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How do you keep the spark alive in long-term relationships?

May 11, 2023

Dr. Liz: Yeah. Yeah. How do you keep the spark alive in long-term relationships? 

Rebecca: Oh, that is – I think that is a really – it seems like an easy question and is also a really tough question because it’s going to depend so much on who you are as individuals and who you are in your relationship.

So, I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years.

We’ve been together for 16 years, a long time, and we have definitely throughout our relationship found ourselves in rots or just not communicating well, snapping with each other, just not feeling the closeness or the intimacy that we would like to have. 

And I think when we go back in time and think about what led to that, it came down to just really poor communication, breakdowns in communication, and not keeping novelty a focus in our relationship.

And so that’s something that we’ve worked really hard on is to both think independently and then find time to come together to talk about what something we’d like to try, what something we would like to go do and maybe that’s more intimate or maybe that’s more just kind of in life, what something new we want to do this weekend to make sure that we are not always in the same routine. 

We’ve got young kids now who keep us very busy and very tired.

And we definitely fall into like that common I think parent trap of their agenda, their needs, or keeping that routine for their sake and we just forget to take that time for each other.

We forget to take that time as a family to do different things and fun things or exciting things. 

But when it comes to he and I, definitely keeping more openness I think to each other than maybe we’ve had earlier in our relationship and really trying to listen to what does he want, what does she need, what would we like to do?

Maybe it’s not something one of us has kind of thought about or concerned before but really trying to just be open to that and then try new things.

And along the way, we’ve had a lot of fun finding that novelty and keeping that sparkling. 

And then the other thing I think that comes to mind too is maybe finding ways to bring kink or to bring other things into “normal” activities.

So if we are – if it is just going to be like a movie night or kind of a quiet night in that way but can we still add something to that to make that a little bit more exciting or add that kind of intimacy or desire or fun into something even if we just – we’ve come home kind of exhausted from the day and aren’t wanting to do a whole lot?

But really trying to keep the spark in that way. 

Dr. Liz: Yeah.

I had a TV night with a dom that I played with where we didn’t do any like explicit kink or sex stuff but I watched the show sitting on the floor at his feet with him like petting my head.

And that alone was such a beautifully intimate and kinky experience and it helped a lot with feeling that kind of connection and passion and desire even though we weren’t doing things that were as explicitly sexual or kinky. 

Rebecca: Yes. 

Dr. Liz: When I see questions like this, a lot of times what I think about is the book, Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski.

She talks about your sexual excitatory system and your sexual inhibitory system.

So the sexual inhibitory system is like a brake.

It’s the stuff that prevents you from being able to engage in sex, wanting to engage in sex, feeling desire for sex.

Sexual excitatory system is like your gas pedal, which is the stuff that makes you want to go and want to do things, and have desire. 

So the thing about these two systems is that there needs to be a certain type of balance between them in order for you to be able to get into the space to have sex and to have that excitement to have sex with each other and to be intimate with each other.

And so if there’s something slamming on your brakes really hard, it’s going to be really tough for that gas pedal to do anything no matter how hard you’re pressing it.

If your gas is super hard all the time, you may not notice the breaks even when you need them. 

And so, I think that part of this is about looking at in keeping the spark alive, is there anything that’s pushing on the brake pedal that’s making it hard for that spark to be present?  

Things like not doing the dishes, not doing the laundry, screaming children, stress at work, haven’t got enough sleep, physical illness, disability, there are all these things that make shit much harder especially as we get older.

My body is a whole mess. 

Rebecca: Yeah, I was going to say pain. 

Dr. Liz: So much pain. Right?


Because it’s a bad pain, not the good pain.

And so I think that even just taking the time to within yourself and with each other look at like is stuff that’s smashing on our brake pedals can help you figure out what you can lift away that will make it more possible for that spark to be present, because most of the time, the gas pedal is already working some.

It just maybe inhibited by that system that’s keeping stuff tamped down. 

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Dr. Liz: I would also say, looking at the spark is a lot also about are we feeding our relationship in general?

Are we paying attention to each other?

Are we showing interest in each other?

Are we spending time that is quality time with each other that’s connected time?

Because I think that especially the longer relationship goes on, at the start, we are like telling each other how great we are all the time and so excited to see each other and texting all day and sending cute little memes and videos and all of this stuff that puts love into our love bank and the longer relationship goes, the lesson those kinds of activities we tend to do but we are still making withdrawals from the love bank when we have conflicts, when like are stressed out, when there’s stuff that make stuff hard. 

And so, I think finding ways to really purposefully blend in more of those loving activities make the spark easier because you don’t want to fuck someone who you’re mad at and resentful of.

When you are trying to think about sex and all you can think about is the fact that they haven’t done an audition in two weeks, you’re not going to fuck.

That’s just not going to happen. 

So I think it’s really helpful to look at again, like what’s putting on the brakes, how can you feed that system in general to feel more closeness and intimacy with each other that’s not explicitly sexual and then start looking at things like kink, costumes, porn, any of that stuff.

Those things are great and you need the other elements supporting it because those form the foundation of being able to have that good sexual connection. 

So I think like again, look at the foundation as well.

I think it’s super simple to look at like is there a hot porn we can send each other?

Yeah, there is.

There’s so much hot porn.

Is there like a fun new toy we can try?


Create new toys all the time.

But if you’re still having a lot of resentment or feeling unseen or uncared for or lonely or way too stressed out or in so much pain, it doesn’t matter how much porn you watch, it’s not going to work. 

Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely.

I think that really speaks to it and having that foundation.

I was at a workshop recently and one of the things they talked about was just having daily rituals, right?

I think to your point, if you don’t have that kind of warm good morning or goodbye before you go your separate ways for the day or you don’t have that when you come back together, it’s so easy to get into, “Did you go grocery shopping? Did you do the laundry? Did you wash the dishes? Why is the kitchen dirty again?” kind of whatever it is.

And if you are not conscious or – what is the word am I looking for? 

Dr. Liz: Purposeful? 

Rebecca: Exactly. 

Dr. Liz: Purposeful. 

Rebecca: We will go with that. Intentional. 

Dr. Liz: Yeah. Good word. Yeah.  

Rebecca: If you are not intentional about having those rituals and having that foundation, it doesn’t matter how many costumes or toys or videos or things you read because your system is so overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind. 

Dr. Liz: Yeah. I think that there is research that’s like you should have 7 positives for every negative or something in order for things to balance.

So like look at the balance, right?

If you are asking them about dishes, super fucking valid.

I strongly recommend the fair play system which comes as either a book or a set of cards that helps you divide the tasks that need to happen in your household.

It works for families.

It works for roommates and things.

And it’s specifically designed to help cishet men actually do stuff around the house. 

Anyway, moving off on that but like I think that there is this way that we start to assume that we can talk about the negatives and then give the positives after, and that’s generally a death spiral, right?

As soon as we are starting to withhold positives while not being mindful of negatives, we are just going to keep draining that connection. 

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Dr. Liz: Yeah. 

Rebecca: Absolutely. 

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