Sex slows down in most relationships, and as long as you’re both happy with the frequency then it doesn’t really matter. But let’s say you want to spice things up—without resorting to a pair of fluffy handcuffs. That’s where the “passion triangle” comes in.
Coined by Cheryl Fraser, Ph.D., the sex therapist uses this model to create lifelong romantic and sexual passion.
“If I’m looking to build the ultimate passionate relationship, a love affair filled with joy, intensity, loyalty, and desire, a relationship that becomes deeper and sexier as time goes on, then I want to build that on a very strong foundation,” writes Dr. Fraser. And what is the basis for that foundation? The passion triangle.
There are three components to the passion triangle: thrill, intimacy and sensuality. Some couples may be strong in some areas of the triangle and weak in others. But if you want long-term passion and connection, then you need all three sides to be strong and balanced, says Fraser. Ready to see how you and your S.O. measure up?
Dr. Fraser describes this component as: “The ineffable sense of excitement, interest, and attraction to your partner that you experienced when you fell in love but that often fades.”
Let’s say that your partner is coming home after a weekend away and is about to step through the door—do you wait for them to arrive in the hallway, with an edge of excitement (even arousal)? Or are you on your phone in the TV room and barely notice them come in?
Thrill is the most difficult aspect of the passion triangle to re-ignite, says Dr. Fraser, since most of us forget that great sex and great love is all in our head. In other words, “If you are bored with your beloved, you need to change your mind, not your mate.” Not convinced? Think of it this way: A stranger who met your partner for the first time would find them fascinating. You can, too. (More on that below.)
We’re not just talking about physical closeness, here. “[Intimacy is] a deep sense of knowing and being known that develops over time through shared vulnerabilities and deepening emotional connection,” says Dr. Fraser.
How do you achieve this? Firstly, it takes time and shared life experiences. Then it takes courage to share your secrets, as well as revealing both your best side and the parts of yourself that you’re not so proud of. Real intimacy means that you trust that your partner will love you and accept you, no matter what.
If your partner is the first person you want to call when you nail a work presentation, as well as the first person you call when you dent the car, then you’re probably scoring pretty high in the intimacy department. But here’s the thing—unless you also develop the other sides of the passion triangle (i.e., thrill and sensuality), then you run the risk of being best friends...not lovers. “High intimacy—when it is unbalanced—kills sexual desire,” explains Dr. Fraser.
What is sensuality? “The spectrum of romantic, erotic, and sexual connection between two people, from hand-holding to wild sexual delight.”
Maybe you’re the type of couple that frequently has make-up sex after an argument or likes to shake things up in the bedroom with toys and role play? Chances are you’re high in sensuality. (Although, it’s worth noting that a sizzling gaze from across the room or a passionate kiss goodbye are also great examples of sensuality at work.)
Typically, couples are low in this department which understandably, leads to problems in the bedroom. “Unless you nurture your lust and celebrate all things sensual, you risk bed-death,” says Dr. Fraser.
How do I know which area of the passion triangle I need to work on?
That’s easy—Dr. Fraser has created a handy quiz so that you can see how you score on the three keys to passion. Take the quiz here. Then, once you know what needs strengthening, you can work on that area (Check out Dr. Fraser’s book Buddha's Bedroom: The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy for tips). Knowledge is power, people.