First of all, it’s important to again remember that sexual desire in a relationship can decrease for all sorts of reasons. You might have less interest in sex with your partner because of other issues in your relationship, stress, increased responsibilities in other parts of your life, or any other number of reasons.
“Perceived partner mate value is only one of the factors that may affect desire,” Birnbaum tells mbg. “Many psychological processes influence relationship quality and stability (e.g., interdependence, commitment, trust) and may contribute to decreases and increases in the level of sexual desire.” It’s also OK to not want sex from time to time, or at all.
That said, per this study’s findings, Birnbaum notes that declines in sexual desire in a long-term relationship may be driven, at least in part, by negative changes in perception of your partner’s mate value. “Such decreases are likely to be a prime factor in the well-documented decreases in relationship satisfaction that occur over time in marriage and other marital-like relationships,” she explains.
That means, if you notice you’re feeling less sexually interested in your partner than you have been in the past, it’s important to check in with yourself and your relationship to understand why that might be. Are your opinions about your partner overall changing? Is a negative bias beginning to cloud your view of them?
Maybe that doesn’t feel accurate to your situation. Or maybe it is.
The good news is, there are ways to build up positive regard for your partner again, if that’s what you want to do. “Make sure that you are paying attention to where your thoughts go,” licensed couples therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, recently told mbg. “While it is important to maintain a realistic understanding of our relationship—which does include having complaints and negative thoughts—we also need to make sure we are making room for the good things, noticing what we appreciate, love, and where our partner is doing things ‘right.’”
And as Birnbaum’s team write in their paper, working specifically on increasing sexual desire in your relationship again can also have a positive overall effect on the relationship by encouraging more investment and positive engagement with one another.