I'm A Sex Therapist: Here Are 6 Questions I Get Asked About Sex In Long-Term Relationships

Psychotherapist and Sexologist By Dania Schiftan, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist and Sexologist
Dania Schiftan is a psychotherapist and sexologist based in Switzerland. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the American Academy of Clinical Sexology.
(Last Used: 2/9/21) Intimate Couple In Their Bedroom

As part of the 10-step program for increased sexual responsiveness that I lead women through in my new book Coming Soon, I also share dozens of questions I commonly receive from people about the sex they're having (or not having) in their long-term relationships. Here's just a smattering of those questions and how I answer them:

1. At the beginning of my relationship, I came to orgasm much more quickly and more often during sex. Why is that?

Emotional passion, which is usually greater at the beginning of a relationship than later, influences our desire for sex. Hormones massively boost our sensations and cause us to feel touch more intensely. Couples also tend to move much more at the beginning than they do later. The desire to explore a new body calls for activity. When a relationship is new, we are usually in a phase where everything flows, and time flies. At this stage, we're sending and receiving stimulation that leads to greater desire and more orgasms on all levels and through all channels. Some couples look back wistfully at the beginning of their relationship and think they've lost this passion for each other. But this, too, is a fallacy because passion can also be learned!

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2. Won't I be emotionally absent if I just concentrate on myself during sex? Won't the sex be impersonal if I'm getting lost in my own world?

You're not absent—you're just focusing on yourself and on your sensations and experience with your partner. If you're thinking about your grocery list or feeling annoyed by your partner during sex, you're much more absent. But sure, at first your partner may be confused to see you moving more or taking more care of yourself. In the long run, he'll benefit from this too.

Apart from that, many men say it's important to them to feel how aroused their partner is. If two people lie in bed, each waiting for the other to become aroused, not much will happen. The arousal of one person has a positive effect on the arousal of the other.

3. Won't the sex be worse if I'm more selfish?

The sex will change, but it certainly won't get worse. Over time, it will get much, much better—because you'll enjoy it more, and that will turn your partner on. By concentrating more on your sensations, you're more in the here and now, and you can react more to your partner's arousal. Neither of you will be distracted by unerotic things like your last credit card bill. But yes: Improving sex means changing it. And with change comes risk. If you do what you've always done, you at least know what you're getting. It takes courage to trade something familiar for something new. Dare to try it.

4. What should I do if I don't feel like sex—for example, if we just had a big fight?

Of course, you don't have to have sex then, or ever. But maybe you've noticed that you can use your body to influence your feelings, and not just the other way around. Anger, bad moods, or stress can change for the better if you and your partner have a nice, passionate time on a physical level. You don't need to be in perfect harmony for that.

Having sex despite a fight can have a totally positive effect on your relationship: On the one hand because sex and orgasms help you to relax, and on the other hand because it's a way to come closer to each other again. But how can you open yourself to sex when you feel no desire? By throwing yourself into it even if you don't feel like it. Think of the party principle: Go to your partner, make out with him, stroke him tenderly. That way, you stop the downward spiral. Of course, I'm not saying you should have sex against your will. It's just about giving yourself or each other a chance to see whether your appetite grows when you taste the food. Like the words one of my students has as a tattoo: "When you cuddle, you repair each other."

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5. What should I do when my partner doesn't feel like it?

After a while, many couples end up in a pattern of "reverse seduction." This subject would be enough to fill a book, but in short what it means is this: The partners blame each other, are easily offended, and have very specific ideas about how they want to be seduced. But seduction actually means, "How can I get the other person to do something that I want to do?" As a seductress, you have to think about how you can motivate your partner to participate. For example, if you want to go see a sappy movie and you know it's not the kind of film your partner likes, you have to get creative and think about how you can get her to come anyway. You promise popcorn and rave about the actress. You think about what she might go for. If you know her soft spots, you exploit them. Translated to the bedroom, this means, "How can I make sex appealing to my partner again?"

6. We've known each other so long. Wouldn't it be strange to suddenly pretend I don't know what my partner wants?

Rethink your understanding of seduction. In your daily life, you're often trying to make what you want appealing to your partner. Why shouldn't you do the same with sex? Think about how you seduce him in other parts of life, and transfer this to sex. Let go of clichés. Seduction doesn't necessarily mean a garter belt and negligee. It starts long before sex. It could be text messages, long looks, playing with closeness and distance, casually stroking his arm, and then going away again. But if you want to wear a garter belt, go for it! Courage always pays off.

In a long-term relationship, you experience a lot together and know each other inside and out. This is wonderful, but it also brings you so close that you rarely have a chance to long for your partner or see him from a distance. This happens automatically: The other person is always there. An erotic relationship, therefore, requires a little distance and space now and then: alone time. This is very important for your sexuality as well. I advise my patients to spend time alone or with friends and to deliberately plan time for themselves. This leads to being excited about each other again—and maybe even to feeling in love.

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