How Sex Can Evolve in a Long Relationship

Frequently in my counseling practice I see the damage suffered by people who take their lives too hard, too seriously. They live as though they’re carrying a huge burden, and they seem to create problems whatever they do. One of the easiest things to take too seriously is sex. So I’ve been thinking about sex and a sense of humor. A lecturer friend of mine was once asked, “My husband wants to have sex every day. Isn’t that too much?”  Her answer was, “What’s going to wear out?”

There is no such thing as too much sex or even too little. There is no Great Scorecard in the sky upon which the tally is kept. In America, we tend to overdramatize and overemphasize the importance of our sexuality, because we have been taught to be ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, and generally uncomfortable about it. It’s hard to be relaxed about something so taboo we can’t talk about it in public, yet so tantalizing we even sell cars, politicians and shampoo with it.

It is often as though we’re being teased by the neighborhood bully. “Nyah Nyah, this is wonderful and you should want it, but you can’t have it.” No wonder our sexual behavior and attitudes are fraught with unnecessary  drama. 

Many of us have been frightened about our sexuality. Some children are traumatized by the overreactions of  adults who catch them experimenting, others are abused or seduced and thereby made to feel powerless about sex, others are frightened by visions of hell and damnation. Even children who have no direct negative experiences get the idea that sex is something “bad”. 

Rarely is any of us taught that sex is natural, fun, simple, and a blessing. We cannot freely say no, and we cannot freely say yes. Of course, the AIDS crisis and diseases like herpes, Chlamydia and syphilis have presented a great opportunity for all this fear and drama to run away with itself.

I believe it is possible, perhaps even necessary, to have sex in a healthy, responsible manner and still be light-hearted about it. Experts on healing now say that laughter and humor, hope and happiness are an important part of any healing process. What would happen if we introjected some of that healing humor and fun into our sexual lives?

Imagine sex without:

• pressure (we have to do it this often and this way)
• goals (it doesn’t count unless everyone has the orgasm of a lifetime)
record keeping (I initiated last time, now it’s your turn)
• competition (am I as good as your last lover?)
It might just turn out to be sex with more joy, and more love.  It’s bound to be a lot more fun!

I have spent years learning to cooperate with my sexual self. And do you know what? I find that means that I must surrender to joy, to love and laughter, to letting it happen “the way it wants to.” I also respect the times when I’m not enjoying—to honor myself and my partner enough to admit it, and to discuss what’s needful. I’ve learned to accept my fears enough to double check to make sure I’m safe and healthy, and I’m being treated with respect and consideration.

We can all learn to relax and enjoy our sexual selves. Often the only obstacle is our own resistance to the ease and pleasure of it all. Sex could become more fun, with more laughter than you have ever known: giggles, guffaws, and smiles. Suddenly old fears of abandonment disappear. Why would anyone want to leave when you’re both having so much fun? Through surrender you may find you’re winning the war.

Here are ten ways sex can evolve in a long-term relationship:                    

1. It’s not about orgasm: Orgasms happen, and they’re lovely, but as you’re older (and as you’ve been together longer) they’re not the most important thing. Focus on pleasure instead.

2. Learn to schedule: If Viagra or Levitra are in the picture, they need to be taken in advance, so learn how to schedule your intimate time together.

3. Use what you know: If you’re older, you know things about how sex works, your own body, and if this is a long-time partner, your partner’s body and psyche. Use your knowledge to enhance your experience. Does your partner love listening to music? Try playing some to signal sex. Or use scents and textures to make the experience more “scents-ual”

4. Don’t try to re-create the movies: If you just allow both of you to be who you are, and not try to live up to some glamorous or romantic ideal, you’ll have a lot more fun.

5. Passion becomes humor: In a long-term relationship, it’s too stressful to try and keep the passion going. It will show up from time to time, but mostly it translates itself into a sense of fun and humor, if you allow it. 

6. Relax: Relaxing allows you to be more aware of your sexual energy, enhances sexual feelings, and frees you up to respond sexually. Allow time for morning sex when you are still relaxed from sleep, or after a nap.

7. Lighten Up: Because of media influence, most couples have an exaggerated, stressful image of sex. To have more fun, focus on having fun, instead of meeting a goal. Some sex encounters go well, some don’t, so have a sense of humor. Spend more time giggling, talking and being silly and less time under pressure. A lighter attitude makes sex more fun. 

8. Communicate: The best beginning for a lovely sexual encounter is a good, honest and open conversation. When you were young, new lovers, you talked and sex was easy. Frequently make time to “catch up” with each other over an unhurried dinner or breakfast. Express your hopes and dreams, clear the air, and you can both relax. From there, it’s not such a long distance into the bedroom.

9. Be Flexible: Physical agility can be helpful, but emotional flexibility will really improve your sex life. Try something new, experiment, play, be silly and have fun.

10. Don’t worry about your sex drive: You don’t need to be driven, you can get yourself there. Thinking you have to be “in the mood” is the first thing that has to go. It’s important to create a mood, no just expect it to happen. Spontaneous sex is rare, except in brand-new relationships. All long-term couples need to learn about transitions and reconnecting. It’s not easy to get from taking out the garbage to having sex—much less being apart to being affectionate. Time alone is essential—as are little affectionate pats and looks beforehand. Develop signals, and learn to be complementary and caring—it will go a long way toward getting each other in the mood.

I wish you peace and joy: in sex, and in all ways.


Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and her newest, The Real 13th Step.  She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina has been CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for Love Forever. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts

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