of you has different wants, needs, emotional states and pressures – not to mention libidos.

“There might be factors like physical pain, a screaming baby, division of labour, disability, and so on to think about,” Cyndi says.

Quality v quantity

Quality is more important than frequency when it comes to sex, says Cyndi. Look realistically at your time.

“Some people get hooked up on frequency. If that’s an issue, name your frequency. It doesn’t matter whether it’s three times a week or once a month, it’s what works for you,” she says.

She also recommends less focus on traditional sexual intercourse, particularly for women.

“Think about what kind of sex acts you like. There’s a real stigma and shame and embarrassment. People need to get over squeamishness about being frank and explicit about sex.”

Don’t restrict sex to night-time

Cyndi warns it can take hours for the mood to come.

“You’re tired, you’re stressed, you need to get up early. Having a quickie late on a Wednesday night might not be particularly pleasant because you’d rather have an extra 30 minutes sleep than bad sex,” she says.

“So do it on a Saturday afternoon. If there are kids, schedule a babysitter so you’ve got at least an hour, two, three window. Or go away for the weekend!

“It takes time for the mind and body to connect but we don’t allow ourselves that time around sex.”


Create your own rituals

Alexandra says it’s important to find rituals both partners enjoy.

“It might be going on a bike ride together, having breakfast every Sunday morning at your local café. Something that enhances that feeling of connection with your partner,” she says.

“Change it up. Introduce variety and surprise into your relationship. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant, it might be just leaving a note in your partner’s briefcase saying I love you.”

Take charge of your future

“To have a passionate relationship, a large part is taking responsibility for the relationship you want. You are the creator of that relationship,” Alexandra says.

“Realise that it won’t necessarily be like anyone else’s, but it has to be what you need.”

Study up – and practise what you learn

A 2016 study on passion in long-term relationships found sexually satisfied couples regularly engaged in foreplay, set the mood, mixed it up and expressed their love.

But what really set apart passionate couples from their unsatisfied counterparts?

While half of all couples read self-help books and magazine articles, the passionate couples actually tried some of the ideas, wrote lead author Dr David Frederick.

Written by Michelle Rose and Liz McGrath