I found my “right” guy at a super young age, and was hitched before my 23rd birthday. (Please, save your eye rolls.) So, over the last seven years of young marriage, I’ve experienced what it’s like to grow and change within the confines of a relationship. I know how the changing seasons bring ebbs and flows to all aspects of our lives together, including our sex life.
Though there are many perks to having a long-term relationship (the intimacy makes for way better sex than a hot-and-heavy fling), it’s also tough to find new ways to keep your relationship exciting. It’s easy to settle into a routine — the same positions, the same moves — and it’s also easy to choose another episode of True Detective over some hanky-panky time. Our partner will always be there tomorrow, right?
When you share a life with someone, you share more than a bed. You share the stress, the struggles, and the exhaustion. So how do you keep a long-term relationship from losing the sexual spark that joined you together in the first place? Is it even possible?
I checked in with Rebecca Wong, a relationship therapist and coach based in New York, who works with couples through all sorts of sexual issues. And yes, it is possible to keep a marriage or live-in relationship hot and healthy, but Wong says you’ll need two things: focus and persistence.
“Now that you’ve been together awhile, perhaps the heat has fizzled,” says Wong, who also has a blog to help couples connect. “Well that’s because, like any flame, it needs to be fed. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy.” She says it’s easy for distraction, daily habits, and even contempt to sneak into a relationship once the mystery fades and routines get set.
Focus and persistence doesn’t sound especially sexy, or even fun. (Can’t we try a little light bondage, instead?) But Wong says there are a few sex tips she’s seen re-spark almost any relationship.
1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Now’s the time to probe a little deeper. . . into each other’s minds, that is. Talk about your secret sexual fantasies, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Ask what turns him on, and really listen to the answer without spiraling into the, “Aren’t I enough for you?” rant.
“Be curious about what gives your partner pleasure, and allow yourself the vulnerability of feeling awkward trying new things,” Wong suggests. “This is the stuff that re-infuses mystery and puts those butterflies back in your belly.”
So put on the gold Princess Leia bikini or ask him to wear the sexy sailor uniform. Pretend you’re strangers who just met. Break out the sex toys. Try something ridiculous and kinky, even if it crashes and burns, leaving the two of you laid out on the carpet laughing at your absurdity. Kick your ego aside and have some uninhibited fun.
2. Get Your Flirt On
Never underestimate the power of a good eggplant-waterdrop-tongue emoji text in the middle of a work day. Sexting is the new love letter, and every long-term couple should have a string of teasing texts that say “come to mama” in picture form.
“The act of foreplay does not begin minutes before you roll around in the sheets,” Wong explains. ”It’s an engagement that can last 24 to 48 hours. Let your sweetie know you’re interested! Expressed desire goes a long way.”
So slip a sexy note in his car before work or shoot him a flirtmoji that’ll make him blush in the middle of a meeting.
3. Don’t Put Sex on Your To-Do List
Is there anything less sexy than an attitude of obligation? It’s easy for sex to dissolve into something we’re supposed to do, or become something we compare to other couples (who, by the way, are probably lying about their sexual prowess.)
But what would happen if you let those heavy insecurities and comparisons stop weighing you down? If you let your inner playfulness come out instead? Be spontaneous! Grab his hand and pull him to the kitchen counter when the kids are napping. Lock the bathroom door and bend over the sink. Rediscover the lost art of seduction. Stop looking at sex as something you’re supposed to do, and look for the quickie possibilities around you.
4. But Also, Maybe Schedule It
Different seasons call for different demands, and perhaps this is a season where you’re traveling a lot for work, the kids are pulling you in 30 different directions, and new motherhood is leaving you zapped of energy and basic hygiene.
Your life won’t always be this hectic, but right now, it is. According to Janice Epp, Ph.D. and dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, scheduling sex is the best way for busy couples to maintain intimacy, even if it’s not terribly romantic.
“Some people say, ‘Sex should be spontaneous!’ to which I say ‘B*llshit,” Epp told The Huffington Post. “You plan other things in your life and you don’t complain about it. You can do the same with sex.”
Putting “sexy time” on the calendar helps make the relationship a priority, even for a small block of time, and can build much-needed anticipation and excitement. It also ensures any and all distractions are momentarily set aside.
“Scheduling sex doesn’t sound so spontaneous, I know. But there is nothing sexier than devoting your attention, your full undivided attention, to one another. No kids. No media. No interruptions,” says Wong. And considering the scientific, endorphin-boosting health benefits of sex, getting it on in any capacity, even scheduled, is better than no sex at all.
5. Set a Challenge
Take a note from best-selling writer and blogger Brittany Gibbons, a mom of three and busy entrepreneur who made headlines by committing to a challenge. She and her husband had sex every day for a year, 365 days in a row, no excuses. And according to Gibbons, the year-long sex-athon did more than just rub their body parts together on a consistent schedule. She ended the challenge with more body confidence, sexual awareness, and openness in her marriage.
If that’s a bit too much of a sexual undertaking, set a different goal or game. Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist for Bustle.com, agrees that being playful with your partner is one of the best ways to liven up your sex life.
“There are plenty of fun ways to turn sex into a game,” said Marin. “Make bets on silly trivia questions or board games, and let the prize be a sensual massage. Wrestle with each other naked. Keep your clothes or lingerie on and find creative ways to work around them. Role play the characters from the show you just binge-watched on Netflix. Take turns teasing each other, and see who can hold out the longest.”
Who knows, a little game playing might motivate you to power through a dry spell.
6. Make Time For Intimacy Too
If there’s one thing you learn through a long-term relationship, it’s this: Sex is about more than just the positions and the moves; it’s about intimacy. And creating intimacy isn’t something you can put on a calendar or bang out over 15 minutes of thrusting.
Intimacy is making time for one another. It’s stopping what you’re doing and asking, “How can I love you better?” And not just with your words, but with your mannerisms and actions. With small acts of kindness. With a loving look across the dining room table while one kid is throwing his broccoli and the other is refusing to eat. Intimacy is the key. When you maintain intimacy, the sex will come...even if it’s not as often as it used to.