In a Long-Term Relationship? Here Are 8 Therapist-Approved Ways To Re-Connect With Your Partner

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Nothing feels better than that sweet, sweet NRE: New Relationship Energy. The combination of nerves, excitement, desire, curiosity, and surprises around every corner as you get to know someone new is intoxicating. Connecting physically and sexually with someone for the first time, is so thrilling that our brains release tons of chemicals (like oxytocin and dopamine) that make us want to return for more, over and over again.

Then, we decide we really like this person. Some of us hop on society's relationship escalator—moving in together, getting engaged, throwing a wedding, having kids. Others of us choose more non-traditional routes that are no less worthy or fulfilling, like polyamory or even just long-term FWB.

One thing remains true, no matter what direction you take your romantic/sexual relationship(s)—we all crave that NRE. The longer we're with someone (even if they're not our only someone), the more comfortable we are with them. That's a good thing...but can also sometimes create a feeling of "blah" or even a lack of desire for sexual intimacy.

But being in a happy, long-term relationship doesn't have to come at the cost of a satisfying, exciting sex life if you don't want it to. Here are eight ways to connect with your long-term partner(s) to keep you feeling excited, happy, and connected. It'll feel like the beginning all over again—without having to make awkward first-date small talk.

1. Go shopping for a new sex toy

I know, I know, it sounds like an activity you picked out of a "how to reignite your sex life" date idea jar. But you truly can make a fun, flirty, and connected activity out of going to a sex shop store together (or browsing around online) and picking out a new toy to play with. “Sex toys can help couples bust out of routines,” Lisa Finn, a sex educator at Babeland, previously told Well+Good.  When shopping, you can talk about what feels intimidating, exciting, and boring to help you narrow down options and figure out what kind of device or toy would be fun for you to try. (Stumped? Check out these couple-friendly toys for inspiration.)

2. Get curious about your partner's sexual preferences and experiences

If you've been together for a long time, you might assume you know everything about what turns your partner on. But they likely have fantasies or desires of which you're completely unaware—and acting on these fantasies or desires can really help you both mix things up in the bedroom. I personally like Best Self's Intimacy After Dark Deck ($35), which curates 150 prompts about sex to help start the conversation. (But I could be biased, since I helped make it!) If you've ever wanted to ask your partner about new sex acts, deepen your understanding of how their brain works around sex, or even just feel curious about something, questions like these are a great start.

3. Schedule time for physical and emotional intimacy on your calendar

I know — this is classic advice, and it sounds so boring. Scheduling sex? Well, you're not scheduling at 4:05 p.m., the tongue hits the clitoris — or at 6:07 p.m., the penis will enter the vagina. What you're doing is creating dedicated intentional space and time for physical connection and emotional intimacy. Suppose you choose to play with a sex toy, great. Or just snuggle in bed with no clothes on, awesome. Suppose you want to have sex and film it, great. Whatever will help you to feel intimate with your partner—do it. Put it on your calendar and treat it like any other appointment: Don't be late, and don't cancel.

4. Send each other dirty texts during the day

If you're sitting at work and peer over to your phone and see a text from your partner that reads: "I can't wait to be inside of you tonight," how do you think you'd feel? Titillating each other during the day can get you all sorts of revved up to be together in the flesh when you both get home and come together. (Just make sure that those notifications are on "Do Not Disturb" if you're giving a presentation or sharing your screen with a coworker.)

5. Learn something new together

When we're not the expert at something, we're able to let our brain go into a state that helps us keep our guard down. When we do this with a partner, we can bond over the new experience. Do you both enjoy cooking? Try a pasta-making class or make a new recipe together. Enjoy dancing? Take a dance class together. Think about some things you can learn and do together and book it!

6. Write each other weekly thank you cards

Regardless of your primary love language, words of affirmation are really important to most people. When we take the time to express our thoughts and feelings in written form, it not only helps you (the writer) feel incredibly clear on their feelings and thoughts, but it also helps the recipient know how you feel about them. Writing a weekly thank you card, letting your partner(s) know what you're thankful for and what you love about them, is yummy to write and receive.

7. Take a short trip

Whether deep in nature or just in a town an hour from where you live, taking a trip together can help re-connect you. The change in the atmosphere makes it much easier to leave the day-to-day grind behind and be present with each other. Set an intention for the trip and decide on some agreements. For example, maybe you're only on your phones (except for taking pictures, of course) from 8-9 a.m. and 10-10:30 p.m. The time together with no distractions from each other might help rekindle your long-term relationship.

8. Give each other massages

Massages are lovely because they check two big love boxes—physical touch and acts of service. Many people love receiving massages, a sensual activity that also helps us practice communication skills (e.g., "can you rub a little lighter and more to the right?"). Plus, you get to touch each other all over, naked, which is excellent and re-connecting in itself.

Whether you want to invest in an activity or a product or do something for free, there's an option for you. You don't need to live in a state of disconnection or feeling distant. Tell your partner(s) how much you care about them and return to the basics—presence, connection, and love.

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