First published on intamopleasurables.com/blog/ under the title "How to have more sex in long-term partnerships" on September 7th, 2020.
Many long-term couples find that, after many years together, they’ve become so comfortable in their relationship that the excitement has all but faded. It’s common for people to become bored with situations and dynamics that are no longer shiny and new. Long-term relationships are one of the most common instances where this type of feeling can occur. For a lot of people, it becomes hard to maintain sexual intimacy once the boredom has set in, and often it can feel as though there’s no solution. How can we turn back time? We can’t. How can we renew something that’s so worn in? Well, as someone who has been in a relationship for over 10 years, I can attest to the fact that there is something that can be done. Through communication, trust, honesty, and the willingness to explore, couples can renew their sexual and experiential excitement and help their shared intimacy grow along with them through every phase in their lifespan and relationship.
Communication and honesty are extremely important. I think we can all agree on that. The ability to be open and discuss anything and everything without facing judgement is a key element of any healthy relationship. When it comes to intimacy, couples especially benefit from the ability to speak openly about their desires and fantasies. The most integral part of this communication, and honest, open sharing, is that each person involved feels able to express themselves without fear that their partner may unfairly judge, or take personally, what is being said. It takes a lot of courage to open up, and the experience of sharing without judgement can create a space of trust and comfort that reverberates through the entirety of one’s relationship. This type of sharing opens channels for individuals to be more honest and comfortable discussing other elements of their experience both inside and outside the relationship as well. The net result is an increase not only in the romantic intimacy that the partners share, but also in the platonic forms of intimacy that partners experience together. Conversations about all kinds of thoughts and emotions become free flowing, and even nights at home, afternoon chores, and trips to the grocery store will feel like relationship builders because each member of the relationship knows that their thoughts, feelings and emotions are being honoured by their partner at all times.
Trust is also an incredibly important part of all relationships. No relationship can grow in a healthy way without trust firmly at its base. Trust allows partners to describe and explore their deepest desires and fears without holding back. Additionally, trust frees the mind and soul from worry, suppression, and restriction, all of which can cause depression, anxiety, and relationship trouble. Many people feel they must hide their sexual desires in their everyday lives, even from the people who know them best. The stress caused by this repression can cause emotional distress, mental illness, and other difficulties that become tied to the emotional fabric of one’s relationships. Repression and distrust sews discord between people who may otherwise have a very harmonious partnership. However, with a trusted partner, individuals are able to free their otherwise hidden selves and step into their truest form. They become able to be themselves down to the very core, and this kind of experience bonds partners together in new and important ways. This bond helps relationship intimacy to grow while also fostering the growth of the individual self. When trust is well-established, a partner may be willing to explore even things they have never have previously considered possible. This can help individuals open themselves up further and create connections unlike any they’ve ever experienced. Trust is a great way to introduce loved ones to different forms of sexual intimacy. It’s also a great way to learn about and find different layers of our own personalities that we may never have previously acknowledged.
Though many may think that their only sexual interests are vanilla, there are elements to sexuality that go deeper than simple intercourse. From threesomes to role-play to BDSM and more, there is a spectrum of different sexual nuances that excite people and ignite their individual interest. Sometimes, even if a person believes they know what they like, there may be elements of their sexuality that are unexplored. Perhaps an individual doesn’t know that they’re aroused by something very unique. Using open communication with a trusted partner, they could have the chance to discover this uniqueness, and this discovery could lead to immense happiness and satisfaction. Sometimes it can be difficult to share deeply and completely with another person. Shame about new or different sexual interests thanks to societal biases, and anxiety caused by the belief that even one’s most trusted loved ones may not accept them, can cause individuals to feel that hiding is much more desirable than honesty. But in a long-term relationship with the right partner, nothing should be off limits to communicate about. Though you may not always agree, relate, or desire to explore the same things, just the act of communicating and seeking to understand deep sexual and emotional needs and desires can open up new worlds of intimacy between partners. Though it may be scary to delve deeper into one’s own mind and discover new ways to find pleasure, it can be one of the most freeing and healing experiences in life.
When honesty is used as a tool for relationship growth, love blossoms brighter and healthier than ever. Through sharing desires and fantasies in a wide open, non-judgemental way, partners who have been together for decades can find new ways to explore their own, and their partner’s sexuality, and build a relationship based on trust, mutual respect, and admiration. Who knows, this intimate sharing may even uncover new interests that lead to many additional years of intense sexual pleasure and mind-blowing connection between partners who once believed they knew it all.
Have you ever heard that depression is what makes an artist creative? Some of the most recognizable, well-known musicians, authors, and painters have or had some form of mental illness. Actually, this concept is so ubiquitous that there are several television tropes that explore the concept of art made by the depressed. Concepts like true art is angsty[i] and cope by creating[ii] are popular in our society. They paint a picture of the deeply sad, mentally and physically unhealthy, alcoholic artist who can’t help but create because otherwise they would probably die. Real-life examples of creative genius in the mentally ill, combined with a romanticized vision of those people’s lives, has many wondering if mental illness is the key to inspiration.
However, people who experience depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental health conditions aren’t one dimensional. People can’t be boiled down to vessels for their depression, or used as nothing but inspiration for those who will someday admire their work. We all know that every person has layers and nuances. That’s what makes each of us an individual. Trauma looks different for everyone, and what might inspire the outcast teen of our generation was a real, sometimes deadly life experience for someone else. Still, stories of people such as Kurt Cobain or Van Gogh are made sentimental and are idealized despite their harsh and tragic realities. Though I can’t speak for either of them, or any of the other depressed artists you might be thinking about right now, I can say this: depression has never helped me create anything.
Science suggests that creativity benefits from higher levels of intelligence. One study conducted at the University of Graz[iii] in Austria discussed the idea that higher levels of intellect may provide individuals with higher creative potential. As someone with depression who associates with a multitude of other depressed or otherwise mentally ill people, I can confirm that many of them are both creative and highly intelligent. It may be true that depression and creativity are connected, but that doesn’t mean that depression is essential to creativity. Maybe it means that intelligent and creative people tend to see the world a little more clearly. High intelligence allows many people to see more shades of grey, more facets of different arguments and concepts. Those who can’t boast a high intelligence often don’t have the potential to look at the world around them so closely. As they say, “ignorance is bliss.” Even if it might appear at first glance like you can’t have creativity without depression, I don’t believe that. Instead, I think that for many, depression is a symptom of a high level of awareness about the world and its horrors.
Truthfully, a lot of great art does address issues of mental health. Many of my favourite video games, movies, and television shows tackle things like suicide, trauma, and mental illness with all the depth and nuance that those topics deserve. Some of the greatest songs and paintings of all time might not have come into the world – at least not in their current form – without the artist’s experience of depression. But I have to wonder how many more incredible things might have come into existence if some of those artists, lost too soon, were able to get the help they needed. What if they had been able to come out the other side of their experience alive, healthier and stronger. I wonder how grateful their families would have been to see them happy, or what amazing experiences they could have had if they had found a path to contentment.
When my depression is at its worst, I don’t create. I consume a lot of content – and goodness knows that is an absolutely essential part of creating – but when I am at my worst, I find it impossible to express myself. It has taken a lot of work and time for me to arrive at a place where I can cope with depression and continue with my life. There were times I thought I’d never be able to do it, and I’m sure there will be times ahead when I’ll be afraid that I’ll never create again or that I might not survive my illness. But each time that I've been wrestled to the ground by depression, I've gained an immense amount of strength from the effort it takes to get back up.
It would be disingenuous of me to say that none of my work has been influenced by my illness, or that I don’t tap into my trauma in order to add layers to my stories. I do both of those things, and I suspect many other writers do too. But the experiences that have allowed me to mine that vein aren’t the moments I spent lying in bed unable to even put my feet on the floor. The experiences that lend me power are the moments when I took steps forward, and the moments of strength that healed me and allowed me to continue down my path.
Some people say depression and suicide are caused by weakness. They’re not. It’s not due to a fundamental fault that people become ill. Many factors contribute to suffering, every person’s journey is different. I believe that anyone who has faced mental illness and lived will agree that it’s the moments where we fought our depression and won that changed us the most. Those are the inspirational memories that motivate us. Those are the experiences that helped us succeed. People often say things like, “you’ve been through worse, you can get through this,” and I think that’s true. But I prefer these words by Ursula Le Guin[iv]: make a virtue of your peculiarities.
That’s what we are doing doing when we mine our depression for inspiration. That’s what it is when I take a moment to remember what it feels like to gather inner strength. I’m making a virtue of what I’ve lived through, smelting nuggets that I’ve collected along my path. It’s not depression that artists need to be creative, of that much I’m sure. What we need, now more than ever, is the courage to see the world how it is. We need the courage to keep on living. Because the truth is, dear reader, that living is what gives an artist the materials to create their masterpiece. Without paint, a painter is just a dreamer with nowhere to dip their brush.
[i] True Art Is Angsty. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TrueArtIsAngsty
[ii] Cope by Creating. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CopeByCreating
[iii] Jauk, E., Benedek, M., Dunst, B., & Neubauer, A. (2013, July). The relationship between intelligence and creativity: New support for the threshold hypothesis by means of empirical breakpoint detection. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3682183/
[iv] A quote from The Dispossessed. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/809119-there-s-a-point-around-the-age-of-twenty-when-you
Story fanatic. Published in the Camosun College literary journal Beside the Point. Former Senior Staff Writer at The Martlet. Current and future freelance writer.