3 Secrets of Happy Couples

4 min read

The secret to keeping passion alive in long-term relationships is a question many couples find themselves asking. After all, there is so much that couples are up against. Work stress, caring for young children, managing a household, and an entire host of other responsibilities often demand our attention, causing intimacy to wane.

Even without life’s burdens, it’s well documented that passion begins to diminish somewhere between the two- and four-year mark in a relationship. Some anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists believe this has to do with maximizing our reproductive potential. Perhaps millions of years ago, we evolved to fall in love, have passionate sex, reproduce, and then, when our offspring gain some independence, begin looking elsewhere for another partner to mate with who could ignite a spark.

The tendency for sexual passion to wane over time is so primal that it even occurs in different species. Known as the Coolidge Effect, it’s been found, for example, that male hamsters lose their desire to mate over time when presented with the same female hamster repeatedly. As soon as a new female hamster is introduced, however, the male hamster’s sexual desire is restored almost instantly.

Eric Froehling/UnSplash

Eric Froehling/UnSplash

Less you think that the Coolidge effect only happens among men, significant data show that in the context of heterosexual long-term relationships, women’s sexual desire declines more rapidly. The same is also true when comparing the decline of sexual frequency in lesbian relationships compared to those of gay men.

So, are we destined to lose attraction for our partner and settle into a rut? Absolutely not! There’s an abundance of research showing some specific strategies that can help couples keep the spark alive. Below are some of the most effective evidence-based strategies!

#1 Express gratitude daily for your partner

Research shows that couples who express gratitude report higher levels not just of relationship satisfaction but of sexual satisfaction as well. One of the worst habits that partners can fall into is succumbing to the desire to constantly criticize or make negative remarks to each other. It’s okay to raise concerns, but when communication in a relationship degrades to the point where partners feel criticized and unappreciated, all magic is lost. The key to preventing this is to make an active effort to tell your partner at least one thing they did that day that you appreciated. This can be as simple as thanking them for cleaning up the dinner dishes or helping you process your emotions about a distressing event. When we feel like our partners notice us and acknowledge our efforts, it builds trust and emotional intimacy.

#2 Encourage each other’s personal growth outside the relationship

Staying connected and maintaining stability in a relationship is important, but equally important is encouraging each other to grow and change. Research shows that when couples independently pursue things they are passionate about – whether it be a job, a new skill or hobby they’re learning, or a cause they feel strongly about – those feelings of excitement feed back into their relationship. This is because happy couples manage to balance predictability and safety with adventure and novelty. When both partners take time to honor their interests and ambitions, they each become slightly changed people every time they reconnect.

#3 Prioritize sexual intimacy

Sex will never fix a broken relationship. However, research shows that sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction are highly correlated. Sex helps us to connect emotionally and physically with our partners. It relieves stress and promotes intimacy. Research also shows that couples who have sex once a week or more report more relationship satisfaction than couples who have sex less frequently. They also are more able to forgive each other’s minor annoyances and focus instead on their more positive qualities.

Research that has looked at the most sexually satisfied couples has discovered some consistent themes. To begin, they plan sex rather than expect it to simply happen spontaneously. They take time and effort to really set the mood, whether that involves music and candles or a weekend away together. They remain sexually curious by incorporating at least one novel thing a month, whether that be trying out a new position, having sex in a different room, or incorporating a toy.

Relationships Essential Reads

Remember, we are complex, multi-dimensional people, not simply hamsters. We all have the potential to grow, change, and explore in ways that keep our relationships exciting and fresh. It simply requires effort and a willingness to make your partner and your relationship a priority.

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