In a long-term relationship, it’s not uncommon for couples to find that sex “isn’t fun any more”. What do you do then? Get busy. Re-invent the fun and put it right back into your sex life. In other words, work at getting your pleasure – unlikely as that might sound. You'll find the dividends are well worth the investment.
Here are 15 tips to get you on track:
1. Get the time right. Love-making doesn’t always have to be at night. And trying to get into the mood at the end of an exhausting or stressful day can be self-defeating. Instead, choose a time when you both have enough energy to spare. It may be the weekend, or perhaps early in the morning as you are both awakening from a refreshing night’s sleep.
2. Make a date. Many working couples today are so busy that sex gets shelved as a non-priority. It keeps getting put off... again and again.
The solution: schedule time for sex. That’s not as impersonal as it sounds. In fact, when you plan a weekend – or a vacation – together, anticipating it and building up to the experience enhances the quality of the final encounter.
3. Try all-day foreplay. Good sex begins while your clothes are still on. “Getting in the mood” is not just the few moments before sex; it can go on for hours, or days, beforehand. Since good sex is just one aspect of a relationship, it can grow naturally out of the time you spend together.
4. Use your senses. All of them. Most people use only one – touch. But there’s odour: the human body has its own special smells, far more potent than musk. When the sense of taste combines with that of smell, sexual arousal is heightened.
Researchers tell us that a similar effect is achieved when a person watches and vicariously experiences his or her partner’s orgasm.
In fact, the more the senses that are brought into play, the greater the level of sexual enjoyment.
5. Promote sexual equality. This one’s for women: do unto your man as you would have him do unto you – in other words, initiate sex now and then. Most men complain that their wives don’t. There may be good reason for that: social conditioning which decrees that women maintain a facade of being the pursued ones. So, most women are afraid they’ll be thought of as “forward” or even “over-sexed” if they make the first move. But try it once and you may well give your man a pleasant surprise. Yourself, too!
6. Exercise control. Kegels are exercises that strengthen the vaginal muscles in women, and give men more control over ejaculation by strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor. Here’s the programme: First, find the right muscles, the ones you use to stop your urine flow. To exercise them, squeeze them and hold tight. That’s it. No one will know you’re doing Kegels, so you can do them anywhere. Start with 5 or 10, and gradually increase the number. After doing Kegels for a few months, lax vaginal muscles will firm up, and in men pelvic muscles should be strong enough to prevent ejaculation if they are squeezed tight just before the urge to ejaculate reaches the “point of no return”.
7. Surprise your partner. With naughty lingerie if you’re basically the conservative kind. With an invitation to love-making pinned to his pillow. Or even with an erotic sex toy if you’re feeling truly bold and brassy.
8. Shake it up. Boredom is death to life, and death to sex. That is probably the reason that married sex – at least the mechanical kind that so many people settle for – often seems hardly worth the trouble. Good sex doesn’t always have to be lingeringly slow – or terribly considerate. Some women get an overwhelming orgasm from quick intercourse without foreplay, and say it feels different from the orgasms they get from less vigorous intercourse. When it happens, this special response is as rapid as a man’s.
For good sex to happen, it isn’t a maxim set in stone that one person has always to be the aggressor and the other always the seduced. Sometimes, both can be aggressors. The only limit is your imagination.
And, for both men and women, may be (once the protection is in place), sex isn’t supposed to be ‘safe’. Maybe, now and again, it’s supposed to be one big wild desperate adrenaline rush with stuff getting knocked over and things bursting apart at the seams – a few breathless moments stolen from death.
9. Dream on. Fantasizing during sex is a normal and healthy part of human sexuality – every new fantasy can add more zip to your zing. Research backs this up, finding that people who fantasize during sex achieve a greater level of sexual satisfaction.
(The last thing you should be feeling is guilt over your fantasies. Tripping out mentally on a fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean you’d want to act it out in real life.)
10. Bust the big myth. The biggest of sexual myths is that sex is intercourse, and intercourse alone. The notion probably arises from the age-old concept that reproduction is the only reason for sex. On an unconscious level, the myth still persists with many of us. By this reckoning, sex is defined as intercourse (and intercourse as sex). And nothing could be further from the truth.
Seeing sex as only intercourse limits the possibilities and soon induces satiety. Seeing it in a broader perspective adds variety, novelty and creativity. ‘Sex’ can range from nuzzling and giggling in the back of a cab – even if you’re not teenagers any longer – to sharing a shower, to the whole-body touching, caressing and massage that sex therapists recommend to all lovers.
Of course, great sex without intercourse means experimenting, which can feel strange. But novelty is key to sexual zing. Novelty stimulates the brain to release the feel-good chemical, dopamine, and dopamine heightens erotic intensity. In other words, if you adopt some new non-intercourse moves, love-making can become more pleasurable than ever.
11. Kiss and tell. Tell your partner what you like in a sexual encounter. Most long-time couples assume that their partner knows; and most partners don’t.
Equally important is to tell your partner – tactfully – what you don’t like. Don’t make it an accusation: let there be communication!
12. Don’t hurry (or worry) ... be happy. If your mind’s eye is monitoring your own performance, and if a sexual experience is ridden with anxiety over whether your partner is being satisfied, then you’re likely to end up tense and frustrated, having neither derived nor shared pleasure. Sex is not a performing circus, it’s meant to be fun. If a man does not achieve an erection once in a way, or if a woman does not achieve orgasm every time, it does not mean that their desire or desirability is in question. Just remembering that it happens to everyone, now and then, should put it in perspective.
13. Don’t suffer in silence. If you have a problem that’s compromising your sexual enjoyment – could be impotence, premature ejaculation or painful sex – take it to an expert. Medical treatment and sexual counselling are available today – ask your family physician to recommend a specialist.
14.. Make a speech. A very common complaint is that partners don’t say anything or are too quiet during love-making. Telling your lover things like, “Oh, you feel so good,”, and moaning, grunting, sighing, making noise – it’s all a part of love-making. Good sex is like a sound-and-light show. Leave the lights on and let out some sound.
15. Finally, remember that four-letter word. Love. Expressing your love is an important part of making sex pleasurable. As the psychologist Erich Fromm has said, “The best aphrodisiac is to open your heart.”
(The author is a former editor of 'Health & Nutrition' magazine, and now works as a counseling therapist)