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Plan for Passion
How to keep the spark alive after Valentine's Day
As a couples therapist, I am all too familiar with the Valentine’s Day illusion. For one night, you remember the three keys to passion. For one night, you romance the beautiful creature you are lucky enough to be spending your life with. And then, after the roadside rose stands pack up and go home, you forget to make love intentional. And after Valentine’s Day, things go back to stir fry and Netflix instead of seduction, strawberries, and sizzle. But fear not – I have a prescription for the post-Valentine’s Day blues.
“Oh no,” I can hear you thinking. “Here it comes. She’s going to tell me to work on my relationship.”
Nope. I’m going to tell you to change your mindset and make your love life your hobby. Think about that a minute. What defines a hobby? Well, a hobby is something you do because you want to. You enjoy doing it, you make time for it, and you prioritize it. You carve out time for watercolor painting or cross-country skiing. And you strive to improve – you hire a personal trainer, read a “how to make great origami” book, or decide to try a painting class at the Louvre next summer. So, what would happen if you apply that same focused energy to your erotic life? After all, the one thing that sets your romantic relationship apart from every other relationship in your life is your sensuality. So let’s make this year different. Forget the chocolates and flowers – I want you to give your lover the gift that keeps on giving. Decide to prioritize passion, all year long. It’s time to make your love life your new hobby.
Here are my top tips to help you keep the buzz alive over the long term:
1. Explore the entire spectrum of sensuality
If you want to master the Sensuality side of the Passion Triangle, you need to activate your imagination and wake up all five senses. Like too many couples, your lovemaking might have turned into what I call “Nipple Nipple Crotch Goodnight.” You know what I’m talking about. We tend to reduce our sexual life to the familiar and the habitual – forgetting that there is almost no limit to what two bodies, two hearts, two imaginations can do. That’s like playing one hole of golf, over and over, the same way – when all the magnificent, sexy, golf courses of the world await you. So here’s a challenge. Each time you make love, do at least one small thing differently. After all, novelty creates that sense of Thrill – the unexpected, the exciting, and the pleasurable.
2. Never say “I’m not in the mood” ever again
Look, you are not broken if you make love way less often than you used to. In fact, welcome to the club. According to researcher Rosemary Basson, the majority of long-term couples begin sex from a place of sexual neutrality. Okay, what does that mean? Well, it means they start making love when neither of them is turned on.
But before I go any further, I want to break down the term “turned on.” There are two keys to your erotic engine – the desire key and the arousal key. Desire is the mental interest in making love, and arousal is the physical part. But sex drive in long term couples is even more complex than that. There are two types of mental desire. Spontaneous desire, which is that feeling when you can’t keep your hands off your partner, and responsive desire, which arises in response to other triggers.
If you rarely feel spontaneous desire anymore, you are normal. Instead, you need to cultivate responsive desire. So, instead of waiting around for spontaneous desire, a couple may choose to make love for all sorts of other reasons. Perhaps you want to feel emotionally close, or you know you’ll be relaxed and sleep more deeply afterward, or you realize it’s been a long time and you believe sex is important to your relationship. So you choose to begin to connect sexually. Then, as you slow down, let the day fade away, and touch each other – physical arousal arises.
But when your beloved approaches you as you are frying eggs and thinking about your taxes and gives you that look, you probably say “I’m not in the mood.” Of course you are not in the mood.The good news? If you choose to make passion a priority – and say “not right now, babe, but ask me later” – you can get into the mood by choice. If you want to get your erotic engine going, you first need to decide you want to take yourself for a spin, then take out the mental desire key, and then turn it – which is the first step to getting turned on.
3. Two Words: Schedule Sex
I was standing in line for a raw juice at Tony’s event, Date with Destiny, last December when two charming men and their lovely wives bounced up and said “Hey! Dr. Cheryl! We loved your teaching at the Platinum Relationship event in Maui .. Can you guess the most important thing you taught us?” With a smile I replied “schedule sex?” “YES!” they exclaimed, with high fives and hugs all around. Apparently, they’d done their homework since the event, and they’d been having sex regularly. They were all very happy about it – heck, they even paid for my juice.
So remember tip number two. If you wait around to spontaneously feel like making love – you probably won’t. So make sex a hobby, and schedule a weekly date. It doesn’t matter if you are not turned on when you get to the bedroom – just connect, kiss, and begin to create the passion you desire. No cupid required.
If you would like to see where your relationship status is at, you can take the Passion Quiz here.
About Dr. Cheryl Fraser
Cheryl Fraser, PhD, is a Buddhist psychologist, sex therapist, author and speaker who has helped thousands of couples jumpstart their love life and create passion that lasts a lifetime. An awarded Fulbright scholar, she has conducted extensive research on sexual behavior and what causes love relationships to to succeed or fail. Her book, Buddha’s Bedroom, presents enlivening mindfulness exercises, techniques from couples and sex therapy, and the wisdom of Buddhist teachings to help couples break free from the monotony of familiar routines, and reignite the passion they once had.