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  • Writer's pictureHolly Wood

Fueling Desire: Nurturing Intimacy in Long-Term Relationships through the Dual-Control Model

As a sex therapist, I've had the privilege of guiding countless couples through the maze of maintaining sexual desire within long-term relationships. One of the most valuable tools in this journey has been the Dual Control Model of sexual arousal. It's not just a theory; it's a roadmap to understanding and reigniting passion in enduring relationships.

Understanding the Dual Control Model

Imagine your sexual response as a car with an accelerator (sexual excitation system - SES) and a brake (sexual inhibition system - SIS). The SES represents your body's "go" signal for arousal, while the SIS acts as the "stop" signal, dampening arousal. Cultivating desire i

1. Open Dialogue and Communication

The cornerstone of any successful relationship, especially in the bedroom, is open communication. Discussing desires, preferences, fantasies, and even insecurities can help identify individual accelerators and brakes. Take time to understand each other's needs without judgment or pressure.

2. Unveiling Brakes and Releasing the Pressure

Identify and address factors that act as brakes on your sexual desire. Stress, unresolved conflicts, fatigue, and negative body image can hit the brakes hard. Engaging in stress-relief activities, resolving conflicts through effective communication, prioritizing self-care, and seeking therapy can release these brakes.

3. Activating Accelerators: Experimentation and Variety

Stimulation of the accelerators is equally important. Experimentation and variety in your sexual repertoire can reignite the flame. Try new positions, introduce sensory stimuli like massage oils or sexy lingerie, or explore fantasies together. Novelty can activate the SES, enhancing arousal.

4. Focus on Emotional Intimacy Beyond the Bedroom

Building emotional intimacy is the fuel that sustains desire. Engage in non-sexual physical affection, spend quality time together, and deepen your emotional connection. These acts of intimacy contribute significantly to igniting the fire in the bedroom.

5. Embrace Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can work wonders in reconnecting with your body and sensations. Focus on the present moment, explore touch and sensation without the pressure of performance, and savor the experience together.

6. Respect Each Other's Differences and Seek Professional Help if Needed

Remember, every individual and relationship is unique. Respect your partner's differences in desires and arousal patterns. If hurdles seem insurmountable, seeking guidance from a sex therapist can provide tailored strategies to navigate through.

A Journey Worth Taking

The path to reigniting desire in long-term relationships is not without its twists and turns. However, armed with the knowledge of the Dual Control Model and a willingness to explore, communicate, and adapt, you can embark on a fulfilling journey towards sustained intimacy and arousal.

Remember, it's not about reaching a destination but cherishing the journey together, discovering new facets of intimacy, and evolving as a couple along the way.

Want to explore your sexual brakes and accelerators to optimize your sex drive? Check out my free download to exploring your SIS/SES here!

About the author

Holly Wood is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT), an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, and Certified Sexologist with the American Board of Sexology (ABS). This unique combination of credentials enables her to focus on clients’ sex lives as well as their overall mental health and trauma recovery.

Holly works with individuals and couples who have been looking forward to meeting their own sexual desires both individually and in relationships. She works from a trauma-informed, sex-positive, and holistic approach to help clients to get past their past and develop the necessary skills to achieve lifelong change and improve their quality of life.

When she is not counseling clients, she is holding seminars and workshops, conducting sex research or, or utilizing social media to disseminate accurate, up-to-date information to a wide range of audiences hoping to improve their sexual wellness. Holly's mission is to spread education, empowerment, and self-love. She is committed to helping people heal themselves and live a life full of pleasure and connection.

Visit to learn more and request a consultation.

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