For many people, a long-term romantic relationship is a major life goal. However, a largely happy long-term relationship does not necessarily equal sexual satisfaction. In fact, it’s not uncommon for those in long-term relationships to experience a notable decrease in sexual satisfaction as time passes.
Don’t be ashamed if you aren’t quite happy with your sex life—there are things you can do to combat this issue. Below, we’ll delve into how common sexual dissatisfaction is, what causes it, and techniques you can use to address it.
What causes sexual dissatisfaction in long-term relationships?
Sexual dissatisfaction is subjective, and its definition can vary from person to person. Partners may even disagree on their levels of satisfaction. Similarly, the exact reasons behind sexual dissatisfaction vary. However, one common reason may be boredom. A new Portuguese study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicated that both men and women can (and often do) experience sexual boredom in long-term relationships.
Many people who experience sexual boredom still experience sexual desire. They just don’t feel excited about the sex they’re having with their partners. We can connect this to monotony. When you’re building a long-term relationship with someone, it’s easy to fall into a routine—and routine isn’t inherently a bad thing. But as you and your partner grow, you may both develop new interests, or simply find your typical routine boring. What you once enjoyed begins to feel like an obligation. That extends to your sex life.
How can we improve sexual satisfaction in long-term relationships?
• Change Up Your Routine
One routine that a lot of people in long-term relationships fall into? Repeating the same sexual positions too frequently. We all have our old fallbacks we feel comfortable with—but sometimes, “comfortable” becomes “boring”. Obviously, this is just one part of a larger issue sometimes. But simply changing up your sexual routine with your partner can divert boredom, and potentially help lead to more sexual satisfaction.
When we approach sex like an obligation—whether you’re attempting to conceive, or simply trying to do what you think is right as a partner—it can start feeling like a job. As obvious this may seem, it’s important to remember that sex is fun. You don’t have to do it—it’s there for when you want to do it.
- Explore Novelty
If you’re interested in revamping your sex life with your long-term partner, a natural place to turn is novelty. Think about what you’ve always to try with your partner. Whether it’s role play or incorporating new toys in the bedroom, exploring novelty with your partner can be a lot of fun. Getting playful with sex lessens that sense of obligation, and it can be a huge bonding experience. Even if you decide that new experience or technique isn’t for you—it’s something you and your partner can laugh about. It’s something the two of you tried together.
Of course, sometimes novelty can be as simple as surprising your partner with a date night, or saying “I love you” more often. You and your partner may not always have the exact same levels of sexual desire, but there is always a way for the two of you to explore novelty of some kind.
- Have Sex More Frequently
Alternatively, lack of sexual satisfaction can be connected to just not having enough sex. If you and your partner both feel like you’re not having enough sex, your change in routine may center on making sex a bigger priority. Even if you make a goal—“let’s have sex every Wednesday”, for example—it doesn’t have to feel routine. You and your partner can switch up where and how you have sex. You can have fun with it, and just showing your partner that more sex is a priority for you can say a lot about how much you value your relationship.
As always, the definition of “enough sex” may vary from relationship to relationship and even partner to partner. This is why it’s so important to…
If you struggle with low libido that is, in turn, leading to low levels of sexual satisfaction, click here to read more about how to combat low sexual desire!
- Communicate with Your Partner
It’s crucial to let your partner know if you’re currently dissatisfied with your sex life. They may very well feel the same way. No matter what, improving your sex life must involve effort from both you and your partner. Cooperating and open communication is key.
That doesn’t mean it will be immediately easy. As miscommunication or a lack of communication can be linked to sexual dissatisfaction, don’t feel alone or unusual if your first conversation with your partner is a little difficult. This is one reason why sex therapy may be a good idea as you begin working to improve your sex life.
- Talk to a Sex Therapist about your levels of sexual satisfaction
Sex therapy may feel like a big step at first, but for some people it’s just a routine part of working on their relationship. Working with a sex therapist is about not only recognizing sexual dissatisfaction in your relationship but acting to make it better. A sex therapist can help you and your partner put into words what may at first be difficult to verbalize. Additionally, working with a sex therapist may make it easier to identify problems beyond communication.
Often, a sex therapist uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you and your partner uncover less obvious issues, and perhaps even trauma, surrounding your sex life. Additionally, your therapist may recommend specific techniques. If you want to try something new but feel as if you’re unsure of how to proceed, a sex therapist can be a great resource.
There’s a way forward!
If you’re feeling low levels of sexual satisfaction in your long-term relationship, try not to feel guilty. This is a very common issue, and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, or that your relationship is over. As you recognize sexual dissatisfaction and move to resolve it, you and your partner may very well be on the path to a new beginning together.
You don’t have to accept boredom—and as much as it takes effort to improve your sex life, in the end it’s all about having more fun, excitement, and intimacy in your relationship. With these things in mind, you can begin your journey to a better sex life, while preserving your long-term relationship.
Haeyoung, Gideon Park, Hye, Won Suk, Jeon, Eun Cheon, & Young-Hoon, Kim. (2022). Darling, Come Lay with Me or Talk with Me: Perceived Mattering and the Complementary Association between Sex and Communication within Marital Relationships. The Journal of Sex Research, 60(3), 336-348.
de Oiveira, Leonor, Carvalho, Joana & Nobre, Pedro. (2020). Perceptions of sexual boredom in a community sample. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 47(3), 224-237.
de Oliveira, Leonor, Stulhofer, Alekesandar, Tafro, Azra, Carvalho, Joana, & Nobre, Pedro. Sexual boredom and sexual desire in long-term relationships: a latent profile analysis. (2023). The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(1), 14-21.
Tiffini is a relationship and sex therapist who practices in Virginia and Florida. She is committed to seeing her community transform through the healing of relationships. She empowers her clients by equipping them with the necessary tools to build healthy, vulnerable relationships.