Reignite Passion, Build a Better Relationship and Make Love Last

I’ve just celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary and sometimes find it hard to come to terms with the fact that relationships evolve over time. I do hanker after the heady feelings of love, passion and excitement that we shared for the first seven years of our marriage. I’ve wondered if there is some way to get those feelings back. So, I started digging around for the latest research. I found that there is a proven way to recreate those loving feelings. In fact, there are three things anyone can do to keep the love alive in their relationship and none are complicated.

First, it helps to realize that long-term relationships inevitably change and evolve over time.

Relationships generally move from passion to a more mature, committed love. After 17 years of marriage, I can attest that very few sparks fly about, but all hope isn’t lost. You can reignite the passion by doing something new together.

What is the science behind this simple fact? New experiences flood your brain with dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals stimulate the same reward center of your brain as falling in love. The key is doing something new together, whether that is learning how to play racquetball, learning to sail, or traveling to a foreign country (our personal favorite). This is much more likely to bring excitement to a mature relationship than going out for a nice dinner or taking a walk together. I do enjoy doing the simple things with my husband, but we haven’t done something new together for some time now. I did start Cross-fit training with him, but it isn’t my thing. So we’ll need to come up with something that both of us enjoy.

Second, statistics reveal that the more sex you have with your partner, the happier you’ll feel about the relationship.

The good news is that people in committed relationships do have more sex than singles. The typical married couple has sex about 51 times a year, with very happy couples having sex about 74 times a year. However, frequency declines with age, dropping to 20 times a year by age 65. Given that sex helps bring you closer together, you can improve your relationships simply by having more sex. Counter-intuitively, this works even if you don’t feel like having sex. Most people discover that once you get started, the body kicks in and hormones fire up. You’re then likely to realize that you like sex more than you thought.

Dr. Elaine Hatfield, psychology professor at the University of Hawaii, and Susan Sprecher, psychology and sociology professor at the University of Illinois, created a quick quiz you can take to test your passion. The quiz is called The Passionate Love Scale. I just took it, and sure enough, after 17 years of marriage, I’m average — “contented with some sparks.” No surprise there. I’ll have to see what my husband scores…

Dr. Hatfield’s research shows that when men and women were asked to write down the five things they most wanted during sex, they listed:

5 Things Men Want Most:

  1. Be more seductive
  2. Initiate sex more often
  3. Be more experimental
  4. Be wilder and sexier
  5. Give more instructions


5 Things Women Want Most:

  1. Talk more lovingly (not just in the bedroom, but during the day)
  2. Be more seductive
  3. Be more experimental
  4. Give more instructions
  5. Be warmer and more involved
It appears that we aren’t so very different after all.

Both men and women want more experimentation, more instructions and more seduction. Note to self: I must dig out my sexy lingerie from under the flannel pjs. Of course, Hatfield recommends that you do this exercise with your partner and see what your own unique answers are.

I have told my husband that I feel more attracted to him if he is in a cheerful mood. The research backs me up. Most women say they are more inclined to have sex if they get compliments, love and help with domestic chores from their mate. What happens outside the bedroom matters more to women than men.

Guys, if you are hankering for more nookie, grab a dishtowel and consider that the new foreplay.

No joke. Often, working mothers feel so burdened by household tasks that they don’t feel they have the energy or inclination for sex, especially if they have started to resent their partner for not taking on a fair share of the chores.

According to Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play, 86% of working mothers say they handle the majority of household responsibilities even when both work full time. Something has to give, and I’d put my money on sex. Rodsky points out that the burden isn’t just physical. Women also carry the mental load of remembering who has soccer and when the tutor is coming to help with chemistry lessons. I call this invisible work. It isn’t just the mental list, it is also the actual work women do that men simply don’t see. I’d fume when my husband would come home from work and comment on the load of laundry that wasn’t put away. He didn’t see the two loads I had already washed, folded and put away! I highly recommend the book if you are starting to resent your partner. I’ve written more about the book and her game for couples here.

But now you ask, doesn’t it take two to tango? How can I change the relationship on my own?

The good news comes from Dr. Phyllis Cohen, a couples’ therapist for over 40 years: “It all starts with a game changer. Only one person has to initiate change to proactively change the entire system.” Hooray! And you, being the motivated and curious person reading this article, get to be the game changer. Congratulations!

Here’s the best relationship advice I can give you now: pick one of these three possible things and become the game changer in your own relationship.

If you feel overwhelmed by managing the household, then start with a game of Fair Play. Perhaps you’ll decide to have sex one more time a week than your usual, even if you don’t particularly feel like it because you know that it will bring you closer together (besides, it’s good for your skin). Or maybe you’d like to spark things up by doing something new together. Whatever sounds easiest and most appealing, that is the thing to do first.

Next week I’ll talk about why we fight. Guess what…money is a big reason. If you crack that one thing, you’ll be doing a lot to improve your relationship.


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