How Can I Tell If I’m Still Attracted to My Partner?

Someone confided in me recently that she thinks she is not attracted to her partner anymore. She is hardly ever excited by the idea of having sex with him, even though other aspects of their relationship are pretty good.

What gives?

Studies suggest that women in long-term relationships have a different pattern of desire than the way it appeared at the beginning of the relationship. As women, we have a tendency to lose the feeling of being “horny”, and instead, desire becomes more responsive: it arises when our partner stimulates us.

Mind you, stimulation doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. It could be any type of signal that your partner is interested in you. That he wants to please you. That he wants you to be happy. And we, as women, have to choose pleasure. We need to make sure we don’t respond positively just in order to make him happy – because soon enough, sex would become a chore – instead, we need to say yes because we recall how good sex can feel. How enjoyable and pleasurable it can be. It goes without saying that first, we need to know how to have sex in a way that is truly enjoyable for us. This by itself can be quite tricky. And my entire website is dedicated to teaching you just that: how to fully, wholeheartedly enjoy sex. Now it is up to you to make sure that the way you practice sex is actually the way that you thoroughly enjoy.

But once you know how to fully enjoy sex, it still does not guarantee that you would find your partner physically attractive.

In his book Wired for Love, Dr. Stan Tatkin refers to a different kind of attraction in a long-term relationship. He reckons that the Couple Bubble (the knowing that you are safe to be yourself in your relationship) will provide the attraction: “More than just a safe environment, the couple bubble is a place for partners to feel excitement, enrichment, and most importantly, attraction. I’m not speaking here about physical attraction. Rather,  I mean the kind of attraction that serves as glue to hold the relationship together.”

Physical attraction might be pleasant for your eyes, but when you’ve been with your partner for a while, other features of your partner become more important. Mainly, the fact that you can trust him to be a real partner in all the important aspects of your relationship. And enjoying a great sex life in a long-term relationship doesn’t require a strong physical attraction. What it requires more is desire.

And how do we keep desire in a long-term relationship? This is the million dollar question. Esther Perel dedicated her entire book Mating in Captivity to the subject.

To summarize it in one word, desire in a long-term relationship is a matter of intention.

You need to intend to keep it turned on.

You need to actively bring desire into your relationship, instead of waiting and hoping that your significant other will do it for you.

You need to actively pursue your own passions as an individual.

You need to realize that desire shifts and changes during the course of a lifetime together, and that’s okay too. Allow it to reshape, twist, decrease and grow – just don’t let it completely die.

You need to accept that your body and your partner’s body will change over time, too – so don’t let physical attraction be a barrier from enjoying your relationship or your sex life.