How to Have More Sex
Without it feeling like another entry on your to-do list
It is a truth fairly universally known that the more sex people have, the happier they are. Yet modern life seems to conspire to reduce our libidos, so that many of us end up without the energy or commitment to do one thing that is almost guaranteed to make us really happy.
If you are in a long-term no-sex or very low-sex relationship and feel deeply unhappy about this, you will most likely need the help of a marital therapist to have a conversation with your partner about your mutual needs.
If you’re one of the many who have occasional sex but would love to feel the closeness intimacy brings more often, then you can make some changes right now. Here are some ideas:
Maintaining connection does not take hours of ‘quality time’ or expensive ‘date nights’, but it does require the two of you to have fun together.
This includes in-jokes, teasing and saucy texts. If you’re thinking about sex at work, don’t waste that energy by not sharing it with your partner - take a minute to let them know!
In effect, flirting is giving your partner a packet of sexual energy and seeing if he'll return it.
There’s no-one you know better than your life-partner, and sometimes that can feel burdensome. Throwing in a bit of mystery can surprise and delight: dress up, do something out of the ordinary, organise an impromptu lunch together somewhere special.
We all THINK we know what romance is - we’ve seen enough Hollywood films, right? - but you’d be surprised how many people have simply no idea. Being romantic isn’t the same as being thoughtful or kind (though those things are also good). Romance is taking it one step further and making an unusually meaningful effort to show that you care.
Let me give you an example. Picking up your partner from the station – rather than letting him walk home in the rain – is a nice gesture, but if you have an ice bucket with a bottle of wine in the back and steak for supper when you get home, THAT’S romantic.
Mix it up
Sex can feel like a familiar and mildly pleasant chore when you know what's coming next, every single time. If you’re going to have sex more often, you should aim for more than “mildly pleasant”.
Sex doesn’t have to be the same climb toward penetration every time. Don't fall into the all or nothing trap where sex is just an orgasm; what about snuggling up together on Sunday morning with lots of caressing, stroking and kissing? You're probably having more sex than you realise!
Even if you’re in your thirties or forties, my interview with international sex therapist Tracey Cox, “Great Sex After Fifty” is chock full of ideas on how to be creative and reinvent your sexual connection. Tracey’s website also has plenty of ideas for trying new things and starting a conversation with your partner.
Wake up your senses
Humans are animals and we respond vigorously to stimulation of our senses. You’ll know the music that makes your partner relax and the food they love. Beautiful new smells and textures can also be really potent.
This one goes back to mystery - creating a new sensory landscape in the bedroom can make sex feel like a whole new experience.
Prolong the effects
There’s nothing like the closeness a couple feels after sex. So, don’t waste that connection by switching off the lights straight away and collapsing into an impenetrable sleep.
The benefits of foreplay are very well-known, but afterplay can be just as profound for enriching your love-life. Spend time after orgasm cuddling and kissing, and some of the damage everyday life with all its demands does to your relationship will be repaired.
This is one that some men don’t really get - women need time to cool down after orgasm; men, not so much. If you collapse into sleep leaving your wife wide awake and longing for more closeness, some of the richness of your connection will be lost.
See your partner through other people's eyes
Go to his place of work and take him out to lunch. Or go to her conference and see her talk - there’s nothing like watching your partner work a room.
Seeing other people admire and respect your partner allows you to take a step back and see them as separate and desirable. Sex needs separation as well as closeness.
The loss of this separation is one of the major marital issues of the pandemic - now that we have a little more freedom; make the most of it.
Talk to each other
This is the big one. You’d be surprised at how many couples are totally unable to talk about sex. It’s funny how we feel much more vulnerable speaking to our partner about sex than we do during the act itself.
You're not the same people you were when you first met. You don't go to the same places or eat the same food but you're probably having the same sex. Whether you’re two, five, twenty or fifty years into your marriage, you’ll need to think about how your bodies have changed and what makes you happy.
It’s a good idea to talk about your sex life away from the bedroom. You’ll also want to stay positive - “I’d love you to do more of x” - and to be willing to be kind but clear about things that are no longer working for you, or that turn you off.
Whatever it is that is stopping you from having regular sex is also very likely to be about a lot of other things - be ready for this conversation to touch on other areas of your relationship.
As you are probably guessing, this conversation can be hard. If you feel daunted but can’t access marital therapy for whatever reason, I wrote my book Have the Sex You Want: A Couple’s Guide to Getting Back the Spark to help. It guides readers through a ten-week programme to reconnect sexually.
In other news, I recently spoke to David Kessler on The Meaningful Life podcast (“Finding Meaning: the Sixth Stage of Grief”). David is one of the world’s foremost experts on grief, and has himself experienced the loss of his twenty-one-year-old son, and his mother.
We talked about how society wants us to grieve versus the reality of loss. And while anyone who’s experienced a major bereavement quickly tires of being told they’ll “get over it”, or that they’ll learn particular life lessons, it is possible to find meaning in how we survive and experience loss.
And as always, if it feels like the right time to start marital therapy, send an email to Tricia (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a virtual or in-person appointment with one of my team of therapists in London, or with me here in Berlin.