Hey, remember the beginning of your relationship with your long-term partner?
The passion, the playfulness, the butterflies in your stomach. Everything was about the two of you, and everything was wonderful. And yeah, you probably had so much sexy time that you walked funny for a good six months.
Fast forward to now, and your once-hot relationship might look a lot more like stained sweatpants, eating takeout noodles on the couch, and near-celibacy.
Not only are you not alone, but it's perfectly normal for a relationship and your desire to change over the course of a long-term partnership, Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Montreal, told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.
Loss of passion is a big concern for couples, but only because we have such high expectations of our relationships, and people get discouraged when things change over time, Betito said.
"I hear so often people saying 'I love my partner, but I'm not in love with them.' But you can't sustain that," Betito said.
"Science has shown that there are chemical changes that happen during the 'in love' stage of a relationship. Your whole focus is on the other partner. Everything is right. Your sexual desire is at an all-time high because it's new, it's exciting, it's highly-focused."
And that initial feeling can't last forever, Betito said.
"Changes occur because you have more and more responsibility. Now you have a mortgage. Now you've got kids. So many other things happen that have an impact on the focus."
Life gets in the way, and life affects desire, she said. Betito hears "we used to" a lot in her practice. "We used to have more sex," for instance.
"But when you used to, you weren't in the same position you're in today," she said. "So you need to understand life does change and you have to adjust along the way."
You can't make something old new again
While you may not be able to bring that old passion back, you can have new experiences that create passion, Betito said.
"If every day is the same old, same old — you come home, you sit on the couch, and you just watch Netflix, you do nothing — you don't create experiences, you don't create memories. You have to be able to do that," Betito said.
Don't think about it as keeping the fire burning. Think about it as trying to fan a flame every once in a while, Betito said. Date nights really do make a difference, she added, and overnight trips are key if you have kids.
"You need it. You need to feel like a couple," Betito said.
You need compassion to have passion
In her practice, Betito often sees couples where one partner wishes that they were having more sex or one is complaining of a low libido.
After some digging, she often finds that the partner with lower desire feels frustrated by a lack of support, feelings of pressure, feels that their other partner doesn't do as much around the house, or feels like they have another kid in the house.
"You're not going to have desire for [sex] if that's what's going on. And if you don't feel that your partner is compassionate for what you're going through, then it's going to be very difficult to engage," Betito said.
"When you feel the compassion coming from your partner, you're much more open and willing to meet your partner's needs."
Remember sex doesn't determine the success of the relationship
People get hung up on what a "normal" frequency of sex should be, and assume every other couple is having much more sex than they are, Betito said. But that isn't true.
"Every couple creates their own normal rhythm depending on where they are in life at that particular time," Betito said.
Some couples have sex once a month (or less) and are perfectly OK with it, she explained. As long as those couples maintain affection and intimacy, it's not a big deal. Sex doesn't determine the success of a relationship, she reminded.
"Not all couples who are not having sex are in trouble."
But if you do want more sex, here's what to do
If you both wish you were having more sex, plan for it.
A lot of couples have really good intentions, Betito said, but the end of the night comes around and they just crash into bed and fall asleep.
Think about planning for sex in the same way that you plan for a date or a trip, Betito suggested. If Saturday night is sex night, then get a sitter, shave, find something nice to wear, and figure out how you're going to set it up.
"There's a whole anticipatory part of it that's kind of a part of foreplay," Betito said.
That said, there's also nothing wrong with a quickie, she added. And if one partner is too tired, the other partner could always pleasure them this time, she said.
"You find ways to say 'yes'."
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