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10 Ways to Stop Routine from Destroying Your Sex Life

It seems to come out of nowhere.

A couple meets, falls in love, then begins to ravage each other's bodies with all of their pent up fantasies. The kissing is electric. The sex is what you most look forward to. Your heart beats faster thinking of all the ways you will please each other - physically, emotionally. It's an exhale of "at love has come along."

It's easy enough to decide you want more of this, forever. Life's challenges may attempt to interrupt the dating process, but it makes you feel all the more strongly for each other. And soon enough, a one year anniversary turns into two, and two turns into five or ten. You have built a life together.

It's hard to tell where their money stops and yours begins. You know their preferred choice of breakfast, and whether they pee with the bathroom door open or closed. You know what foods will upset their stomach, and which family members are best to avoid during the holidays. You can tell when they've had a bad day at work, and you can tell when they are about to go on a spiral. You know each other pretty well.

So when "it" happens, it's also hard to tell when it began. When sex went from sneaking around a corner for a quick make-out session to... "um, not tonight. I'm too stressed." You can't remember the first time you used the words "boring" or "not enough" to describe your sex life - but you know that they are the most fitting descriptors right now. And some days, you wonder if it's a problem. Other days, you don't have the energy to consider it. And maybe on all days, your significant other is tired of having to ask you to spice things up or get in the mood again. You're tired of that, too.

But what can you do?

Here's the thing: keeping sexual desire ignited with a long-term partner is different than sex with a stranger. The ingredients are different.

Think of it this way: with a stranger, with a new love interest, your spark comes from the creation of a new thing. The genesis, the build, the momentum. There's an exhale, a relief, a different feeling from others you dated (or from your single nights of longing). They are an intriguing mystery that you are ready to solve. You like learning new things about their hobbies, their aspirations. You are surprised by each of their kind and affectionate gestures. You are ready to include them in your future. And even if you were never the type to think of the future with casual dating partners, maybe you were turned on by the ability to have fun without too much else being required of you. You very much enjoyed all that they could do for you - and that it was relatively stress-free not having to offer much in return. Your life could continue on as blissfully normal - but this time, with the added bonus of romance and regular arousal.

And to be clear - this is fun! This type of spark makes sense for this stage of getting to know someone. Enjoy it. It's natural!

Just know that with time, a relationship matures. More is added to the dynamic. You (rightfully so) have more knowledge of this once-stranger. You learn that they are a real human - just like you - with amazing strengths and frustrating weaknesses. You must tap into patience. You get to drink deeply from the intimacy of a cozy night side-by-side on the couch, eating dinner you hastily cooked (because eating out every night wouldn't be financially responsible). In its own right, the mature phase of a relationship gives a stability that is appealing and comforting. But with too much monotony can come...boredom. Complacency. Indifference.

If you aren't careful, you can create an imbalance of all structure, no flow. All work, no play. Autopilot. You lose the curiosity you originally had that first sparked your connection. You're not surprised by their affectionate gestures anymore; it's just a bland peck on the lips. You've lost your sense of delight.

The solution to a routine sex life? Take your relationship off of autopilot.

You can't return to the shiny new feeling in the same way that you can't become a toddler again. It was a stage of its own. But what you can do is adapt to who you both are today, while also integrating some of the techniques that made dating so fun.

(1) Have hours-long conversations

When you were dating, you likely had phone or in-person conversations where you touched on many topics - hobbies, world events, politics, etc. - that gave you insight into who your partner is. How they think. Being able to connect with your significant other through ideas, curiosities, and opinions - even if you disagree - is a stimulating way to see them as their own person versus simply a character in your story.

If you have trouble connecting on intellectual topics or curiosity about the word, you can practice by using apps like Lovewick.

couple on adventure date

(2) Get out of your comfort zone and do something that is new for both of you

Novelty is a key part of the dating process that makes it so electric. This one is simple but impactful: go do something different! Try coming up with a list of 20 things that neither of you have done within the past 10 years that would be interesting to try together. After all, shared experiences create memories, inside jokes, and new opportunities to see your partner in a different light.

(3) Share an activity that plays to their strengths and let them teach you

What better way to experience your partner in all their glory? By putting yourself in a position where you are the student and they are the teacher, you can truly take a step back and allow yourself to be impressed by them. Seeing someone in their area of competence can be very attractive!

Caveat: if their hobby is something that you find boring or not engaging, still attempt to step into their world. This is a gesture that can show love and prioritization. Plus, who knows? You might surprise yourself by finding at least one thing that is interesting!

(4) Skip the dinner and a movie type of date night

Unless you are going to a one-of-a-kind food experience (I'm a foodie myself, so I definitely understand!), or a unique movie (like a drive-in theater where you can cuddle up in the bed of your truck), a dinner and a movie is more likely to keep you stuck in the "routine" mindset. After all, there is a high chance that you eat every day and watch TV every day. Routine.

Instead, do something that doesn't mimic your everyday life. Take one of these fun quizzes to get some ideas for a non-routine date night!

(5) Pay attention to your home environment and how it influences your mood

With laundry on the floor, dishes in the sink and your most comfy PJs on (the ones with the holes in them), it's hard to feel inspired. While it is unrealistic to assume every date night will be out of the house, you also don't have to keep your in-the-home environment as-is. Mix things up by prioritizing one space of the house that stays relatively safe from chaos, allowing you both to step in and relax together. It could be your bedroom (like no working/checking emails in the bed), the bathroom (hello, bubble bath!), or even the den. Adjust the lighting to your preference, and keep cozy blankets around that you can both snuggle in.

To go a step further, consider how your attire impacts your mood. When we feel good, we are more open to allowing someone else to get closer.

couple working from home

(6) Create a buffer between work and romance

Transitions and designated spaces are important to mimicking the type of separation that the dating experience gives. When you were going on dates as single adults, you'd have at least 2 or 3 transitions (work to home, getting dressed, driving to the date location) that could get you in the mindset of being in a loving mood.

But now, by sharing space - especially with more and more adults working from home - we have collapsed the buffer that is needed.

Consider a type of transition routine that could help you shake off your work mindset, decompress, and be ready for quality connection. How much time of transition would you need? Is there an activity (like going for a walk around your neighborhood or taking a slow shower) that would help?

As for designated spaces, consider not putting a work desk in your bedroom, and not doing active things (like eating, checking emails or exercising) in the bedroom. If you have the financial bandwidth, would getting a membership at a co-working office be helpful?

(7) Don't talk about stressors all the time

Similar to the idea of separating work from your love life, limit the amount of time that you spend venting to your significant other about stressors. Now hear me: I am not saying that you shouldn't talk about these things! There is a great deal of emotional intimacy in having a confidante in your partner. But if you are only unloading on them, it may be time to consider adding a therapist or some other friends into the mix. And also - balance "stress-oriented" conversations by also prioritizing "connection-oriented" conversations.

So what do you connect on? Sharing exciting goals that you are making progress towards? A new hiking trail that you stumbled upon that day? Something fun that you want to do next weekend? Find a topic outside of stressors and create a sense of balance.

(8) Keep a growth mindset and learn how to communicate

You both came from families that likely had their own versions of dysfunction. And it's highly likely that you both picked up some of those traits - unintentionally. If you have dysfunctional styles of communication or interpretation that are causing arguments with your significant other, it would make sense to do what is needed to learn and grow out of these habits.

Therapy doesn't only have to be for times of crisis. You can go as a form of maintenance or learning. You can listen to podcasts and books that teach you more about your patterns and how to improve. You can find online relationship education courses and go through them together. You can attend a small group at your church that integrates spiritual and emotional education. Find a way to interrupt the cycle and deepen your knowledge and connection together.

couple travelling aborad

(9) Save up money for experiences in the future

On dating apps these days, "travel" is one of the top things that people list as a hobby. But to truly live a lifestyle of financially-wise travel, you'll have to plan for it. If you and your partner constantly talk about the trip that you want to do "one day" but are currently unable to afford, start thinking ahead! Create a plan and budget together, then reverse-engineer what you would need to do today to make it happen.

Want to go to Italy? Maybe next year isn't as feasible, but what about 24 months from now? Estimate how much you would need for flights, hotel, and any fun adventures - then open a high-yield savings account and start putting money away each month. It gives you a fun countdown to work on together as you chip away at your big goal. Yes, it involves a great deal of delayed gratification, but future you will be oh-so-grateful.

(10) Learn more about yourself as you change so that you can keep your partner in the loop

You are an evolving human being - meaning the things that turned you on when you started dating might not be the same things that do it for you today. It is your responsibility to take time out (when you can) to do an internal self-check. What brings you pleasure? What causes you to feel overstimulated? What needs to be in place before you can even think of getting in the mood (hello, responsive desire).

And not just sexually: I'm thinking about emotionally as well. You might need a higher level of intellectual intimacy compared to the past. Or maybe more fun and light-heartedness. Maybe you are more (or less) of a romantic type.

Whatever it is, get curious about yourself so that you can share that information with your significant other. Don't assume they should be able to read your mind or "just know." Yes, we'd love for our partners to be attuned enough that they can pick up on our cues...but if there is a gap in understanding, it can only help the team effort if we communicate updated information.


about the author

Sade Ferrier, couples therapist and sex therapist in Atlanta, Georgia

sade is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the metro Atlanta area specializing in couples and sex therapy. she also provides supportive dating coaching for singles in the United States and internationally.


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