The heat of a new relationship is a chemical reaction—and it can fade with time. That is, unless you employ these seven incendiary strategies to keep the sparks flying.
7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot
Play Games with Her
Boosting her dopamine levels outside of the bedroom could pay dividends between the sheets. “Your brain can’t differentiate between the external anxiety caused by a novel situation and the internal anxiety caused by being attracted to someone,” says Victoria Zdrok, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. “A boost outside of the bedroom can carry over for when it matters most.”
The best way to increase her anxietyt? Competition, says Zdrok, which also helps release sex drive-boosting testosterone. Just belly up at the local pub’s trivia night; by competing on the same team, you’ll also improve communication and cooperation, the two behavioral foundations of sexual success.
Revisiting that bed-and-breakfast romp of 3 months ago isn’t just an exercise in nostalgia. Recalling the relationship’s formative moments can stir up the hormone norepinephrine, which helps the brain shine an emotional klieg light on memories. “You’ll unlock her passion,” says sex therapist Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago, “and intensify the new memories you’re making, too.”
The brain’s internal archivist responds best to strong contextual cues—smells, environments, music, textures, even certain foods—so orient her mental rearview mirror by concocting a smorgasbord of evocative sights and sounds.
The monogamous prairie vole might not be your sexual role model, but researchers found that the creatures are literally addicted to their mates, thanks to their receptivity to oxytocin. That hormone battles stress and increases arousal (it’s released by orgasm, after all), so the lesson here is clear: Up her dosage and she’ll be hooked on you.
Physical contact (cuddling!) and muscle massage both unleash the chemical, so give her this sensual massage: Ask her to lie facedown, and, straddling the backs of her upper thighs, apply rotating thumb pressure to either side of her lower spine, says Linda Banner, Ph.D., author of Advanced Sexual Techniques. By the time you reach her shoulders and neck, the oxytocin jets should be firing full force.
It pays to be her sexual party doll every now and then. A study at the University of Michigan found that female rats receive a dopamine boost (there it is again—the euphoria-inducing neurotransmitter) only when they control sex. But don’t just offer her the blow-up valve. “Make sure she’s not just hearing ‘Do me the way I want to be done,’ ” says sex therapist Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Come Hither
Instead, Brame suggests role-playing a scenario in which she’s in a position of authority and you’re the sexual novice. The fantasies women said they liked most: professor/student and nurse/patient.
Reinvent yourself outside the bedroom and you could help refresh her passion inside it. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we keep a sort of neural dossier on a person tucked away in our brain, just above the temples. This case file is overhauled when we meet their friends or develop deeper relationships with those we’ve already met, says William Pollack, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school.
“She’ll see you through their eyes, and it will bring out different aspects of your own personality,” says Pollack, “stimulating love and lust neurotransmitters.” So introduce her to Jack and Mona from your cycling group at a dinner party: It could encourage her to attack your body anew.
Learn New Moves
Trying new sex positions isn’t just a new way to fit the key into the lock. “Anything novel or exciting is likely to drive up the levels of dopamine in her brain,” says anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Why We Love. Magnetic resonance imaging scans at Oxford University found that learning a new motor skill—whether it’s fingering bar chords on your guitar or plucking a new sexual harmonic in bed—sets off a flurry of activity in many of the same brain regions activated during orgasm.
Send your sex life back to square one. “If you’ve learned how to pleasure her, it’s too easy to forget about foreplay and all the other things that keep sex fresh,” says Debbie Herbenick, Ph.D.
Start with a 3-day sex break to build anticipation, pooling dopamine behind her sexual Hoover Dam. Then spend a night necking like teenagers, clothes on. Wait 2 days and spend another one touching each other sensually—everywhere but the genitals.
Take 2 more days off and then use your lips instead of your fingertips to do the same. By this time, your dopamine will be redlining, and both of you will have a surplus of arousal-boosting testosterone. Bonus: The heightened physical sensitivity can unearth long-neglected erogenous zones when—finally—at the 2-week mark, you blow the dam.