Scary movies and skydiving could help your sex life.

Do you remember how you felt about your partner at the beginning of your relationship?

Butterflies in your stomach, heart racing, breath catching in your throat and an overwhelming desire to have sex with the object of your desire — right then and there.

If you’re in a long-term relationship, there’s a good chance those feelings have sadly passed. But, if it’s any consolation, sex therapist and relationship counsellor Desiree Spierings says you’re not alone.

“That phase can’t last, otherwise you would never go to work again. You are too obsessed with that person and it has to change,” she said.

Much of the sexual chemistry that happens in the early days of a relationship comes down to a cocktail of hormones including dopamine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, estrogen and testosterone.

Similar hormones are at play when we’re talking about addiction, which explains why early in a relationship all you can think about is your partner and all you want to do is be with them “to get another fix”.

“With familiarity, and the more time you spend with one another, these hormones tend to decrease and you start to see [your partner] for who they really are,” Ms Spierings said.

“So you think ‘oh he has a bit of a belly’ or ‘she wears tracksuit pants all time’.”

But according to Ms Spierings, you don’t have to say goodbye to the idea of lusting after your partner again; and there are ways to recreate those intense feelings of sexual attraction.

Stages of love

When it comes to understanding sexual attraction — or a lack of it — Ms Spierings says it helps to think about relationships going through three distinct phases.

  • Lust: there’s little in the way of emotion involved at this point. It’s all about desire and sex.
  • Attraction: there’s still a lot of sex happening, but there’s also an intense emotional connection. In this phase you’re totally crazy for someone, can’t wait to see them, want to be with them all the time, and spend most of that time having sex.
  • Attachment: this is the phase of a relationship where you form a bond with this person that is based on deep friendship. Your partner is more like your mate for life, and you may want to raise your children with them.

“You can pass through all three phases over time, but often as a relationship goes on, you don’t have that lust or attraction any more, but you still have the attachment,” Ms Spierings said.

According to the sex therapist, there’s nothing wrong with the attachment phase and the quieter sex life that goes with it, as long as you’re both happy.

“Initially in the limerence (infatuation) phase, both partners may have a high level of desire. But when limerence drops off, there may be a discrepancy in how much one person wants to be sexual when compared to the other.”

If you or your partner is wanting to have more sex, Ms Spierings says it’s worth making some changes in your relationship to recreate that initial sense of lust.

Scare yourself into it

Remember the feelings of infatuation you experienced early in your relationship, when you wanted to spend every waking moment with your partner having lots of sex? These feelings were caused by hormones, and these hormones are similar to the ones you produce when you experience fear.

The interplay between sexual attraction and the fear response was famously explored in Canada in the 1970s in the Capilano Bridge study.


The first group of men were asked to walk across a river on a safe bridge with high, steady handrails. The second group were asked to walk across the same river, but their bridge was wobbly, had low hand rails and big gaps between the wooden planks.

On the other side of the bridge, each subject was met by a female psychology student who asked them questions regarding an imaginary study. She gave each subject her phone number and told them to call her if they needed any more information.

The researchers found that the men who had walked across the unstable bridge were more likely to call the student and ask her out on a date when compared to the men who walked across the stable bridge.

Similar studies have since been done and similar results observed: the fear response elicits a hormone similar to the hormone released when we are sexually attracted to someone.

The suggestion is not that you should threaten your partner or make them feel unsafe in order to prompt feelings of sexual attraction. It’s about spending time together doing something novel, exciting, fun and perhaps slightly scary to help you both rediscover your sexual attraction for each other.

The date ‘bucket list’

Before you drag your partner off to jump out of a plane or abseil down a cliff, Ms Spierings says you can reboot your sexual attraction for your partner without anyone getting hurt.

“We are creatures of habit so once we like something, we tend to stick to it, which also goes for the dates we tend to go on with our partner. Often we end up going to the same restaurant, to the same parks, same cinemas.”

“Changing this around by going for a walk in a different area [or] trying a new restaurant. Just by doing something different, [you] can create this feeling of excitement towards your partner,” she said.

In Ms Spierings’ practice, she gets her clients to create a date bucket list. Each partner writes down 10 new and exciting things they have never done before and that both people would find enjoyable.

For some couples, that list might comprise of extreme sports like abseiling or skydiving. For others, watching a horror movie or visiting a theme park might be something new. But importantly, it doesn’t have to be fear-inducing. Something as simple as having a night-time picnic or going out to hear some live music together can be an exciting novelty.

Ms Spierings encourages couples to put all 20 activities into a hat and once a week pull out a different activity they can do together to bring back those hormones and rekindle that attraction.

“Limerance is nature’s way of bringing people together, but once you are together, you form that attachment bond and that feeling is not so important anymore. You can create those feelings again, but it does require work,” she said.

“Often people will say we have gone from hot to warm to cold, but there’s no reason you can’t go back to hot again.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

© 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here