How to Keep Passion in Your Relationship, According to Science

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Passion is one of those elements that tends to fade in a long-term relationship, but scientists say it doesn’t have to. In fact, they’ve pinpointed several ways to keep the spark going — by studying what passionate couples do.

New joint research on 39,000 couples from Chapman University, California State University, Los Angeles, Sonoma State University, and Indiana University found that those who communicated more in bed had more passion in their relationships than those who didn’t. The study surveyed couples that were either married or cohabitating who had been together for at least three years.

For the study, couples were asked to rate their sexual satisfaction in their first six months together and then rate it now. Not shockingly, scientists found that 83 percent were sexually satisfied in the first six months of their relationship, but only half of people said they were currently satisfied. (The rest felt neutral about it or dissatisfied.)

Researchers then homed in on the satisfied couples and found some interesting trends. Among them, they reported having sex more frequently than less satisfied couples, engaging and receiving oral sex more, and orgasming more frequently.

Here are some other habits they often share:

  • They cuddle and engage in gentle and deep kissing during sex
  • They laugh together during sex
  • They praise their partner for something they did in bed
  • They’re not afraid to ask for something that they want during sex
  • They ask for feedback on how something felt
  • They try new positions and act out fantasies together
  • They’re more likely to set the mood by lighting candles or playing music
  • They say “I love you” during sex
  • They’re more likely to send a teasing text during the day

Study co-author David Frederick, PhD, an assistant professor at Chapman University, tells Yahoo Health that he was particularly interested to discover that men were less likely than women to feel sexually desired by their partner. However, men reported feeling as much or more desire for their partner as they did at early in the relationship.

“When both men and women express desire for their partners and proactively initiate sex, it can go a long way towards improving sexual satisfaction, which is tied to overall satisfaction with their relationships,” he says.

Licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago, tells Yahoo Health that communication is key in all of this. “Couples who connect and communicate more deeply in their day to day lives tend to also have more satisfying love lives,” he says.

Nearly 75 percent of sexually satisfied men and women say “I love you” during sex, and Klow says that’s important to note. Language, reasoning, and problem solving is controlled by the prefrontal cortex of the brain, he explains — i.e. it’s an area not usually associated with sex. But saying those words during sex can actually enhance the act. “When we bring language into the bedroom, it might open up a much more rich and complex experience — one that we would not have through behavior alone,” he says.

The phrase also makes sex more intimate, sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, Astroglide’s sex and relationship expert, tells Yahoo Health. “When you communicate to your partner that you want them specifically — not just sex — they’re more likely to be responsive,” she says.

Mixing things up in bed is crucial as well, he says, since we’re more mentally and emotionally stimulated by new experiences.

Listening to feedback from their partners (and actually doing something about it) is also incredibly important, says O’Reilly. “People who admit they have lots to learn are often the best lovers,” she says. “Whether you’re willing to learn from a book or a partner, expanding your horizons leads to new discoveries.”

And, while it sounds counterintuitive, the ability to laugh in bed also can increase passion. “Amusement is essential in long-term relationship sex,” Klow says. “Couples who can have fun together, and be playful, often seem to have a better chance at a satisfying love life.”

Klow acknowledges that it’s not always easy to do these things, especially since work, kids, and life in general often take the focus away from the bedroom. However, he stresses that keeping the spark alive is crucial, too: “It takes making the relationship a priority in order to have a satisfying love life.”

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