“How can we reignite the passion?” In my practice as a somatic sex educator I often hear this question as I work with couples who once came together with great sexual happiness. In the limerance of a new relationship, they made a decision to share their lives. But the biochemical and social processes that ignite new lust and love do fade. What then? Is there a way to recreate and maintain a passionate connection in a long-term relationship? I say, “Yes,” and it takes commitment: commitment to learning, commitment to pleasure, and commitment to conscious sexuality.
Commitment to Learning
Sex is not something we instinctually know. We can’t learn it in a high school health class or a weekend workshop. Sex is a vast curriculum and a transformative matrix of body, mind, spirit and emotion. There are ancient sacred traditions and new scientific discoveries. Our sexual needs are always changing as our bodies age, relationships alter, courage deepens, traumas surface. We can all be lifelong learners of sex. I encourage my students to embrace the mystery of not-knowing: What will please your partner today? What can you be erotically? Sadly, it can feel easier to change partners than to change established patterns with an existing partner. To avoid feeling bored, we need to become less boring, and more curious, open, and involved.
When you begin with a commitment to learning, you will find many learning resources. There are books, videos, tools, toys. There are sexual professionals including therapists who can help couples address issues that block their access to pleasure, and educators like myself who can assist you in learning new approaches and techniques.
Commitment to Pleasure
Our lovemaking becomes mundane because we set limits on how much pleasure we are willing to experience. I suggest my students focus on pleasure, and accept it as an inner guide. What delights you? How good can you feel? What are your pathways to pleasure? We can allow diverse pleasures to be felt and savored, whether they are sexual in any conventional way, or not. Prioritizing pleasure often means that intercourse and orgasm stop being an invariable script for sexuality. We take pleasure in the journey. We feel, fantasize and practice our sexuality all day long. Along with this refocusing, we stop waiting for our partners to bring us pleasure, and start taking responsibility for the practice of joy. We begin noticing and focusing on what pleases us about our partners, creating an environment where passion can flourish.
Commitment to Conscious Sexuality
In long-term relationships, sex becomes something we make happen rather than something that happens to us. Do you miss the hormonal surges that make sex feel paramount and effortless? Because our culture is so uncomfortable with sex, we want to be swept away by desire. It can feel very uncomfortable to choose sex consciously, deliberately and mindfully. It can seem silly to schedule time for sex. But if we want to come alive to our erotic potential, both individually and in relationships, we need to cultivate sexual energy. This means giving sexual feeling time, attention, and approval.
We can experiment with techniques and approaches for having “warm sex.” Instead of looking or waiting for focused intensity, practitioners of warm sex cultivate calmer experiences of pleasure. Playful fun, sensuality and affection can create an erotic playground that is joyful in itself, while holding space where hot passion can occasionally flourish.
What do you need to say “yes” to sex? Couples can get into soul-draining patterns where one person is always the initiator of sexual interactions and the other experiences sex as a demand placed upon them. Others feel they must wait to heal their relationship issues before they can say “yes” to sex, loading erotic pleasure with a requirement for tender feelings that may be in short supply in the absence of sex. Why not experiment with expressing a range of emotions sexually: anger, frolic, naughtiness, mindlessness? We can play doctor, play dominatrix, have sex in a car, have a wild affair with our spouse.
When couples choose to explore the path of pleasure, learning and conscious sexuality, an astonishing richness becomes possible. We can share profound bonding, ecstatic awareness, and infinite variety within a single relationship.