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Rekindle your romance

OHSU Center for Women’s Health experts reveal ways to reignite the spark in long-term relationships
two red wooden hearts, on a table with lights in the background
(Getty Images)

Remember when romance seemed easier? Before the stresses of balancing a career and a household,  when daily aches and pains were nearly nonexistent, or when you weren’t “too tired”?

You’re not alone.

In a survey of more than 50,000 women in the United States, nearly half reported limited sexual desire or a waning romantic connection with their chosen partner.

Nicole Cirino, M.D.
Nicole Cirino, M.D.
Karen Adams, M.D.
Karen Adams, M.D.

According to Nicole Cirino, M.D., director of the Division of Women’s Mental Health and Wellness at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, this may be especially true during midlife, or within a long-term committed relationship.

“At the beginning of a new relationship, we often have a stronger sense of passion and excitement, partly due to the biological changes that are happening in our brains,” explains Cirino, who, along with Karen Adams, M.D., co-directs the Menopause and Sexual Therapy Clinic at OHSU’s Center for Women’s Health. “After a certain amount of time, however, that passion will often decrease naturally, and other things such as bills, family and medical needs will start to take priority in our lives.”

A burnt-out flame can seem impossible to reignite, however, Cirino and Adams say it is not.

“Introduce something novel to the relationship,” says Adams, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Doing something new together, as a couple, will help to change your brain chemistry and bring back some of those feelings you experienced when you first connected.”

two women seated in chairs, conversing
Drs. Karen Adams, M.D., (left) and Nicole Cirino, M.D. say it is not impossible to reignite a burnt-out flame. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

“It doesn’t have to be about sex,” she adds, and suggests the following ideas to get you started:

  • Visit a new location, whether it’s a local art gallery or a far-away tropical destination.
  • Attend a musical performance, a poetic reading or an educational lecture.
  • Take a cooking course or experience a new cuisine together.
  • Complete a household project as a team.
  • Enjoy a couple’s massage.
  • Snuggle on the couch while watching a movie.

“Intimacy and closeness are aspects of couplehood that may be more important than the act of sex itself,” said Adams. “There is a difference, and finding that balance is worth putting a little thought behind. It could be the spark needed to restore that flame.”

Need more info?

Beginning Spring 2019, the OHSU Center for Women’s Health will host a four-part lecture series, called “A Toast to Midlife,” that will address various aspects of menopause:

  • March 21: Is natural really better? What you need to know about bioidentical hormone therapy options.
  • June 20: I wish I wanted it. Honest talk about painful sex, lack of desire and relighting your fire.
  • September 12: I can’t sleep. Real talk about hot flashes, night sweats and getting to sleep again.
  • December 12: Whose body is this? The truth about midlife weight gain, mood, and ending the war with your body.

Additional details, including ticket information, is available here.

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