Dr. Jess on Sex: Reinvigorate relationship passion with exhilarating activities


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Snow biking is a calculated risk you and your partner can take this winter

When you first fall in love, passion naturally rushes through your veins. You can’t get enough of your new partner. But then … you get to know him or her.

And as passionate love transitions to companionate love, the passion eventually fades. This is, in part, thanks to the chemistry of love, which involves two phases (in simplified terms): the first, new love, is often marked by spikes in dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline, and the second, attachment love, is facilitated by oxytocin and vasopressin. The chemical surges associated with new love simply aren’t sustainable as life takes over and passionate love may feel like a relic of the past. 

The good news is that you can reinvigorate feelings of passion if you consider the roller-coaster rule. 

When riding a roller coaster, your brain and body momentarily perceive a life-threatening situation. Riding a roller coaster “tricks” you into believing there is a threat, and this is what makes it so exhilarating — your old, reptilian brain believes there is a threat, but your modern, developed brain knows that it’s perfectly safe. And this is the roller-coaster rule for relationships: cultivate so much safety and security in your relationship that you can afford to engage in activities that feel risky together. Safety and security are the foundation of friendship, which is the key to a lasting relationship, and calculated or perceived risk (it doesn’t have to be real!) reinvigorates those exciting feelings of passion. 

Cultivate a foundation of safety by showing your partner that you’re committed to her or him, using your words, actions, physical affection, gifts and attention. 

With this foundation firmly established, you can look for opportunities to take calculated risks or create environments that feel risky, like ice climbing, fat snow biking, bouldering or rappelling. Each of these engagements involves a low level of risk, but your mind and body perceive them as more threatening, which heightens your body’s arousal.

Non-physical risks are often more intense and varied and include profound conversations, vulnerable revelations and/or sexual exploration. Do you talk openly about sexual fantasies? Do you risk spending time apart to pursue your passions? Do you risk being honest even when it might upset your partner? 

Each couple’s approach will be different, but what’s most important is that you talk to your partner about how you can make your partner feel safe and loved and discuss your boundaries with regard to perceived and calculated risks.

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Jess O’Reilly is a sought-after speaker, author and sexologist. SexWithDrJess.com.

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