Like other parts of your relationship, your sex life needs care and attention if you want to keep it in good condition. Psychosexual therapist Denise Knowles offers some tips on keeping the passion alive in your sexual relationship.
In the early days of a relationship, sex is full of discovery, intimacy and fun. But as your relationship develops, and you perhaps move in together or have children, other demands of life can mean that your sex life is neglected.
“This doesn’t mean you can’t still have a fulfilling and desirable sex life,” says Denise. “It just means you need to recognise that this is natural, and that your relationship is changing.”
Talk and listen
If you don’t talk about it, the silence can create a distance between you.
“You have to talk to each other about how you’re feeling,” says Denise. “You probably talk about other important parts of your life, such as career choices and your child’s school, but sex is equally important.”
If you find it difficult to talk about sex, Denise suggests saying how you feel, and asking how your partner feels. For example, ‘I get the feeling you don't want to make love to me any more, and I wondered how you feel about that'. Then listen to what they say. If they’re upset, give them space to think, and come back to the discussion another time.
Reassure your partner that you love them and enjoy being close to them. “Your desire for sex might not be as frequent, but that doesn’t mean your desire to be with that person has dwindled,” says Denise.
There’s more to sex than penetration
“If I ask people what makes a satisfying sex life, they usually say it's about penetrative sex and orgasms,” says Denise. “But this isn’t necessarily what sex and intimacy is all about.”
Enjoy all the feelings of arousal with your partner, not just the orgasm. Take time to be more sensual.
- Explore each other’s bodies.
- Bathe together.
- Touch each other’s skin.
- Undress each other.
- Tell each other what you like.
- Listen to your partner’s breathing and the sounds they make.
Many people give each other oral sex or masturbate together as a healthy and enjoyable part of their sex life.
If you’re not sure how to suggest something new, try saying, ‘I enjoy it when we make love, and I wondered how you might feel about trying…’.
Find out what you like
Even if you think you know what you like when it comes to sex, it’s worth exploring a bit more.
“Sometimes I'm struck by how little people know about their own body and their partner’s body, and their likes and dislikes,” says Denise. Ask yourself what you might like more (or less) of, and what you can give to your partner.
Get to know your body and what feels good. Lie in a warm bath and explore your body. Think about how the water feels on your skin, and relax while enjoying the sensation. Find out what you like through masturbation, then share this with your partner.
“Sexual preferences are such a unique and individual thing that when you start talking about it and exploring it, you might surprise one another, which is exciting,” says Denise.
If you both want different amounts of sex
This happens in many relationships. Losing desire can happen for a number of reasons, such as getting older, illness, having children or worries about work, money or the relationship. Be open about how you're feeling. Explore why you want less sex, and how it makes you both feel.
“If one partner has a higher sex drive than the other, we work out how to manage it within the relationship,” says Denise. “Masturbation might be an option, or sex toys. A lot of people would be happy to give their partner that kind of pleasure but don’t feel able to accommodate full intercourse.”
Don’t be afraid of hugs and kisses. People often worry that their partner might assume that a hug means ‘I want sex’. But if you agree that a hug is just a hug, you can enjoy non-sexual physical contact simply for what it is.