With Valentine ’s Day near, exhilarating emotions and sexual attraction that accompanies a brand new relationship produce run rampant. However, what happens when these feelings subside over time?  Does that mean the relationship is unhealthy or ending?

One common concern of both men and women is whether or not their relationship involves enough sex.  With time and reduction of sex, people get concerned that their partner no longer attracted to them or loves them less.  In reality, it is normal for men and women to lose sexual attraction for their partner in a matter of months or less commonly, years.

Among many important factors that contribute to a successful relationship, expectations about sex need to re-evaluated. The tendency to use sex as a barometer to measure health or quality of a relationship needs to stop.  To make sense of why, let me offer a biological perspective.  Consider an evolutionary perspective where perpetuating one’s genes is the key to survival over time.  This “evolutionary fitness” is achieved by mating with as many women as possible, thereby increasing the likelihood that their genes are plentiful in future generations.  This is made possible by men quickly shifting their focus of sexual attention to new women on a regular basis because otherwise the drive to spread their genes would be limited.

How about women? Some women certainly lose attraction to their man equally as fast but more common is that women not only stay attracted but gain attraction as the relationship progresses.  Biologically, women seek out men who provide safety, love and stability from an evolutionary perspective because a man who provides these traits maximizes a women’s chance at having healthy offspring, which is paramount for their own fitness.  A man with these traits is in essence attractive and a desirable mate to produce offspring with.

Here lies the problem:  Men are hard-wired to lose attraction very quickly and women are wired to become more attracted over time.  How is this rectified?

First, both men and women should there are several stages within a healthy evolving relationship. The incredible attraction and infatuation with their partner is one of the most euphoric experiences in the world and should thoroughly be enjoyed and savored.  However it is a stage that will likely end in the healthiest of relationships. Accepting that sexual attraction is not a metric for the health of a relationship is key.  Discussion of this among partners will prevent feelings of hurt or inadequacy.

The next stage of a growing relationship involves feelings of trust, caring, unselfishness and adoration which replace sexual attraction over time.  While the wild sex was more exciting, this stage ultimately forms the basis for long lasting relationships and should be equally enjoyed and coveted, albeit for different reasons.

The most important thing is to openly discuss these concepts and feelings and continue open communication and honesty as the relationship grows.  Re-defining expectations will eliminate stress and build a lasting foundation for a lasting, loving relationship.

Michael Yasinski MD