Personal Growth

A Study of 1,000 Couples Determined How to Keep Your Sex Life Going Strong

If you've ever been in a long-term relationship (we're talking 5, 10, 15 years or more) then we don't need to tell you that the sparks that once flew might get a little dimmer as the years go by. It's not that you don't love and care for your partner, or even that you necessarily find them less attractive than before. It's just that, for some reason, familiarity just seems to slow your sex life a bit. There's nothing wrong with that. And in fact, researchers have been able to create a predictable model of what causes that slowdown — and perhaps more excitingly, what can put some rev back in both of your engines again.

Related: How Technology Affects Your Relationships

A Natural Slowdown

So here's the bad news: As long as you stay with your partner, some decline in the frequency of your sex life is basically inevitable. In a 2015 study focused on more than 1,000 German couples, researchers discovered a sharp drop-off in sex life about two years into the average relationship. Specifically, they found that couples generally had sex about five times less per month than before. It only slowed down further from there: After that first sudden drop, the decline evened out a bit but still continued over the next two years.

There are more factors that can affect your sex life than just time. Again, somewhat predictably, the researchers found that pregnancy led to a sharp decline in sex life, which extended well into the first few years of the child's life. Similarly, relationships that hit tough patches had a drop-off as well. That just makes sense. But one thing the researchers were surprised to learn was that events that you might expect to increase sexual frequency — like getting engaged or deciding to move in together — had virtually no effect at all. What gives? Are all monogamous relationships doomed to decline the longer they go on?

Turning Up the Heat

Here's the good news: There are plenty of things that can ignite a long-term couple's sex life, too. For example, even though sex tends to be infrequent while a child is growing up, both partners experience a natural increase in their libidos when the kids get older, move out, and start having kids of their own.

There's also the matter of what's called self-expansion. Sexual attraction has been found to increase when a person sees someone in a new light. In other words, the more a person practices self-expansion by, for example, learning a new skill, practicing a second or third language, or leaning into their new role as a grandparent, the more their partner might feel excited and aroused by them. Sounds like a win-win.

However, it's also worth mentioning that a declining sex life isn't the end of the world — or even the end of a relationship. Countless studies have found that even the most passionate relationships tend to morph into more companionate relationships as time goes by. While passionate love might be characterized by big feelings and sexy escapades, companionate love tends to offer more trust, support, and inside jokes. All of those things are pretty good, and they're not necessarily at odds with passionate moments, either. All of that is to say that if you're dissatisfied with your sex life, that's something to be concerned about — but just because you're not having as much sex as you used to, that doesn't mean your relationship is slipping away.

Get stories like this one in your inbox each morning. Sign up for our daily email here.

There are lots of ways to love. Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages" (free with your trial membership to Audible) has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since 2009. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas October 8, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.