“When we study people who have great sex over the long-term in a relationship, they do not describe spontaneous desire as a characteristic,” she said.
So what do they describe? When the clinical psychologists Peggy Kleinplatz and A. Dana Menard conducted a study for their book “Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers,” they found that the components of great sex were consistent across gender, sexuality and a host of other descriptors and tastes. They included things like communication, empathy, vulnerability, connection and being present in the moment. They stressed ignoring notions of romantic spontaneity and, instead, embracing deliberateness and making a plan.
Great sex, they found, doesn’t just happen. It requires intentionality. Don’t be afraid to put it in your calendar if you have to. Because while you can’t plan on great sex, you can, as Dr. Kleinplatz and Dr. Menard put it in their book, “intentionally create the conditions in which the magic might occur.”
While experiencing low sexual desire during a pandemic might be normal and understandable, there are things you can do to increase desire in a relationship. One thing that science says increases arousal is a novel experience. Not just the sexual kind, but anything to get your heart rate up.
This might be a good time for people to “open a dialogue with their partner(s) about their relationship overall as well as their personal desires, fantasies, needs, etc.,” Dr. Luetke, who studies the link between conflict and sexual intimacy at Indiana University, wrote in an email. If these conversations are awkward for you, she recommended engaging a therapist specializing in sex.
Or find another way to raise your heart rate. You might not be able to ride a roller coaster or dance at a crowded concert, but you could still do a YouTube workout, go for a hike with your partner or watch a scary movie together after the kids are in bed. Some research suggests that being excited around your partner makes that person seem more novel and thus more sexually attractive, by association.
Complete the stress cycle.
When your brain senses a threat (a lion, say, chasing you), your body activates the sympathetic nervous system, which sends chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to help you run faster or fight harder. Once the threat is gone (you ran away; you killed the lion), the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, taking you out of fight-or-flight mode and returning your body to a calm state.