How do you keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship? It's a question that has plagued so many couples who have gone from not being able to keep their hands off each other to eventually slowing down into a full-blown sex rut. But what if the secret to feeling like a new couple was as simple as trying something — anything — new? New research finds that it may be just that easy.
A new study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that couples who took part in "self-expanding" activities (aka activities that are new and different or help expand your view of the world) felt the benefits in the bedroom — both in terms of sexual desire and satisfaction. Researchers were interested in the fact that couples tend to have strong sexual desire at the beginning of a relationship, but that this can decline the more they get to know each other.
Over a series of three different experiments, including surveys of long-term couples asking about their relationship satisfaction, sex life, and activities they participated in throughout the day, the researchers looked at the relationship between self-expanding activities and sexual behaviors. The study found that on days when couples completed self-expanding activities together they were more likely to have sex — and that sexual satisfaction levels were higher. This was true even if only one person in the couple felt personal growth as a result of the day's activities.
The researchers suggested that this boost could from couples spending more time together and having increased intimacy or even just from seeing their partner in a new light and as more of an individual as they experience growth.
While the term "self-expanding" may sound intimidating, couples didn't have to go trekking in the Andes or learn white water rafting in order to give their sex drive a boost. It was a lot simpler than that. "One thing to note is that participants found a wide range of activities self-expanding — so it didn't seem to require a lot of money or some [wild] adventure sports," Amy Muise, one of the study authors, tells Bustle. "It could be shared activities at home, learning something new together or visiting a new part of town." It can be that easy.
It's heartening that you don't have to try something too out there or intimidating in order to bond as a couple and improve your sex life — you just have to commit to putting the effort in.
"Couples might just think about making the most of their time together by considering doing something that is novel or has the potential to expand their view of themselves/the world," Muise says.
Of course, if your sex life is suffering, there's also the option of trying to explore new experience in the bedroom specifically. "People get bored in the bedroom because they have a limited view of what sexuality and sex is all about," Dr. Cristina Bosch and Dr. John Robinson, The Sex Docs and owners of The Hormone Zone, tell Bustle. "If you believe that great sex is only about how hard and fast you can do it, then you are missing out on the multiple layers of fun that can develop in any good relationship." Instead, try slowing things down and trying something new — again, it doesn't have to be complicated. Even a new position, new toy, or a new location can help you see your sex life in a totally different way.
Maybe it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the secret to feeling like a new couple might just be trying something new — the excitement of that novelty can spread through your relationship and right into the bedroom. So to keep the spark alive, try something that feels fresh. Whether it's a new hobby, new location, or just a new adventure, you might find that your sex life feels the benefit.