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Sexual Passion: How to Build and Sustain a Super-Hot Sex Life

Published: JANUARY 16, 2024
There are many different things that can impact sexual passion in both the long and short term. Lucky for us, researchers have found some common theories to help us understand - and manage - them better.

We hear about it in songs, read about it in books and watch it in movies. It seems that everywhere we turn, people are talking about steamy, hot passionate sex. But what exactly is sexual passion? And how do we get it back or keep it in long-term relationships? I spoke with other sexologists and sexual health experts to find out.

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What exactly is sexual passion?

While we might know it when we experience it, sexual passion is kind of hard to define. However, sexuality expert Kaamna Bhojwani sheds light on its definition, describing sexual passion as “a feeling of intensity that accompanies strong affection or attraction.”

Sexual passion is commonly found in new relationships, where the mystery of a new person creates an erotic energy within the new relationship. For most of us, this energy and passion is fleeting and wears off over time. But not all is lost when the initial spark subsides. According to Bhojwani, passion isn't just a fleeting spark but rather a flame that can be nurtured. The question, then is how do we keep this flame ablaze?

Passion isn't just a fleeting spark but rather a flame that can be nurtured.

Read: Better Sex: 10 Things to Start Doing Right Now

Understanding the Roles of Desire and Arousal in Passion

One of the best ways to keep passion alive is to understand the roles that desire and arousal play in passionate sex. Sometimes, when we speak of passion, we’re actually referring to arousal or desire. And this is understandable because we tend to use all three words interchangeably. But there’s actually a distinction between the terms desire and arousal. AASECT certified sex therapist and clinical sexologist at Bedbible, Holly Wood, Ph.D.(c), says that “desire usually refers to emotionally wanting to have sex, while arousal refers to the physiological changes in your body that happen when you're sexually excited.” So, if you're at home relaxing on the couch and have the sudden urge to do something sexual, that’s desire. But if your body starts start to change as a response to sexual touch or media, like getting an erection or getting lubricated, that’s usually arousal.

If you're at home relaxing on the couch and have the sudden urge to do something sexual, that’s desire. But if your body starts start to change as a response to sexual touch or media, like getting an erection or getting lubricated, that’s usually arousal.

If you are feeling both the desire to have sex and are aroused when having sex, thinking about sex, or engaging in sexual media, then you are much more likely to have passionate sex - both with yourself and your partner/s. But there are many things that can cause arousal and desire to halt - and a whole list of things that can cause them to flourish.

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Factors Influencing Sexual Passion

There are many different things that can impact sexual passion in both the long and short term. But luckily for us, researchers have found some common theories to explain them.

The Dual Control Model

If you're a bit of a sex nerd, you may have heard of the terms sexual accelerators and sexual brakes. These terms were named by sex educator, researcher, and author of the book "Come As You Are," Emily Nagoski, to explain the dual control model of sexual response. This model basically states that there are certain things that can turn us on (accelerators) and certain things that can turn us off (brakes). And like a car, if we push too hard on the brakes, no matter how hard we push down on the accelerator, we won't be turned on. But what is wonderful about this model is that by alleviating pressure on the brakes and enhancing our accelerators, the likelihood of experiencing desire, arousal and enjoyable, passionate sex is heightened.

While the brakes and accelerators are different for each person, there are some common factors that tend to influence each side.

Common brakes include:

Common accelerators include:

  • Being creative, like baking or painting
  • Indulging in the senses, like listening to your favorite tune
  • Multiple forms of self-care
  • Feeling good about yourself, physically, mentally or spiritually
  • Being rested and relaxed
  • Being in nature
  • Having the time to indulge in the self or pleasure
  • Emotional connection
  • Different forms of erotica

Unfortunately, in long-term relationships, work, family and other forms of stress tend to get in the way of things that make us receptive to desire and arousal. By identifying both your and your partner's brakes and accelerators, you can prioritize activities that reconnect you with your authentic self, making you more inclined to embrace passionate sex.

Spontaneous Versus Responsive Desire

The way each person initially experiences desire also influences passion and is different from person to person. As Suzannah Weiss, a sexologist at Bedbible, states, “Some people have responsive desire - that is, when desire follows stimulation.” This means that some people may only experience the desire to have sex well into foreplay or other forms of sexual stimulation, like watching ethical pornography. For others who have spontaneous desire, the desire to have sex happens, as the name suggests, spontaneously.

To make things slightly more complicated, the way we experience desire can change throughout our lifetime. The excitement of a new relationship may make the desire to have sex arise spontaneously for some, but this may turn into a responsive desire later in a relationship.

Neither experience is good or bad, and both are normal and healthy, but problems do arise between couples who have differing styles. To keep the passion in long-term relationships, we need to understand the desire style of ourselves and our partners and work with them. If you or your partner have a responsive desire style, you may need to schedule sex and prioritize foreplay. On the other hand, if spontaneous desire is more characteristic, you may need to explore ways to enhance spontaneity.

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How to Create Desire, Arousal and Long-Term Passion

Alright, so now that we’re armed with the knowledge of what sparks our desire and what might douse the flames of passion, how can we take this information and use it to create a lasting sense of desire, arousal and passion?

Prioritize Communication

When it comes to passionate, pleasurable sex, communication is the key. Wood states that good communication should include discussing desires, preferences, fantasies and insecurities. She emphasizes the significance of dedicating time to understanding each other's evolving needs without judgment or pressure, particularly in long-term relationships, where needs and desires may shift over time.

Learn What Turns You On

In order for us to have passionate sex, we need to understand what turns us on. This can be done through masturbation and also by being real with ourselves about what turns us on. Bhojwani recommends asking yourself, “What turns you on? What gets you excited? What would have you on the brink of losing control?” If you can answer these questions honestly and without self-judgment and shame, you can then communicate and explore them with your partner.

What turns you on? What gets you excited? What would have you on the brink of losing control?

Build Trust

Trust is crucial for passionate sex in a long-term relationship. While we can have passionate sex with people we don't trust, this is only temporary and won't last for the long term. Building trust with a partner requires consistently showing up for them, honesty, vulnerability, reliability, and offering support when needed. It's a process that takes time, especially for individuals who have experienced trust issues in the past.

Read: 6 Signs That You Are Having Great Sex

Deepen Emotional Intimacy

Being emotionally connected to your partner, both in the bedroom and out, is one of the biggest ways that we can increase sexual passion. Weiss suggests that ways to deepen emotional intimacy include making time throughout the day to connect physically, even if it's not in a sexual way. “This can involve showering together, taking breaks from work to cuddle, and holding hands.” These gestures help to build intimacy between you and your partner, which is essential for keeping passion alive in the bedroom.

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Be Playful

Sex is supposed to be fun and playful, so lean into it. Reintroducing a sense of fun and playfulness into sex can bring a sense of excitement and adventure and can make us open to exploring new things with our partners. Bhojwani adds that this approach also alleviates some of the pressure and weight that we often place on ourselves to have perfect sex.

Embrace the Ups and Downs

Life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes, sex isn't going to be that great or happen as much as you'd like. Bhojwani suggests that couples should acknowledge this, understanding that various factors can interfere with sexual intimacy. It's also essential to recognize that things can and will get better, and being adaptable to change will increase your chances of returning to normalcy.

Remember That Relationships Take Work

Relationships aren't easy. While we shouldn't have to exhaust ourselves constantly to make them work, investing time and effort is essential for a healthy relationship and sex life. Sex therapist Jackie Golob says that scheduling dedicated time each week to prioritize your relationship and sex life works wonders in keeping the passion alive in long-term relationships. This time can be used however it's needed, whether for a date or simply to discuss what's working and what isn't in the relationship.

Get Professional Help

Sometimes, we try everything, but nothing seems to work. Wood suggests that “If hurdles seem insurmountable, seeking guidance from a sex therapist can provide tailored strategies to navigate through.”

More sexual passion?

Contrary to the common belief that sexual passion is fleeting and confined to new relationships, it can indeed be sustained in the long term. But, achieving long-lasting sexual passion requires a deeper understanding of how desire and arousal operate for both ourselves and our partners, coupled with a commitment to prioritizing passion within the relationship.

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Photo for Rhiannon John
Rhiannon John

Rhiannon John obtained her Master's of Sexology from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, where she researched women's use of pornography for pleasure. She is a sexologist with a keen interest in women's sexual health and pleasure. Rhiannon believes that sexuality is vital to our overall well-being and should be celebrated.

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