When you've been together for decades, it's easy for your sex life to get stuck in a rut. As well as becoming more predictable, sex can also become less frequent, and even grind to a halt altogether – in a recent Durex survey, over 15% of Brits admitted their sex lives were entirely non-existent.
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"After 10 or 20 years or more, relationships can end up feeling more like close platonic friendships: even if the love is still strong, the lovemaking has a tendency to sputter out as people get older together and the initial lustful fascination with each other wears off," says Alix Fox, sex and relationships expert for Durex.
"If both parties are happy with their partnership gradually evolving to become one of cosy, non-carnal companionship, then fair enough – but often, the fact that sex is drying up or becoming mundane can be a source of sadness and aggravation," adds Alix. Tellingly, that same survey revealed that almost two-thirds of people yearn to have great sex more often.
It doesn't have to be that way, though. It could be argued that long-term couples are in the ideal position to experiment sexually, as Alix says, "they will have weathered all sorts of storms together and be very comfortable with each other's bodies, so if they try something new in the bedroom and it doesn't go to plan they may be able to laugh it off more easily than younger couples who might find a sexual misfire acutely embarrassing."
Here are five ways to keep passion alive when you've been together for years...
1. Practice all-hours affection and sensuality – aka "24-play"
"As the years pass many couples get into the habit of restricting their sexual behaviour to a set time and place: always the bedroom, and always at night," says Alix. "This can contribute towards sex feeling monotonous. Plus, by making intimacy the very last thing on your 'To Do' list all day, you're more likely not to bother because you're too tired... and before you know it, you can end up falling asleep before you get round to sleeping with each other.
"Make a conscious effort to flirt and play with your partner in the daytime as well as the evening. If you're going out to dinner together, try making love before you leave the house instead of waiting until you get home, when you may well be exhausted/tipsy/bloated."
Don't assume your other half must know you fancy them, tell them. "Make the compliment even more delicious by whispering it sexily into their ear. Don't just save the sweet talk for between the sheets and between the hours of 10 and 11pm!" adds Alix.
2. Switch things up
Switching things up by trying new positions, products and ideas helps to keep sex fresh, fun and engaging – but sometimes it's easier said than done.
"It can be all too easy in long-term relationships to automatically rely on the 'old faithful' moves you know work for the both of you, and keep on thinking, 'We'll try out something different next time' – but next time never comes, and in the meantime, you can start to feel bored and despondent," warns Alix.
One good way to kick-start your switch-up is to invest in a saucy subscription.
Alix says: "A number of companies in the UK who will discreetly deliver a new box of surprise kinky goodies (think vibrators, arousal oils, blindfolds, naughty games...) to your door every month. Opening each package together and exploring what's inside ensures that you're regularly prompted to shake up your sexual routines."
Alternatively, you could commit to buying one new erotic item from the healthcare shelves every time you do a big grocery shop. Large supermarkets carry everything from tingling lubes and massage gels to buzzing toys, usually kept alongside the tampons and toothpaste.
"Chuck something fun in your trolley (or online shopping basket) and promise yourselves you'll give it a whirl before it's time to stock up on baked beans again!" says Alix.
3. Feel free to fantasise
Although a lot of people feel guilty about it, some studies have shown that secretly fantasising about other people during sex can actually help keep couples together over the long term.
"Thinking about celebrities once in a while, for example, isn't necessarily a sign that you're not attracted to your current beau or that you want to cheat in real life," says Alix. "Using your imagination like this is simply another way of mixing things up to stop sex from feeling stale - a harmless method of indulging a natural human need for variety and novelty, while remaining committed to one person.
It's important not to become over-reliant on imaginary scenarios, though. If you're permanently elsewhere while you go through the motions physically, you risk making your lover feel ignored and upset that you're not fully present.
"If you're permanently away with the fantasy fairies, lovemaking is unlikely to be mind-blowing for either of you, because you won't be paying enough attention to what's truly happening and what you're both feeling," warns Alix.
Try mixing fantasy with reality in a way that involves both of you by experimenting with role play, reading an erotic novel out loud together, or perhaps soundtracking a sex session with music from a movie you both find hot, suggests Alix. "When both of your brains are working together to keep things feeling exciting in your bodies, that's when the real thrilling intensity kicks in."
4. Try ringing the changes (and helping him to stay hard) with a cock ring
"As gents get older, it can become more difficult for them to maintain their erections, and the shame and frustration associated with this can lead to them avoiding sex altogether," explains Alix.
"Cock rings offer a way to keep his penis harder for longer without chemicals, if you don't want to resort to little blue pills yet. They do this by preventing blood from flowing out of the penis too quickly, keeping it engorged and solid. They also have the added boner bonus of increasing sensation for him – many men report that their orgasms feel stronger and more mind-blowing when they're sporting a ring.
"Durex recently launched the Pleasure Ring: a squidgy, stretchy, subtle-looking loop that's simple to put on and comfy to wear.
"Slick his penis with a little water-based lube, to help the ring slide on friction-free, then stretch it out and pull it down over his erection until it nestles around the base, next to his body. It can be worn for up to half an hour, and as well as being sold singly, it comes in packs of two - normalising the idea that needing a helping hand to stay hard more than just once is perfectly common."
5. Rediscover each other
"If you've been living with someone for decades, you can get so used to seeing them in the nude that their nakedness can cease being titillating," says Alix "You need a way to see your long-term lover through fresh eyes, and reinvigorate your appreciation of their body and what an honour it is to view, touch and share it.
"Ask them to stand up or sit on a stool in the centre of the bedroom, naked, so you can walk around them and have complete 360-degree access to every inch of their skin. Place a satin blindfold over their eyes: not being able to see what you're about to do to them will heighten their sense of anticipation and excitement. Plus, an eyemask will reduce their self-consciousness as they won't be able to watch you peering at them!
"Next, take your time to slowly and reverently re-explore every little part of your lover: their earlobes, their toes, their fingers, their bellybutton... everywhere. Mark each area you examine with a tiny dab of Durex Warming or Tingle lube – almost as though you're putting pins in a map to show the fascinating places you've rediscovered as you journey all over your amoré. Lightly blow on every dab of lube to intensify the cooling or warming effects. Compliment the parts of their body you think look, feel, smell or taste beautiful, to boost your partner's confidence and ensure they feel adored.
"Gradually, you'll bring their entire body to life with zingy, glowing patches of sensation; they will feel incredibly turned on, and after prompting yourself to really look closely at your lover again, you'll probably have noticed many charming, gorgeous, sexy things about them that you may not have properly acknowledged in far too long."