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Dear Emily,

My girlfriend and I have been together for almost two years. We are still very much in love, but our sex life is not exactly what you would call exciting. Ever since we began having sex, it has always been the same missionary sex position–me on top, her on the bottom–and it’s beginning to get a bit old…

I am afraid that due to her inexperience with sex and relationships, (she has never had a serious boyfriend and had quite a few partners) her idea of what sex truly is and what it can be has been ruined. She seems content with just lying there with me on top.

There is nothing more I would love than to share all of my sexual energy with her and have her express her wants and desires so that we can both be together on a much deeper level, but I am afraid to bring it up!

How do I start a conversation like this, and when should I do it?

John

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It’s no secret that long-term relationships are hard to sustain. All parts of them take work. Communication takes work, romance takes work, cohabitation takes work. Arguably the most infamously difficult part of a serious monogamous commitment to maintain is the sex. Sex in a long-term relationship is constantly shifting, and you can get a sexual peak turn into a valley.

Sex drives change. People grow. Habits form and un-form. So it’s natural that EVERY long-term sexual relationship evolves as it ages. They’re like landscapes. When you’re committed to one person, your sex life has high points, low points, plateaus, and bodies of water that ebb and flow for a myriad of different and unique reasons. And it is OKAY.

I personally have a rich and storied relationship history. I’ve had stretches of singleness, friends with benefits, and so, so many partners. But if you look at the big picture, you might classify me as something of a serial monogamist. I fall deep and fast. I’m a glutton for commitment. And the one thing I can attest to when it comes to long-term committed monogamous relationships is that they are all unique. There is no one way a relationship unfolds. Every detail is totally case by case. Every sexual landscape, unique and imperfect. But with each of them there were frenzied peaks, and there were dry valleys.

The First Peak—A Sexual Rush 

I know I just said that all sexual relationships are unique and different snowflakes. And I’m not unsaying that. But a common and well-known thread in almost every relationship is the way they start. I’m talking about that blissful period before they become long-term. That delicious chapter in which they’re just fledgling love stories. This stage is commonly known as the honeymoon phase, and it’s every relationship’s first sexual peak.

Driven by lust and fixation, the anticipation of something new thrusts you and your partner upwards together to a peak of sexual elation. Coming from a state of single-dom, or the death valley of a dead love, your body gets excited about the prospect of a partner. And in addition to being an extremely emotional experience, studies suggest that it is also very chemically induced.

When you’re climbing this first sexual peak, your nerve growth factor increases. This means that the development and growth of your neurons are heightened. Elevated NGF leads to feelings of euphoria and connection. You idealize your partner. Nothing about them is lacking and all you want to do is be around them, and touch them and have sex with them. And when you have sex, your brain releases oxytocin (sometimes called the cuddle hormone) which increases the euphoria and attachment.

The honeymoon phase is science! It’s wonderful and it’s lovely. However, though most relationships start with this phase, the details are where they can vary. It can be as short as a couple of weeks or can last as long as a couple of years. It can be intensely sexual or heightened romantically. The peak can be sharp and steep, or it can be more like the slow and steady curvature of a hill. It’s the nature of peaks that they eventually descend. It’s the nature of monogamy that a shift will occur.

The Valleys—Or Sexual Lows

What is a valley? National Geographic describes them as “depressed areas of land–scoured and washed out by the conspiring forces of gravity, water, and ice.” So metaphorically speaking, sexual valleys are stretches of your relationship that are low and have been battered by outside forces, as well as time. Maybe you started to notice something you don’t like about your partner (or yourself). Maybe you’ve been fighting. Maybe you’re too stressed out. Maybe you’re just bored. Maybe you have no idea why the sex has stopped.

There are so many reasons why sex in a long-term relationship sputters. Our libidos can be affected by outside forces like medication or trauma. Sex drive also fluctuates as a result of natural hormonal changes our bodies go through every few years. Maintaining excitement is hard for all living creatures. Eventually, cats get tired of their new toys. Teenagers change their fashion choices. Flowers wilt at the slightest gust of wind. It’s natural to be searching for something to fulfill natural curiosity. And when you’ve made a commitment to stay sexually faithful to someone, it’s your responsibility to fulfill that curiosity within that relationship.

These sexual dry spells happen for different reasons, but also, they look totally different from couple to couple. In one of my relationships, reaching a sexual valley meant that sex dwindled down to once a week. In another, it meant that sexual encounters happened months apart. In another still, it was all about the quality of the sex. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of your own landscape. Assessing the situation, communicating, and doing the work can get you safely out of the valley and onto the next peak. Or if you’re comfortable with a dry spell, you can find the nicer, more positive aspects of the valley. Whichever path you can travel, make sure that you can see the road ahead. And if it’s what you want, envision another peak.

Climbing Back Uphill—Sexual Reclamation 

There comes a point in every LTR where you and/or your partner are faced with the challenge of spicing things up. You have to try and rediscover the sexual excitement of your first peak. During this time, it’s imperative that you reinvest in each other and not be fearful of trying new things when having sex in a long-term relationship.

Do what you can to make your sexual encounters feel fresh again. If one of you is usually dominant, switch up the dynamic. If you usually do it in bed, venture to a different location. Maybe if you’re adventurous, try to kink up your sex life a little bit. If you tend towards kinky sex, slow it down and go back to the basics.

If you’re climbing out of a particularly low valley, you may have to do some extra work to get back to where you were before. You might consider couples counseling or sex therapy. You might need to make a sex schedule and do your best to stick to it. But just like when you’re hiking, climbing is the hardest part.

The Topography is Ever-Changing

I’m speaking in a giant extended geological metaphor, but it is true that the landscape of your sex life is constantly changing. At any moment, an earthquake or tsunami or tornado could come and change the entire topography of your relationship. Be ready for these changes, and be present! Notice the difference between steep falloffs and steady descents. The journey never ends! The lower your valley is, the longer and harder you have to work to climb back to it. If you must plateau, give yourself a nice view. Try and make it as high as possible before leveling out.

Monogamy is hard. It’s a challenge and a daily choice. Sometimes things end or our sexual relationships don’t turn out the way we want them to. But as I’ve learned many times over, all you can do is roll with the punches. In navigating sex in a long-term relationship, find fun in the valleys and cherish the peaks. There is no normal and no supposed to be. We’re all inventing what relationships look like as we have them.

Laurie Magers is a comedy writer and actor living in Los Angeles. Her favorite color is red and her favorite food is crab legs. Check out more from her at www.lauriemagers.com.

disagree partner pandemic blog sex with emilyAs Coronavirus cases continue to soar, so have our stress levels while living in a pandemic. But as the world continues to slowly open back up, everyone has an opinion of what precautions should be taken. So what happens if you and your partner don’t see eye to eye?

Perhaps one of you is taking social distancing measures supremely seriously. Maybe the other believes it’s all a big crock. It doesn’t matter how much you did or didn’t fight before. This pandemic has ushered us into a whole new ballgame. One in which communication with each other has never been more critical.

If you and your partner disagree about the pandemic, here are a few tips for learning how and if you can get on the same page and cope with the COVID craziness.

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honeymoon phase blog sex with emilySo, you and your sweetie have been lovin’ on each other for a while now. That spark turned into a fire, that fire burned down your (downstairs) house, and now…the fire’s starting to die down. The honeymoon phase might be over.

In all seriousness though, if you feel the passion starting to fade, don’t panic. You might be leaving the “Honeymoon Phase” of your relationship, but there’s plenty you can do to make sure your relationship stays not only afloat, but as wet as ever. 

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intimacy blog sex with emilyWhat’s that Ludacris lyric, you want a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets? Healthy sexuality means connecting with someone in the streets, sheets, and everywhere in between.

Yes, feeling so attracted to someone that you want to rip their clothes off will make you feel close. However, non-sexual intimacy can be equally as important. 

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day off blog sex with emilyWhen you’re in a long-term relationship it can feel like the world doesn’t exist without your partner. You are joined at the hip, walking lock-armed through life. You get so used to being with them all the time and talking to them about everything that is going on in your life.

This type of time investment is common and often desirable for many couples. But there might be times when it becomes too much. Sometimes you need to take some time for yourself and take a “day off” for yourself.

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kissing blog sex with emilyThere is nothing that can replace a kiss. Just like a note to every chord, kissing is the foundation to any romance. 

It’s a momentous moment in adolescence when we finally get over the idea of cooties and come to terms with kissing. And from that point on, for most of us, kissing is a pretty important part of our lives.

So when it comes to long-term relationships, why is it unfortunately one of the first things to go?

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resolution blog sex with emilyWe’re on the eve of a brand new decade. It’s about to be 2020, and while contemplating my fresh resolutions, sex is at the front of my mind. 

This year, I’m making a point to do things differently in my bedroom and in my sex life. I want to walk into 2020 unafraid and ready to challenge myself sexually and romantically. 

These are my New Year’s Sex-o-lutions.

 

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family blog sex with emilyMost people agree that relationships are work. We all have to find a way to manage the challenges of life, work, our intimate relationships and family obligations.

Once we have that balancing act managed, we usually find that we have very little energy left to take care of ourselves. Add extended family, in particular your partner’s family, into the mix plus the stresses of the holiday? You may well reach your breaking point. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. With some strategizing, communication and planning, you can make the most of that family time while still maintaining your sanity and the love you have for your spouse. Yes, when we marry the love of our life we also marry into their family, for better or for worse. So here are some tips for keeping your cool when the pressure builds up and you feel yourself ready to hop a flight to anywhere-but-here.  Continue Reading

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