The state of your relationship might be reflected in what goes on in the bedroom. So what can we learn from happy couples?
June 30, 2021
What are the secrets of a satisfying, healthy sex life – whether couples have been together for years or are enjoying a new romance? We asked some experts to share their advice and ideas on what keeps sex interesting, intimate and enjoyable.
Life is busy and so there’s nothing wrong with booking in a time for sex. Just as you schedule a dental appointment or a trip to the hairdresser, make a sex date.
“If you notice a change in sexual intimacy or frequency, schedule in sex,” says Desiree Spierings, director of Sexual Health Australia.
“People think sex has to be spontaneous to be amazing and that’s why they’re waiting a long time. But when you’re busy, that spontaneous desire won’t happen. Plan sex. Get excited for it. Send each other a sexy text message before your date. The desire will return – but sometimes it needs a bit of a push and that’s okay.”
Talk about why you're having sex
Why are you having sex? A lot of couples don’t ponder that question, says sex and relationship therapist Cyndi Darnell. Is it to have an orgasm? Or because you want to connect with your partner?
“Sit with your partner and list the reasons why you both have sex,” says Darnell. “You make the decision to have sex – there is an agenda and a pay-off that gives you satisfaction. Think and talk about why you have sex rather than going on autopilot, and help your partner feel included and valued. And if sex at the moment isn’t satisfying, talk about what you can do to increase satisfaction for both of you.”
Remember that sex is not a 'must do' – it's a 'want to'
Don’t feel you must have sex because if you approach it as something you must do, you kill desire.
“Kiss a little or have a massage without expecting sex to eventuate. If something else happens, great. But don’t focus on that end point,” says Spierings.
“You may be wearing your work head or your mum head and not feel like sex, so you need to build a bridge between your work or mum life and sex. Have a glass of wine with your partner, give each other a massage or wear something nice to help shift your mind to the moment. Once you build those bridges, you may want to take things further.”
Work with the inevitable changes in your sex life
Your sex life is influenced by physical changes, your psychological state, your environment and your living situation. Those things change and impact how often you have sex, whether you feel like sex and how enjoyable it is.
“For example, during menopause a woman’s body changes and men fear they are going to ‘hurt’ their partner and that can lead to erectile problems,” explains Dr Mandy Deeks, psychologist with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
“Or you may no longer be as happy in your relationship, end up not having sex for months or more and that becomes the new norm. You don’t talk about that change and so don’t do anything about it. Communicate about changes in your sex life and you can potentially stop further difficulties from arising.”
Try something new
Variety is the spice of life. Do you have a standard formula, and can you introduce something a little different to your sex life? “Think about what you used to do together and what used to work and revisit that,” says Spierings.
“And try something new with foreplay. It isn’t just the five minutes before sex. Flirt outside the bedroom. Whisper something nice in your partner’s ear when you are having dinner with friends or give them a sneaky touch. Try a new position or have sex in a new place. Be creative together.”
Don't assume sex has to happen at the end of the day
By the time you go to bed you’re probably tired, low on energy, and your mind is filled with what you did or didn’t do today and what you need to do tomorrow – hardly conducive to sex.
“The idea that sex has to happen in bed at night comes from historical times when it was associated with shame and had to be done under cover of darkness,” says Darnell.
“But if you are more of a morning person, have sex in the morning. You need a certain amount of energy and if you’re tired and your partner initiates sex, you can feel resentful because you’re physically and emotionally drained.”
So forget history and get intimate when it suits you.
Don't use sex as punishment
“If you are withholding anything in your relationship, you have a problem,” says Darnell. “Whether it’s sex, conversation or love, these are valuable in a relationship and if you are actively withholding any of these from a partner it’s a form of emotional abuse and it’s not okay. It’s manipulative behaviour.”
That doesn’t mean you have to have sex against your will, but if you are avoiding sex to punish your partner, recognise that is a problem and try talking about it. Consider getting some professional help to work through the issues behind your anger and resentment if needed.
Take care of your appearance
“If you don’t love yourself, how can you let someone else touch you or get close to you? If you feel good, you’re more willing to share your body,” says Spierings. She says it’s important to make the most of your health and appearance for the sake of your own self-esteem and confidence.
“Look after yourself. Feel good about your physical and emotional health and how you look. Eat a healthy diet, exercise and sleep well so you feel attractive and sexy!”