With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, sex might be on your mind. Every year around this time, we might want to find novel ways to please our partners — but it can be hard (and not in a good way).

Maintaining sexual desire is not for the faint of heart, but it is possible. This year, instead of turning to ferociously aggressive marketing companies promising foolproof aphrodisiacs, I turned to the sexiest source of all: science.

Research by Kristen Mark and Julie Lasslo from the University of Kentucky shows the data behind maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships.   

Importantly, sexual desire materializes differently in long-term relationships; researchers suggest that this is based on a responsive love, driven by satisfying the needs of the partnership. Whereas early on in a relationship, sexual desire is typically fuelled by passionate and spontaneous love.

Here’s where you can bid farewell to the old “Netflix and chill” days and say hello to the “honey, I just unloaded the dishwasher” days!  

Don’t lose hope yet though — as difficult as maintaining sexual desire is in long-term relationships, Mark and Lasslo created a list of a few factors associated with our sexual desires. To get you on your way to your steamy Valentine’s Day date, here’s a bossy how-to guide for sustaining your sexual desire.

Sex, by the book

Expectations: realize that it is normal for sexual desires to change throughout a relationship. Appreciate that, like you, your partner’s sexual desires are going to fluctuate as well.  

Attraction: feeling “sexy” is linked to maintaining long-term sexual desire for both men and women. Not only is feeling attractive important, but it is important for your partner to know you still find them attractive.

Be mindful: prioritizing your relationship in spite of pressure is associated with increased sexual desire. Finding ways to manage your stress is linked to healthier relationships. Practice mindfulness and aim to stay mentally present.

Autonomy:  be you and stay you! As much as being in a relationship is about shaping you and your partner’s lives together — maintain a sense of autonomy. By doing this, you introduce curiosity and innovation in the relationship, which is tied to increased sexual desire. So, keep chasing your dreams because more likely than not, your partner finds this sexy too.

Self-esteem: speak positively and remind yourself you are worthy of a healthy relationship that includes good sex. Be reminiscent of your successes and exude confidence, and when your confidence lacks, “fake it, until you make it!”

Rest: when you are tired or stressed, take a break. Don’t hate yourself for the mid-day naps that you take, because this may predict a more healthy sex life. When you are well rested you have more energy to offer to your relationship.

Responsiveness to partner: listen when your partner speaks and aim to be responsive to their emotional needs and sexual desires. This builds relationship intimacy, which may predict a healthier sex life.

Emotional intimacy: vulnerability and increased emotional intimacy should be practiced by both parties equally. Practice validating your partner’s feelings — aim to put yourself in their situation.  

Communication: Don’t be afraid to share your feelings about your relationship. Be honest, and speak with love. Dare to communicate your sexual desires and engage your partner when you sense a mismatch in expectations. When you are feeling low sexual desires, that should be communicated because it is a normal facet of a relationship.

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