How To Keep The Sexual Tension Alive In Your Relationship

Small gestures can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining sexual energy.

by Carrie Weisman
Originally Published: 
Couple making out in bed in the morning

New relationship energy is a term sex nerds use to describe the initial feelings of falling in love. The phrase covers everything from pre-date jitters to sweaty palms. And there’s good science to back it. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, for instance, found that simply looking at a photograph of a new love interest is enough to trigger a flood of feel-good hormones like dopamine, adrenaline, and vasopressin.

Falling in love also inspires the release of oxytocin, “the love hormone”, as well as feelings of obsession. Italian researchers at the University of Pisa discovered that those in the midst of a new romance produce less serotonin in their brains. You know who else has diminished levels of serotonin floating around up there? Those afflicted by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

But here’s the thing about new relationship energy: it fades. The butterflies settle. Those who used to inspire them eventually become the face of your bedroom routine. And capturing the same sexual high you experienced in the beginning of things can be difficult. One trick that works: try to build sexual tension. That is, do what you can to reignite the chase, to impress, to act coyly, to press the right buttons.

From letting a good morning kiss linger more than it normally does to upping your appreciations to wearing that specific outfit more often, here’s what experts recommend to increase the sexual tension in your relationship.

1. Find Opportunity in Passing Moments.

Just because you can’t have sex at any given minute doesn’t mean you can’t refer to it. Find opportunity in passing moments. Let that kiss goodbye linger a bit longer than usual. Say something different to your wife as you part ways in the morning.

“I think perhaps our society supports the idea that all needs should be immediately attended to or ignored,” explains Dr. Mark Sharp, a relationship-oriented psychologist. “If I’m feeling horny but my wife has to leave for work in two minutes, I push the desire away because it can’t be acted on.”

Sharp suggests leaning in to those inopportune moments. Drop a figurative breadcrumb at each one of these encounters, and trail back to that past sensual space.

“By focusing on eroticism rather than the sexual act couples can bring that positive tension back into the relationship and it usually ends up in hotter sex when space allows,” says Sharp.

2. Make Your Intentions Known

Not all attempts to create sexual tension need to be subtle. Dave and his wife got married a few years ago. After the birth of their two children, he says sex slowed dramatically. But that all changed when his wife discovered a certain prop to help communicate when and if sex is on her mind: crotchless yoga pants.

“When my wife wears them, even though no one can guess her secret, I know what she wants,” he says. “They have really spiced up our relationship.”

In other ways: it’s about finding overt ways to maintain an attraction. If you want to do without the props, there’s always the option of delivering a friendly peck, or pat-on-the-butt in passing. You can also bring things into the digital space. Sexting is now officially on the menu. Bang out a fun or thoughtful message on your lunch break. Reminisce about one of your favorite romps. Put sex into your partner’s head, and let it linger throughout the day.

“Couples should express their desire even if there isn’t an opportunity to pursue it,” says Sharp.

3. Don’t Forget About Appreciation and Emotional Intimacy

In the throes of parenting, it’s easy for emotional intimacy to fall to the wayside. But maintaining it is essential for maintaining sexual tension. So do your share of the emotional labor. Be supportive. Pay attention to your partner’s handling of certain situations and be vocal about your appreciation. “Appreciation is for being seen for what you’re contributing, even if it’s mundane and routine,” says Dr. Emily Upshur, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City. Check that. In other words: Parenting is a never-ending game of Did I Just Do Anything Right? It’s easy to feel doubt, let alone any sense of confidence. As the supportive spouse, it’s your job to step in and provide, yes, validation. The words can vary but the subtext remains: I saw that and I’m not keeping it to myself. When such needs are met, you and your partner can focus on sexual tension.

4. Set a Schedule

Scheduled sex might sound as sexy as a 9 a.m. Monday accounting meeting. But give it a try: Anticipation is enticing and, done right, builds tension. Scheduling sex simply means you’re injecting a little organization into your intimate time. And that can actually work out in your favor.

“Scheduled sex gives something to look forward to and anticipate,” Sarah E. Clark is a licensed therapist and relationship explained. “Don’t waste the opportunity by putting it out of your mind until the appointed time pops up on your calendar, or falling into the trap of believing hot sex has to be spontaneous. Planned sex gives you an opportunity to prolong the emotional foreplay. Let your partner know throughout the day how much you are looking forward to it.”

5. Incorporate Novelty into the Agenda

Sex with the same person can, of course, become predictable. But there are some easy ways to avoid that. That’s where sexual novelty comes into play.

Celia Schweyer, a relationship expert over at suggests exploring different routes of experimentation. Try new positions. Maybe you can surprise your partner with a new toy that caters to a form of stimulation you know she responds to. Maybe you can reserve some time to watch a movie featuring some prize sex scenes (and if she’s into porn, you can always pull that up on the big). Maybe some BDSM is on the table. Going to a new restaurant makes you look forward to a meal, the same can be said about sex.

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