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Can You Bring Attraction Back To A Sexless Relationship?

We explore whether genuine passion can return to a LTR.

10/10/2017 7:24 AM AEDT | Updated 10/10/2017 7:36 AM AEDT
Giulia Bertaglia
It is possible.

You know the story. Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, girl meets girl and other variations thereof), and the start of the relationship is akin to a hot and steamy chapter out of a Danielle Steel novel.

But as the months and years go by the passion starts to fade until what's left is the occasional obligatory doona dance, if ever.

It might make you wonder what happened. Was all that passion at the start fueled by vodka and newness? Can genuine desire and intimacy return to what's become an almost sexless relationship?

"It depends on what the underlying issues are for each couple as to whether than can rekindle their passion," sex expert and author Susan Bratton told HuffPost Australia.

"When a couple falls in love, their hormones of connection can override issues from the past such as sexual abuse or religious or societal repression, such that it seems like great sex will go on forever. But as the 'love chemicals' fade in as little as a few months to a few years, those underlying issues take over and one or both of the partners who've been traumatised in the past will revert back to be unable to enjoy sex.

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It's normal for those initial 'love chemicals' to fade. After that, intimacy needs to be worked on.

"Another issue might be health. Sometimes a partner gets ill or becomes unhealthy from lack of nutrition and fitness. This also renders them a low desire individual," Bratton said.

Though Bratton believes that a regular healthy couple can find their spark again -- if it was there to begin with.

"If a couple is normal and healthy, just putting attention again on their intimacy and sexual education can revive their sexual desire for each other. It is completely possible to rekindle passion, even after many years.

"Couples often forget to keep romancing each other. This is very important to the feminine that the masculine romance her. Men are more quick to arousal. Women need to be wooed, not just sexually aroused. Doing outdoor activities together brings a couple closer. It can be as simple as a walk in the park holding hands, but this kind of romance is a foundation for women's hearts to be activated to allow their bodies to be aroused," Bratton said.

"Sensual connection without it being focused on 'having sex' is also vital. The feminine needs to be touched and cuddled, caressed and relaxed before her arousal begins to stir. Too often, men being naturally transactional or goal-oriented means they skip this all important step. Without full body touch, it is difficult for a woman's desire to stir."

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Sensual connection is just as important as sex.

Relationship expert Melissa Ferrari agrees that a couple who has fallen into a sexless routine can bring intimacy back to their relationship.

"I think it's normal for passion and attraction to subside but I don't think it's good for a relationship to become sexless, unless the couple have a very real and clear reason why that feels comfortable to both," Ferrari said.

"The reasons a couple stop being intimate are endless. It can be to do with hormone imbalances, stress, menopause, alcohol and drug use, porn addiction, medication or underlying health conditions just to name a few."

"However, the most common thing that causes couples to be less intimate in my experience is a threat to safety and security. It can be anything from worrying over something at work, suspecting that your partner is hiding something from you, insecurities and added stress," Ferrari said.

"Sometimes, all of this can raise the levels of cortisol in the body and overtime affect libido. I believe that identifying what the issue is that is causing lack of intimacy to be paramount for a couple to reconnect again."

Ferrari believes that many people may leave a relationship because they believe they think are not 'in love anymore, whereas it could actually be a number of underlying issues at play which can be resolved.

With regards to bringing back the boogie, you need to start by having a fresh take on things.

"The brain loves novelty, so a way to bring attraction back is to look at your partner with a different set of eyes and listen with a different set of ears. When we have been with our partner for a long time, they begin to become more familiar to us and therefore we start to pay less attention.

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Paying attention and getting to know your partner again will help rekindle the spark.

"Paying attention to your partner in a new way can make them become more interesting to you. I always recommend that people take a good look at their partner by paying more attention to them to rediscover the person you are with particularly if you have been together five, 10, 20 or 30 years. When I say look at your partner with a new set eyes I mean paying attention. Noticing nuances of feelings, expression and love in their eyes.

"Dr Stan Tatkin, creator of The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy says love is up close and lust is at a distance," Ferrari said.

Ferrari believes the next step after looking at your partner with fresh eyes is to make them feel safe.

"Feeling acceptance, safety and security with your partner helps keep the fire and passion alive, so shaming or rejecting your partner can have a significant negative impact on your intimate relationship.

"Object relations theorists have informed many couple therapists, including myself, to consider how shaming and rejecting your partner can cause either you or your partner to not 'feel in love' anymore. This can happen by ignoring your partner when they speak to you, not paying attention to your partner daily, or putting your partner down for something they have done or said," Ferrari said.

Ferrari's tips for a more intimate, happy relationship:

  • Pay attention to your partner daily. Look them in the eye for at least a minute every day if you can.
  • Stop and listen to your partner when they are telling you about their day. That is, put down your smart phone!
  • Initiate sex with your partner. Help make them feel more desired.
  • Always check in with your partner about how they are feeling. Ask your partner specific questions if you suspect there may be some underlying issues or resentment -- however, make sure you ask these questions in an open, non-blaming way.
  • Has your partner done something to hurt you? It may feel like the last thing you want, but talk to your partner lovingly to discuss this. If you start shaming and blaming your partner it can cause them to feel rejected and this can have some long term impact on the quality of your connection and intimacy levels. That doesn't mean you should accept any kind of treatment from your partner, but instead that by having a gentle conversation you can better get to the root of the problem than by going on the attack.
  • Touch and kiss each other daily. The release of oxytocin and dopamine help in the process of feeling bonded with your partner.
  • Do things for your partner. It may be helping with housework, sending a cute text message or making them a cup of tea in the morning. Happy couples train themselves to automatically do things they believe will make their partner happy. When the nervous system is experiencing positive things, it makes you happy and more inclined to do things for your partner, too.
  • Touch each other every day. The impact of what touch does for a relationship is immeasurable, and although it doesn't always have to be sexual (you can hold hands, hug, massage each other), that physical closeness does encourage a sexual connection.
  • Provide safety and security for your partner, because when we feel safe and secure it lowers the part of the brain that can trigger feeling threatened. When threat is low, we feel more in love and passionate about our partner.
  • Seek couple therapy with a therapist specifically trained in couple therapy or what is called a two-person psychology.

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