**also featured in the June 2019 edition of Pensacola Bella Magazine**
As a counselor-coach with a niche in sexuality, the question of “how to spice up a relationship?” has to be one of the top 3 things people ask me about. So here are a few short and sweet tips that if you actually implement will have a TREMENDOUS impact on both the frequency and satisfaction of your sex life:
1. Be serious about your love and commitment but not about the sex.
The number one killer of great sex is a lack of playfulness. Way too many couples approach sex with a seriousness that could make anyone squirm, and not in a fun way. The more you stress about it, the less enjoyable it is for both of you, and the more likely you are to create performance anxiety or other sexual dysfunction.
Lovers play by flirting. The word “flirt” comes from the French word “fleure,” for “just the tip” (… of a fencing sword 😉 ). To flirt is utilize the energy of mystery and longing. Couples must learn to recapture the art of seduction – to tease and tantalize, and most importantly to have fun while doing it.
Adopt a flirtatious attitude. Each morning when you awake, ask yourself, “How might I enjoy more play today?” Dress in a way that makes you feel more confident. Allow yourself to think sexy thoughts. Find a few moments here or there to linger with your partner, perhaps running your fingers across their skin as you walk by or make out like teenagers do without expectation or need for more.
2. Remember that foreplay begins the moment the last sexual encounter ends.
Build a culture of appreciation with your partner. Human beings can’t help but have a “praise kink.” We all need to feel wanted, including sexually. Ask yourself when the last time was that you brought some good oral/aural energy home. By finding creative ways to speak their language if you will, you will keep desire and anticipation high for both of you.
Send random text messages sharing something you love about your partner. Try leaving love notes in surprising places like inside of cupboards, on the refrigerator, dashboard of their car, or on a bathroom mirror etc. Tell them you can’t wait to see them, what you’d love to do to or experience with them, or what you enjoyed in previous sexual encounters with them.
3. Practice staying in the moment.
Your biggest sex organ is your brain. If your mind isn’t fully present for the sex, your body simply cannot function the way it’s supposed to. Women won’t be able to lubricate, men won’t be able to achieve or maintain erections, and no one will be able to orgasm as easily as they would like to.
Mindfulness deepens physical intimacy by heightening all our senses and can even introduce a transcendent like quality to our encounters. Couples who report the greatest amount of satisfaction in their emotional and physical intimacy are also the ones who regularly practice mindful living.
Utilize what sex therapists call “sensate focus” (i.e., focus on your sensations). You can do this inside and outside the bedroom. During any activity (e.g., taking a shower or eating), but especially sex, anytime you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present moment by directing your attention to your physical sensations. What do you feel? What sensations are arising within you? Where does your pleasure reside? Can you expand it out in waves, not only throughout your own body but also towards your partner?
4. Know what you want and be able to ask for it.
Each of us has what’s called a “sexual script.” It’s like a menu in our minds of what we know we like, what we could be open to, and what we definitely don’t enjoy or want to try. Passionate couples are able to talk about what’s on their menu with each other and explore their overlapping and differing tastes.
We build intimacy and have more satisfying sex when we are expressive, both verbally and with our touch. Don’t assume your partner knows what you want or even how you want it done. Trust me, facing any awkwardness in the short term is well worth the long term returns in heightened pleasure and excitement!
Visualize your erotic tastes as a menu (this keeps it more playful) and set aside time to talk to your partner about what’s on theirs. Include conversation about what experiences you’ve had in the past, if any, with others and what you liked or didn’t like and why. You might try an online quiz like this one (https://www.weshouldtryit.com/) to break the ice. If you find even this intimidating, I highly encourage you to speak with a counselor or coach who specializes in sexuality.
5. Try something new.
Our brains reward novelty in several ways. Whenever we try something new, what’s commonly known as “the reward pathway” in the brain releases increased levels of dopamine which gives us that rush of euphoria and pleasure. Additionally, a region in our midbrain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area is also activated. This helps us pay more attention and remember the encounter longer; perfect for creating lasting sexy memories for couples to savor and draw upon for many years to come.
Make a plan to try something new with your partner once a month or even a couple times a year. It could be an activity associated with sex or even something as simple as a new date night idea like a cooking or painting class. You might try taking turns bringing a new activity into the bedroom like sensual massage, lingerie or light bondage. A playful non-intimidating way to incorporate this is to make an “intimacy jar or box” filled with ideas as they come to you and then each date night, pull one to try. The key is to maintain an approach of no pressure or expectations.
6. Create rituals.
Although the brain loves novelty, it’s also a creature of habit and this can mean wonderful things for creating and sustaining long-term desire in a relationship. Whatever we pay attention to while in a state of arousal, our brain imprints on and sends out happy chemicals every time that stimulus is presented in the future. Couples who consciously incorporate rituals into their routines draw from a treasure trove of anticipation and intimate familiarity.
Make a regular habit of saying hello and goodbye in a special or unique way to just the two of you. Set the alarm clock even just 15 min earlier every morning and have coffee with your partner. Hold hands or cuddle as you wake up and talk about your day together. Consider a monthly “lunch date” at a local hotel (doesn’t need to be expensive to be fun) and stay only a couple hours. Might sound counterintuitive, but scheduled sex, when approached with a playful mindset, can keep excitement and longing high.
- “Sex Without Stress: A Couple’s Guide to Overcoming Disappointment, Avoidance, & Pressure” by Jessa Zimmerman, LMHC
- “Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence” by Alexandra Katehakis, MFT
- “The Sex-Starved Marriage – Boosting Your Marriage Libido, A Couple’s Guide” by Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, sometimes university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
She loves quirky existential convos and anyone who can make her head tilt in curiosity about sexuality and human mating behaviors.