Sexual chemistry is both a science and an art. As an art form, it requires communication, an open-mind and time to flourish. As a science, however, the chemical changes we experience during lust and love are fairly consistent and can be broken down into two stages: lust/limerence and companionship/attachment.
During the lust or limerence phase of a relationship, your body experiences a flurry of chemical changes as dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin levels spike. Your brain resembles that of a drug user as you experience a natural high from falling in love. Your energy levels increase and your need for sleep may subside as your focus revolves around your new love interest. You’re simultaneously nervous, excited and blissful. Love, in its initial stages, can be blind as you subconsciously fill in the blanks with positive data to supplement the exciting unknown. You don’t notice your paramour’s bad habits and your optimism shines through.
After several months of blind love, couples generally transition into the companionate or attachment phase which is marked by commitment, comfort and security. This phase is associated with the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are believed to promote bonding and increase during sexual activity and physical affection.
Reigniting the spark in a relationship often involves engaging in activities that remind the brain and body of the lustful phase of love. These activities might create mystery, excitement and even anxiety, but ultimately they result in chemical processes involving dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin. Even the happiest couples find that excitement and sexual desire wane with time, so experiment with the tips below to spark up your relationship (and be sure to also check out our quick tips for maintaining connection and promoting attachment).
1. Create secrets together. You and your friends may share inside jokes that foster a unique connection, but creating secrets that are just between you and your lover is one way to heighten sexual chemistry.
Slip away at a dinner party for a heavy make out session or try something risky (to boost adrenaline) like sneaking into a park after hours. When you break the rules together (within reason), the shared adrenaline boost helps to rekindle the feelings associated with limerence. I’ve met couples who tap into their naughty sides by sharing dirty little secrets like snooping through friends’ medicine cabinets at parties. Though I don’t recommend this particular habit, I have seen evidence that misbehaving together can keep a relationship exciting.
2. Admire others together. If you want to know how to spice up your relationship but don’t want to spend a ton of time or money, this tip is a great one to start with. Expressing attraction and admiration for other men and women is normal and healthy. Many couples find that opening up about their natural feelings not only enlivens their attraction to one another, but it also deepens their connection.
3. Retell the story of your first date. How’d you meet for the first time? Where did you go? How did you feel? Recall the feelings of excitement and anticipation you experienced when you first met – chances are, if you can bring yourself back to that same place, your bedroom might get a little more active.
4. Cook something extravagant. Falling into a boring routine is one sure-fire way to fall out of lust with your partner. It’s all too common for couples to begin eating at the same restaurants, ordering the same takeout or even cooking the same “romantic” meals over and over. To really shake up your routine, pull out all the stops. Pick out a live lobster at your local seafood market or make a pact to not leave the kitchen until you’ve mastered boeuf bourguignon. There’s something undeniably exciting about purchasing exotic ingredients and whipping up a dish that’s truly decadent — plus you’ll get to spend a lot of time together in the kitchen!
5. Make a public declaration of your love. Sometimes, bringing a relationship out into the open can spice things up. Try sending flowers to your partner’s office, or simply embrace them in public.
6. Daydream and make plans for winning the lottery. When you first meet, you spend time dreaming of the future and creating (often) unrealistic plans. Tapping into shared fantasies offers a temporary sense of escapism and can boost dopamine levels.
7. Sleep on the other side of the bed. This is just one example of how you can break your routine to reduce predictability and reawaken your partner’s interest. Other examples might include buying new underwear, restyling your hair, playing pranks, changing the way you greet your partner (e.g. picking them up with a bear hug or jumping into their lap) or giving them a new pet name.
8. Change one thing in your bedroom every month. Sex in a hotel while on vacation is often hotter and more frequent than sex in your home, so recreate that getaway atmosphere in your bedroom to jumpstart your sex life. Add new pillows, change the color of your lightbulbs, rearrange the furniture, update your sheets, leave your toys out or add hotel touches (e.g. chocolates on the pillow or an ice bucket with champagne) to break the visual monotony of your home base.
9. Say thank you every morning. Practicing gratitude is associated with improved health, happiness and longevity, but in relationships it also improves intimacy and causes surges in attraction. Try waking up with a “thank you” every morning for the next week. It will change your mood as well as your partner’s. You might thank your partner for their love, their positive outlook, their energy, their parenting, their beauty or their ongoing support, but try to change it up each day.
10. Dress up during downtime. Remember when you first started dating how you’d make an extra effort to look nice every time you hung out? As time went on, you got more comfortable with each other and so did your clothes — and that’s a great thing, but the occasional wardrobe change is a simple way to rekindle some excitement. The next time you’re meeting your partner at home, try putting together a nice outfit. Wear some light makeup or try a cute hairstyle. This tip isn’t just for women — a new cologne or fresh shave can help you look your sharpest and ignite some sparks!
11. Hire a housekeeper. Many couples are too anxious to spend quality time together. Even when the workday is over, there’s plenty of housework waiting at home. It can be hard to justify a sexy date night with a pile of dishes in the sink or a living room littered with laundry and the kids’ toys. So give yourself the day off from chores by hiring a professional cleaning service once a month (or at least once a year). You’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company without the constant nagging feeling that you should be dusting something instead.
12. Surprise one another with schedule changes. Part of the excitement that you experienced in the beginning was related to the unpredictability of your love interest, but as you build a life together, a certain degree of predictability is both inherent and functional.
You can, however, overdo it. If you always know when something is going to happen, the thrill inevitably subsides, so change things up to surprise your partner. Show up for lunch unannounced, come home early, schedule a late-start, cancel plans to create openings for alone time or skip the gym unexpectedly so that you can have a spontaneous and sexy date.
13. Sweat together. Try a partnered yoga routine or try a free at-home workout from FitnessBlender.com, a site run by a husband and wife personal training team. Couples who exercise together are more likely to reach their fitness goals and working out boosts hormones that elevate mood, libido and sexual functioning.
14. Go to haunted house, shooting range or amusement park. When your adrenaline gets pumping – especially with your partner – you’re going to probably want to spend that energy. Just try to make it home first!
15. Have a fight. Sometimes an argument can open the lines of communication and lead to a stronger bond — but that’s not the kind of fight we’re talking about here. This requires a little planning while your partner is at work. Buy a pair of water guns, some water balloons or a few choice Nerf weapons and leave a note outside with your partner’s “arsenal.” Let them know you’re waiting inside (or in the backyard) and you’re challenging them to battle. Then let the games begin. This is a fun surprise to come home to after a stressful day at the office and it’ll make you both feel like kids again!
16. Volunteer together. If you’ve been wondering how to spice up your relationship, a day at the soup kitchen may not have crossed your mind. Here’s why it should — attraction isn’t just about how great your partner’s butt looks in jeans. It’s a multi-faceted thing, and hopefully one of the things that made you fall for them was the fact that they’re a good person. Over the months or years you may have lost some of the appreciation you felt for them when they’d go out of their way to help you, but making a difference together through volunteering can remind you why you fell for them in the first place.
There are plenty of places to volunteer. If a canned good drive for your local food bank isn’t your thing, try working at the funnel cake stand at your church fair or walking dogs at your local animal shelter. These activities won’t just help others, they’ll also make you proud of your partnership and strengthen your bond.
17. Do something naked together. Whether you slip away to the lake to skinny dip or simply shed your clothes in the kitchen while preserving fruits on the weekend, the nerves and exhilaration associated with being nude in a vulnerable situation can create a renewed thrill.
18. Hit the road. Vacations are supposed to be fun and exciting, but as they get older many couples over-plan their holidays and end up following an itinerary or camping out on the same stretch of sand each year. While those vacations are still enjoyable, they don’t exactly ignite the flames of passion. That’s why an impromptu road trip can be one of the best ways to spice up your relationship. Book an AirBnB for the weekend or just rent a hot convertible and head for the coast. Without a schedule, you can choose your own adventure and enjoy some steamy moments along the way!
19. Do something you’re “too old” for. Did you used to go to a ton of punk rock concerts in your teens? Have you secretly always wanted to get a tattoo? No matter what your age is, there are probably a few activities you’d love to do but feel a little silly doing on your own. Choose one and share it with your partner. You’ll learn not to take yourself so seriously and you’ll feel a little younger, even if it’s just for one night.
20. Take separate vacations. There’s some truth to the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This year, instead of vacationing together take separate trips with your friends. A little distance will make you miss your partner and remember all the little things they do that you love. You can even schedule a night while you’re away to try out some long distance sex ideas like a steamy Skype session. Experiencing intimate moments even when you’re far apart could add a new level of passion to your partnership.
Nurturing your sense of adventure will help you reignite those powerful feelings and give you tons of new memories to share. Ready to try something new but still aren’t quite sure where to start? Why not ease into things by trying out a new formula of personal lubricant? Surprise your partner with your free sample (we'll even send you a coupon for $1.00 off of a full-size bottle) and see where the excitement takes you!
Images pictured are for illustrative purposes only.