The Secret To Keeping Sexual Desire Alive In Your Relationship (According To The World's Top Relationship Expert)

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is the sex and relationships editor at mindbodygreen. Her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

Couple celebrating the novelty in their relationship

Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

For many couples, days like Valentine's Day—supposedly a day to celebrate love—can often create an atmosphere of pressure and performance anxiety instead. This year, mindbodygreen wants to help people in relationships reclaim a space of levity, ease, and play. In her mbg class on erotic intelligence, psychotherapist and renowned relationship expert Esther Perel talks about how couples can maintain the whimsical energy of the earliest days of their relationship. Here's a snippet of her lecture.

Novelty is an essential element of long-term desire. And, furthermore, it also creates testosterone. It renews us. But novelty is about introducing disruption—discontinuity. Not just novelty of positions in sex. It's novelty of conversations. It's novelty of parts of yourself that you haven't revealed before. It's novelty of activities.

It's novelty that breaks the routine. Anything that creates that kind of interruption shakes up the molecules. I can't even come up with enough metaphors for why novelty is so important. New experiences are generative, overall, in a relationship. It keeps us young. It's the regeneration of cells. It's regeneration of the meaning of a relationship and of a couple.

Recreating the power of the early days.

In the beginning, of course, you don't have to cultivate novelty. It's all there. Everyone knows that the whole beginning is one long chain of new moments all the time, sometimes almost too many of them. For some of us, it's a thrilling experience. For some of us, it's more of a discombobulating experience, actually. But everyone remembers the moment when you were standing in a crowded party and you made eye contact with someone who was standing across the room. The electricity. The frisson. The delicious possibility of circling this attractive stranger the entire evening.

This kind of beginning is exciting, and it's exciting because it is new, because it is mysterious, and because it is open-ended. You don't know where it's going to take you. To have that experience still in a relationship is what people often have when they travel, when they discover a new restaurant, when they go to a new neighborhood, and they don't know where it's going to take them. That open-endedness is so important to the experience of novelty.

New experiences are generative, overall, in a relationship. It keeps us young. It's the regeneration of cells. It's regeneration of the meaning of a relationship and of a couple.

When you've been with the same person for a long time, you may ask, how do you create this? How do you bring that feeling back again?

So imagine: What do you do in the beginning? You're creative, you're thoughtful, you're continuously looking for new places to go, for new things to do together. You don't just settle for the neighborhood joint where you like to go all the time. Nothing against the neighborhood joint, but the neighborhood joint is about comfort. And if you say we need a little bit of energy, then you actually have to take yourself outside of the neighborhood. So this all ties in—this novelty—with playfulness and with creativity. With newness, right?

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How to introduce novelty into your relationship.

Choose a restaurant, or a museum, or a club that neither of you have been to before. And make a date to go there, together. Experiencing something for the first time as a couple—after all that time—helps the relationship stay vibrant. You'll have new things to talk about. And these experiences will help you recapture some of that titillating, spontaneous feeling of dating in the early stages of your relationship.

Even small changes to your routine can make your erotic connection feel different. Keep things exciting by continuing to find ways to switch things up. For some reason, we often will plunge into a state of complacency, where we just don't put in that effort. We'll dress up more when we go to see strangers than when we go out with our partner. We'll give the best of ourselves when we meet for lunch with our friends than when we come home in the evening and we bring the leftovers.

It's that experience of novelty that is so important.

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