Sexual Imagery About a Long-Term Partner May Increase Desire and Infatuation

Declining sexual desire for one’s partner is a common, though sometimes frustrating part of long-term relationships. For individuals who wish to increase their sexual desire for their long-term partner, it may be helpful to have a few strategies at hand.

An intriguing new study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine explored potential strategies for increasing desire in a long-term relationship in an innovative way. To evaluate the effectiveness of three proposed strategies, researchers provided 25 participants with 30 written prompts for each strategy, then assessed the participants’ self-reported sexual desire, infatuation, attachment, and relationship satisfaction in regard to their long-term partner after each session. All of the participants had been in a relationship for 2+ years at the time of the study, and the average relationship duration of the participants was 51.7 months. Nineteen women and six men participated in this study.

The first strategy that the researchers tested was aimed at recalling positive qualities about one’s partner in an attempt to increase desire for that person. Participants were provided 30 prompts for this part of the study, (called the “positive reappraisal of the partner” condition), such as: “think of a time when your partner showed respect for you,” “think of something your partner understands about you,” and “think of a time your partner made you laugh.”

For the second condition, “reappraisal of sexual desire decline,” the researchers tested the strategy that normalizing changes in sexual desire that occur over the course of a long-term relationship might help a person feel less pressure and consequently more desire for their partner. This section included prompts such as: “it’s normal for sexual desire to decrease over time in a relationship,” “it’s normal for sex drive to decrease even if the relationship is good,” and “it’s okay for passion to decrease even when you enjoy being together.”

Finally, for the third condition, “sexual imagery,” participants were encouraged to focus on their partners and imagine sexually arousing scenarios that involve them. Some of the prompts for this section were: “imagine your partner sexually pleasing you without intercourse,” “imagine something your partner could do with their mouth to turn you on,” and “imagine you and your partner engaging in your favorite sexual fantasy.”

To create a control session (“no regulation”), participants were presented with asterisks and asked not to think about anything in particular. After each session, participants were asked to rate their sexual desire, infatuation, attachment, and relationship satisfaction for their partner using sliders with endpoints such as “no desire at all” to “extreme desire” and the like for the other factors.

In the end, the authors saw an increase in the participants’ desire and infatuation for their partners after they used the sexual imagery strategy compared to the control session. The participants also felt more attached to their partners after the “positive reappraisal of the partner” session than they did after the control session.

These findings suggest that imagining a long-term partner in sexual scenarios may help increase one’s desire for that person. This may be a helpful strategy for couples to have if they want to enhance their sexual connection despite the declining sexual desire that accompanies many long-term relationships.


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