Remember a time when you couldn't keep your hands off your partner? When with one look, one touch, you'd spend all day glowing in what felt like an all-consuming passion?
You used to have endless energy and time for romance and lovemaking, but now that you've been together a while, things have changed. Your days are filled with to-do lists and social obligations rather than steamy all-nighters and love notes. When your partner caresses you, you might get sleepy rather than turned on. A nap or watching TV might sound better than sex. You love your partner, but maybe you're just not "feeling it" anymore.
When we first fall in love, the romantic thrill happens effortlessly because pleasure-boosting hormones create a neuro-chemical cocktail that drive us toward greater intimacy. Nothing is more important than being with that one person who makes you feel like you're on fire. It certainly didn't take planning or feel like work to keep the flames of lust burning and your interest in one another growing.
Unfortunately, this euphoria rarely last forever, especially when the demands and responsibilities of real life take over. Suddenly, there's precious little time or energy left over in your day for an affectionate caress, an intimate conversation or a night of romance.
It isn't long before your partner seems more like a roommate than a lover. You lay down each night next to a person who feels miles away from you. You begin to wonder if you even know each other anymore. When this emotional disconnect starts to happen, you're entering the danger zone.
For monogamous couples, is it just a matter of time before the romance is dead and the relationship begins to drift apart?
Not necessarily. It depends on the little things you do on a daily basis that can mean the difference between a passionate, thriving relationship and one that's on a slow death walk towards infidelity or divorce.
Is it really possible to keep the passion and romance alive after 5, 10, 20 years together?
Absolutely. Giving each other a daily dose of what I call the 3 A's -- attention, appreciation and affection -- are the critical factors in keeping any relationship alive with interest and desire.
If taking a nap, watching TV, being on Facebook or chatting with friends sounds better than making love to you, here are six strategies to immediately apply to get the enthusiasm and closeness back in your relationship, pronto!
PHOTOS: 6 Passion-Boosting Tips for Your Relationship
Try this: Leave a love note on your partner's pillow or stuck in their purse, briefcase or the book they're reading. Bring home a special treat you know your partner will love. Text, call or email them to say "I'm thinking of you." Write a list of all the reasons you love and appreciate them and whisper each one into their ear. Sometimes it's the little gestures that make the biggest impression.
Break through the ho-hum, "I'm so bored" barrier that often plagues long-term relationships by learning something or doing something new together. Sharing activities of mutual interest is the glue that makes relationship work and creates happiness. Go ice skating, take a salsa lesson, rent rollerblades, go for a full moon hike, rent a bicycle built for two or celebrate a milestone other than your anniversary -- like the anniversary of the first day you made love. It's amazing what getting out of your normal routine and pushing your comfort boundaries will do for your love life.
What you focus your attention on, grows. Say "thank you," offer a hug, pay your partner a compliment -- anything that communicates you acknowledge and value how important they are to you and that you appreciate them. Accentuating the positive and what is good in each other and in the relationship is a win/win for both partners. When you feel grateful for the good things in your life, you attract more of those good things to you.
So many couples hold back kissing, touching or holding each other until they have time or the desire to have sex. Researchers have found that holding hands may relieve stress and affectionate touch boosts the body's feel-good hormones. Let's face it, touch is a fundamental part of our existence since we were born. So even a simple hug each day is actually good for your health and well-being. Hold hands. Stroke your partner's arm or shoulder softly as you walk by. Give your partner a 20-second kiss when they walk in the door or are leaving for the day. Affection is the way to make love all day outside of the bedroom.
Nothing says "I love you" like spending quality alone time together. Before rushing out the door in a frenzy in the morning, get up one hour earlier and share breakfast in bed, read an inspirational passage aloud or go for an early morning walk. At the end of the day, instead of plunking down in front of the TV or computer, give each other a massage, take a shower together or do something novel like reading erotic literature out loud or telling each other steamy stories before turning in for the night. Carving out time during the day to be intimate and present to your partner strengthens your bond and builds the desire for affection, setting the stage for great lovemaking.
Talking is the main tools we use to connect with each other. When we extend ourselves and let our partner know who we are, what we need and how we feel, we open the doors to greater intimacy. Take at least 30 minutes and put out your 'do not disturb sign' to the world. Turn off the phone, close the door and tell the kids not to even think about knocking unless there is an emergency. Then sit down and take a few minutes to breathe and settle in with each other. Ask your partner what he or she needs from you. Take turns. Openness and honesty are essential. The goal is to show more and see more of each other, rather than defend the status quo. It takes time and patience, but it's worth it.
You get out of your relationship what you invest into it. When you make daily love "deposits" of attention, appreciation and affection into your relationship account, you'll be able to maintain a healthy and sexy love "balance." By following these six simple strategies and making love a priority in your life, everything else in your life will feel a whole lot sweeter.
Sheri Meyers, Psy.D is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship.
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