Remember when you could spend half a day choosing the right bra or deciding whether you should wear your hair straight or wavy, all in preparation for the mere possibility of sex? And now, making dinner, answering e-mails, and catching z's trump sheet tangling most nightsÃ¢â‚¬”especially when the person in bed next to you is someone you've been sleeping with for years.
That's something Dana, a 36-year-old college professor in Portland, Oregon, who has been with her husband for a decade, can relate to. "I still feel close to him," she says. "We snuggle and kiss. But rarely does that physical closeness turn sexual. I just don't want it anymore."
Unfortunately, losing that physical spark with a long-term partner is all too common, according to couples and sex therapist Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. "Time and time again, couples tell me, 'We love each other very much, but we have no sex,'" she says. "They feel as if they're living with a roommate. People start desexualizing each other."
And all the hot-sex tips and edible underwear in the world aren't going to change that. But learning to see your long-term partner in a new way and getting back in touch with the pleasures of having sex can return your libido to frequently-frisky levels. Follow this advice:
1/ Observe him in his element.
You expect your partner to give you safety and security, but those are the very things that can work against desire. "We want someone who is grounding and anchoring, but we also need mystery, novelty, and the unexpected," says Perel. The key is to try to view him in a way that makes him seem unfamiliar to youÃ¢â‚¬”like, for example, when he's doing something he's totally into or when he's being admired by others. "Looking at him while he's being passionate about something is the biggest turn-on," says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a psychologist in Chicago.
2/ Be honest about what really turns you on.
A massage or a million kisses is nothing to scoff at, but your sex drive might be lackluster precisely because you're scared to admit that you want something more taboo in the bedroom. Don't be afraid to go there, even if it seems selfish or like something that would make your brunch companions blush. "Desire comes with selfishness in the best sense of the word. In our erotic lives, it's normal to get turned on by stuff that we'd be turned off by during the day," assures Perel. "The erotic mind isn't very politically correct."
3/ Pinpoint when you shut yourself off.
Zeroing in on what turns you on is certainly crucial, but it's also important to ponder what causes you to be turned offÃ¢â‚¬”and you might be surprised that many of the reasons don't involve your partner. "Think of this question as, 'I turn off my desires. . .when?' It's not the same as, 'You turn me off,'" says Perel. Do you shut yourself off when you don't like your body? If you feel old and exhausted? When you're not performing well at work?
To block out these external factors, seek support from your partner. "It's not as cut-and-dried as simply asking him to turn you into a sex goddess," says Gillian Reynolds, author of Awaken His Emotional Core. Instead, explain that you feel low or not especially aroused during these times, and ask him to put extra effort into foreplay or turn up the tenderness to help you get into it.
4/ Do it for the right reasons.
If you go into sex with an "I should just do it to get him off my back" attitude, you aren't going to enjoy it as much as you would if you focused on physical satisfaction or emotional closeness. And having the same outlook on sex as you do about sending a follow-up memo to your boss has another pitfall: Your guy will have less fun too. A 2013 study from the University of Toronto found that when you have sex purely to avoid conflict with your partner, it takes away from the satisfaction both you and your partner derive from it. Amy Muise, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study, says, "Shift your thinking about having sex to positive reasons like pleasure or connection."
5/ Find couple mentors who are hot for each other.
We're advised to seek out people we admire at the office for advice and leadership if we want to get ahead and do good work ourselves. So why wouldn't we do the same thing with couples we think have successful relationships? "Ask yourself which of the couples you know seem really into each other," says Perel.
But, of course, learning from a couple is a lot trickier than adopting a work mentor. Muise advises initiating the conversation with a friend who might be a good role model by talking about your experience first. "Say, 'My libido isn't what it was.' See if that opens up the conversation," says Muise. Or Lombardo suggests posing questions such as, "You and your husband seem so close, even after being together for so long. What's your secret?" A question that, after following these tips, you might soon be answering for someone else.
AGE-PROOF YOUR SEX DRIVE
As you get older, your libido is affected byÃ¢â‚¬”and can decline due toÃ¢â‚¬”changing hormone levels, says Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code. To combat the effects, Vitti suggests dietary changes, such as upping your intake of healthy fats (try foods like nuts and coconut oil) and protein to help keep blood sugar steady and assist in mood stability. She also recommends doing basic strength training, which can aid in increasing testosterone production and your libido, or taking supplements like an energy-revving B vitamin complex.