Now We Know How To Overcome A Sexual Plateau In Your Relationship

As much as everyone wants to find their person, fall in love, and have either a long-term relationship or even get married, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. In fact, if you talk to anyone you know about their sex life after being with their partner for a long time, they'll tell you a painful fact: desire for each other dwindles.

"There's a time in a relationship where you're past the infatuation and discovery phase," clinical psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez tells NBC News. "There are a ton of external stressors and things that may threaten being in 'the mood' for sex despite being in love. These can be things like work, commutes, parenting, or chores."

Although there are benefits to having regular sex, both physically and psychologically, sometimes couples just hit a plateau and find themselves stuck (via CNN Health). While external forces, like having kids, work, general obligations, or even the need for more spice, can definitely lead to a sexual plateau, new research has found how to overcome this stage in a relationship.

Maintenance sex

While no one wants to see the words "maintenance" and "sex" in the same sentence because it sounds like you need a tune-up like a car, maintenance sex does come in handy in relationships (via HealthShots).

"[Maintenance sex] encourages people to try new things, open up dialogues about desires and how their bodies and libidos are shifting," sex educator Allison Moon tells USA Today. "It's an opportunity for people to engage in fun, affirming sexual touch even if it doesn't come from the deep rutting urge it came from when the relationship was new. ... Maintenance sex only really works when it's done with true consent and a certain amount of enthusiasm to make one's partner happy."

As Moon explains, although maintenance sex is beneficial to a relationship, it becomes an issue when it's the only type of sex you and your partner are having. Ultimately, having sex should increase your libido, per WebMD, so maintenance sex shouldn't be necessary all the time. It should serve its purpose by opening the doors to desire as opposed to making every sex sesh feel obligatory. After all, no one should feel obligated to have sex. Ever. 

Expressing gratitude

If maintenance sex isn't your thing — it does have its naysayers, after all, who call it "duty sex" (via Jezebel) — another option is expressing gratitude to your partner. According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, couples that express their gratitude and receive the same level of gratitude from their partner experienced greater levels of sexual satisfaction in their relationship.

"Maintaining sexual satisfaction is a critical, yet challenging, aspect of most romantic relationships," psychologist Ashlyn Brady of the University of North Carolina tells Forbes. "Results from our study suggest that experiencing and receiving gratitude increases the motivation to meet a partner's sexual needs."

Not every couple can be on the same page with their sex drive, nor does every relationship maintain the same level of sexual activity over the course of years and years. It's normal for things to shift and for one, or both partners to lose interest in sex for a myriad of reasons. What's most important is that you don't ignore the fact that you've hit a sexual plateau and that you talk about it. In admitting that something is off, you can come up with a plan of how to rectify it, and your relationship will be better for it.