Written by Kate Pauley




How to keep the passion alive in long-term relationships may be one of the most sought-after answers for couples today.  Because human beings alone are incredibly unique and complex, being in partnership with one another just makes things that much more complicated.  Because of this there is no single, straightforward, holy grail answer as to what keeps the passion alive in long-term relationships, however, there has been some research done on what contributes to sexually satisfied couples’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction.


intimate couples in bed

David Frederick, Ph.D., of Chapman University was the lead researcher on one of the largest studies to date that examined what factors contribute to long-term sexual satisfaction.  The study analyzed results from over 30,000 heterosexual men and women who had been in relationship for at least 3 years.


What the research showed is that there are a few major predictors of sexual satisfaction: having frequent sex while trying new things, taking the time to set the mood, frequent orgasms and oral sex, and strong communication around and during sex.


“Almost half of satisfied and dissatisfied couples read sexual self-help books and magazine articles, but what set sexually satisfied couples apart was that they actually tried some of the ideas” said David Frederick, Ph.D.


While the research did show sexual satisfaction trending down over the length of the relationship, it was promising to see that nearly 1/3 of couples in long-term relationships were able to maintain a high rate of sexual satisfaction across the lifespan of their relationship.


When diving deeper into the research, there were some specific things that highly satisfied couples do that were correlated to their satisfaction.  In regards to sexual frequency and novelty, some things that highly satisfied couples tried were:


  • Regular date nights
  • Wearing lingerie
  • Giving/Receiving massages
  • Using sex toys and vibrators
  • Trying new sex positions
  • Anal stimulation
  • Watching pornography together


The research showed that the most satisfied couples tried 9-10 different things together in the last year.


When it comes to mood setting, there were two aspects to mood setting that were identified:


  • Setting the physical space to build excitement and passion:
    • Lighting candles
    • Dimming the lights
    • Turning on music
  • Setting the emotional/psychological space to increase safety, closeness, intimacy:
    • Laughing when things are funny
    • Saying “I love you” to one another
    • Talking sexy to one another
    • Playing and having fun


Lastly, the research showed that about satisfied couples were more likely to say that their most recent sexual encounters were “passionate,” “loving and tender,” or “playful,” and, they were more likely to report that their most recent sexual encounters lasted more than 30 minutes.  Less satisfied couples were more likely to report that they were just going through the motions.  To me, this highlights the importance of investing time and effort into your sexual relationship.


For most couples, sexual satisfaction starts off high in the honeymoon phase, but it tends to fade over time.  So, to keep a sexual relationship healthy, alive, passionate and intimate it requires dedication, creativity, and intentionality.  For more ideas, information, or to improve this part of your relationship, please contact the Colorado Center for Couples and Families.


ChapmanU. (n.d.). Chapman University examines what keeps passion alive in long-term relationships. EurekAlert! Retrieved January 4, 2023, from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/500764


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