Differences in sex drives, a low libido or bedroom boredom aren't just bummers... they can threaten your marriage! We asked relationship experts Dr. Michael Aaron, Melissa Fritchle and Dr. Sally Valentine how to get your love life back on track.
Says Fritchle, "The number one issue damaging people's ability to keep their sex life vital and exciting is not actually boredom or that they are missing a particular trick in the bedroom; it is that they have allowed their life schedule to squeeze out any time for sexual connection. Often, troubled clients give a blank stare or laugh when asked to describe when they enable themselves to have free time throughout the week to have time alone together."
Aaron continues: "The first few months of a promising relationship are always exciting, but inevitably even the best relationships start to slow down as they mature and start to feel like they are falling into a rut. You become habituated to the other person, no matter how interesting or sexy they are, and both of you start to give up to the grind of a daily routine."
The death of any good relationship are the words "dull", "routine", or "grind" — as opposed to "fun", "sexy", and "spontaneous". Make up your own list of words for your relationship. What do you come up with? And here's something you might have forgotten: the most important word in leading the way toward great sexual intimacy is anticipation.
Anticipation & Staying Present
Aaron explains why presency and anticipation are so important: "Anticipation can be a running idea that lasts for the whole day, week, month, or year. This is how it works: Put an idea into your partner's head about something that is going to happen in the not too distant future that seems fun and exciting and keep referring back and touching upon this topic. It will serve to put your partner in a different mind state and feel excited even if nothing particularly exciting is happening at the time."
Valentine echoes this sentiment: "Stay present in your relationship. It's so easy to check out when things aren't going well, but that is exactly the time to wake up and take notice. Relationships take courage! Free up your distractions so you can be with your partner. Notice your partner. Express appreciations to each other. It adds value to the relationship when each partner verbalizes the unique qualities, traits or physical attributes that they like about their partners. Make it a daily expression. Over time it will become a positive habit and something you each will look forward to, on both sides, giving and receiving."
Aaron offers some wisdom for how to put this into action. "For example, let's say you are planning a vacation next month. Keep touching upon and building on this topic with your partner throughout the month to build his or her anticipation...it will build excitement for the actual event as well as put both partners in that kind of excited mind set, which will spill over into real time. So instead of plopping down on the couch and watching the same boring TV, both partners, in this elevated state of mind, will decide to go out to a romantic dinner to talk more about their exciting vacation. Sounds simple, but it is very powerful. Honor each other. Use words of affection and acts of service to show your admiration to each other.
This just doesn't have to be about vacations or exciting trips, it can be a about regular day-to-day stuff. Remind your wife about the romantic dinner you have planned to try a new cuisine that night and keep reminding her, as it will build up her anticipation and make her feel excited to see you when she comes home. Tell your boyfriend how you are going to make love to him like crazy that night and text and IM him constantly about it so that it's all he thinks about. You don't think he'll come rushing home to see you?"
Think you don't have time to be present in this way? Here's what Fritchle has to say about that: "Yes, life is busy. It will always include a growing list of things you could be doing with your time. But when we let our sexuality slide to the bottom of the list, we are letting our relationship slide there too. Prioritizing sex is also prioritizing your partner, saying that connecting as adults, not parents or co-managers of the semi-controlled chaos that is modern life, is valuable to you. Think about it this way; would you say to your partner, 'Connecting with you is less important to me than returning this email about what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, watching this episode the day it airs, posting on Facebook that I think people are putting up Christmas lights too early…'? You probably wouldn't say that directly, and hopefully you don't feel that way when you stop to think about it, but we send our partners this message all the time."
Aaron reminds us that "Keeping things exciting doesn't necessarily mean doing something extravagant or exotic or edgy. Rather, it's a state of mind. Great relationships take some work, so make an effort to keep your partner in a constant state of anticipation."
Valentine offers some more advice: "Play, laugh, and have fun together. Make plans to do something fun and different. Lighten up. Make a decision to put your worries on hold so you can stop and smell the roses... you can always come back to the mayhem later! And you might just discover that things aren't as bad as your thought that they were."
Power of Touch
Here's some food for thought from Fritchle: "You want to keep your sex life alive, so make time for it. You wouldn't say, 'I want to stay healthy so I will spontaneously go to the gym whenever the time happens to open up.' How often would you be at the gym? It takes planning to keep time open for your partner. Show them that enjoying each other is important to you."
How else can you make your partner feel loved? From Valentine: "Make eye contact and stay connected with the eyes. Eye gazing, a tantric practice, can be both energizing and amazingly relaxing at the same time. Add slow relaxed breathing together for an intimate and heart-warming experience. Notice what you notice, it could become a seque into some deeper passionate moments. Touch, stroke, hold, hug each other often. Dance and move your bodies together. Try adding eroticism to your dance, sensually rub your bodies together, front and back, bump and grind; go fast and then slow and notice the different quality of energy that you generate. Share showers or baths together, rubbing and soaping each others bodies. Take turns giving each other a massage, focus on one part of the body at a time. For example, a hand massage, foot massage, head/neck massage."
Valentine also suggests: "Talk about what you like sexually, what you use to do when you first met and perhaps would like to come back to it again. Some "likes" change over time, for many reasons, stay open to acknowledge the change and curious to discover some alternate possibilities."
Bottom line? No relationship and/or sex tips are going to improve things if you don't make time to try them. So get in the mood and make some time!
Melissa Fritchle is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist & Sex Therapist with a holistic private practice in Capitola, California. She is an award-winning international sex educator offering workshops and trainings around the world. Follow her blog, Conscious Sexual Self.
Michael Aaron, PhD is a psychotherapist, sexologist and sex therapist. He is the co-founder of the Sexuality, Attachment and Trauma Project, an outpatient clinic and research think-tank based in New York City. You can read more about Dr. Aaron at NYC Sex Therapy and The Sexuality, Attachment and Trauma Project.
As a holistic psychotherapist, Dr. Sally Valentine's treatment approach is to provide support and practical feedback to help clients address current life challenges and long-standing issues. With compassion and understanding, she helps individuals find resolution to a wide range of personal concerns, including sexuality issues, trauma, relationship/intimacy issues and psychological issues.
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