No matter how passionately your relationship began, over time, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of you will experience a dip in sexual desire.
Wondering why? In this month’s blog, we share three fascinating insights that help to explain things and what you can do to counteract them:
(1) We are prone to hedonic adaptation.
Hedonic adaptation refers to how we humans adapt and become habituated to most life changes, positive or negative. With challenges in life, this comes in handy, as we adapt to difficulty to make things tolerable. However, with the goodness of life, it works against us, and we quickly lose touch with the allure that uniquely comes when things are new.
Ever had the experience of loving a new outfit or car when you first got it – only to discover, months later, it lost its appeal? That’s hedonic adaptation at work.
In other words, we are psychologically and physiologically inclined to adapt to positive experiences, leading us to take them for granted.
Much research has been done on how sexual passion and arousal are particularly prone to hedonic adaptation. For example, both men and women demonstrate less arousal after they repeatedly view the same erotic pictures or engage in similar sexual fantasies. Familiarity leads to increased indifference.
(2) We crave variety and novelty.
Another way to understand decreased passion in long-term love is to recognize that we are biologically hard-wired to crave variety. In fact, variety and novelty affect our brains in a similar way that drugs do – releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine and leading to a high.
Another fascinating reason we crave variety, as proposed by evolutionary biologists, is that it evolved to prevent incest and inbreeding. The more familiar and predictable our spouse or lover becomes, the more we see them as family (i.e. as a sibling or even as a parent), and, therefore, the less sexually attracted we become.
(3) It is a practical part of our evolution to make us productive human beings.
When you were first falling in love, perhaps you felt like you were in an altered state from the rush of “love chemicals” in your system, and you were invested in wooing, courting, or impressing this new person in your life. As a result, you likely spent a great deal of time each day talking, lovemaking, and sharing magical moments together.
While this is fabulous, chances are, there was also a cost: less sleep, less productivity, less healthy eating, less tending to the needs of others in your life, and/or more distractions from responsibilities.
Short-term, these costs are really no big deal and cause minimal harm. However, over time, it would not be sustainable.
It makes sense that our biology floods us with chemicals that incite passion and excitement, urging us to find our mates and procreate (i.e. survival of our species). Then, it also makes sense that our biology shifts to help us manage our lives together more functionally.
So there you have it: 3 key reasons passion naturally fades over time. Here’s one of the most important takeaways we want to highlight: when passion and desire start to fade in a relationship, it’s easy to mistake that shift for falling out of love, incompatibility, and unhappiness. It can easily lead to doubting the one we’re with and romanticizing or fantasizing about others. Instead, however, we invite you to recognize that this shift is completely natural and so common that it’s nearly universal.
Also, this decreasing desire (with at least one person in a pair) would happen with just about anyone, even in that steamy romance you think would have sparks flying for a lifetime.
Instead of losing hope or letting the flame go out completely, we recommend putting your energy into re-romanticizing your love with your current sweetheart. Here are some key ways to actively stoke passion and keep it alive for decades to come:
- Spend more time having fun together. Playfulness and flirtiness brings out a whole different side of us than who we are in our logistical, distracted, or less lighthearted moments.
- Actively cultivate the qualities you find most attractive in each other, emotionally and physically. Openly communicate with one another about those things you find erotic (both in and out of the bedroom — from the clothes and scents you wear, things you say, thoughtful gestures you do, and so forth).
- Keep variety alive! Always be growing together and trying new things.
- Positively surprise one another. Surprise is one of the key elements when we first fall in love. It is the mysterious unfolding of another human being that magnetizes us and pulls us in (just like a great story or movie when you don’t know the ending). There is a reason why great writers use suspense and tension to keep us engaged.
- Counteract hedonic adaptation by actively expressing gratitude to one another as often as possible. Continually scan for everything there is to appreciate. Otherwise, you will surely miss it. When you focus on the good, the good grows.
- Want more? Check out an entire blog we wrote about Keeping Attraction Alive.
Keeping a relationship strong, thriving, passionate, connected, and joyous doesn’t happen by accident or luck. It comes from actively nurturing these things.
It continually amazes us how quickly couples can fall back in love again when they have guidance and tools for effectively reigniting their spark. In fact, you can check out some pics from our recent trip to Hood River, Oregon and read the heartwarming success story of one couple who attended our Thrive in Love retreat there. We were so grateful and honored to visit the gorgeous Pacific Northwest and connect to all the wonderful couples who joined us.
Our next Thrive in Love retreat is coming up in Illinois June 8-9, and we want to warmly welcome you. It’s in the perfect location for a getaway. This one weekend could truly change the course of your entire summer — and lives!
Also, stay tuned for our brand new website and new online course launching this summer! We’re busy cooking up lots of magic for you 🙂
And, lastly, we are absolutely overjoyed to have a new amazing therapist join our team here at the Center for Thriving Relationships! Be sure to click HERE to learn more about Amanda, and post a comment to say hello and welcome her aboard. She is now available for individual and couples counseling sessions and accepts insurance. She is fabulous, and we are so excited for you to meet her!
Wishing you an ever-deepening love that grows stronger, deeper, and richer through the years — because we know that’s possible for you, and you deserve it so very much!
Infinite Love and Joy,
PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!