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"SPICING UP" YOUR SEX LIFE

by Mark Weisner, Ph.D.

Passion? What passion? It's only a faint glimmer on a far off horizon. You've been with the same partner forever, and you wonder what happened. The romance, the intrigue, the innuendo, those nights of racing over to meet each other, the passionate kisses, the ... gone. You stand in the bathroom and wonder if its worth the trouble to even get something started.

Once you've ruled out physical or emotional causes (read "When the Answer is 'Not Tonight'" in this issue), and if you have had a relatively problem-free sexual appetite in the past, try some of the following suggestions to "spice things up."

Arrange intimate times together, don't take them for granted.

Sexual play can start with innuendo in the morning for activity in the evening. A lot of sexual pleasure is created by anticipation. A midday phone call, flowers sent to the office, a love note expressing your eagerness to be together -- all increase your sexual energy level.

Make "sex dates," and stop waiting for spontaneity.

Most of us see spontaneity go out the window when household and career responsibilities show up. The reality is that people who are newly sexual usually "plan" having sex. As they dress for the evening, and plan their time, they allow for, and even arrange situations for sexual contact. Do you remember the days when you changed the sheets on the bed because you knew you'd be having sex? Much early sexual contact between couples isn't spontaneous at all.

Think about activities that lead to sex.

You can arrange to have sex now, just as you did back then. Perhaps a romantic prelude is in order...a quiet dinner for two, or a walk on the beach. Having a large meal before sex can take the fun out of it. Think ahead. Often aerobic activity like walking or dancing will energize you and make sexual contact more appealing.

Use your imagination.

Fantasize freely. If you are bold, share your fantasies with your partner, either before going to bed or during love making. Ask directly for what you want, either in a note or in person. Make a list of all the things you will NOT do. Encourage your partner to initiate things that aren't on your list and try to have fun with what happens. Experiment and watch your desire grow.

Make a list of sexual preferences in the form of a menu.

Include appetizers (foreplay), main course (intercourse or acts leading to orgasm) and dessert (afterplay). Exchange filled-out menus with your partner. Such a metaphor as the menu gives couples a vehicle for exploring their wants and desires. Completing a sexual menu makes it easier to communicate verbally with your partner later.

Experiment.

Plan something new with your partner every now and then. Carry it through even if it makes you a little uncomfortable. This will increase your repertoire and appetite. Allow yourself the option of stopping at any time if you get too uncomfortable.

Play with one another.

Have sexual play leading to orgasm without intercourse. Learn to focus on other aspects of intimacy -- using all five senses. Practice touching each other differently. Ask what kinds of touching, and where your partner prefers to be touched. When you get asked a similar question, answer it honestly, without avoiding, criticizing, or making reference to past events. Just answer the question. Slower, faster, lighter, harder, more to the right, more to the left -- these are the kinds of directions that can be helpful.

Be generous.

If you are receiving directions, don't expect that tomorrow your partner will want the exact same kind of stimulation. Just as people change from day to day in their intensity of orgasm, it is quite normal to be more or less sensitive from one day to the next. Gently ask for directions if you aren't getting the kind of response you expect. Accommodate as much as possible.

Notice your reactions.

Focus on your own feelings and share them with your partner, so you won't lose the focus of your own body. If you are both concentrating on what you are "doing to" the other, your efforts will cancel each other out. Focus on what creates positive sensations for you. Tell your partner exactly what to do to make it increase. Avoid double statements that include a positive but end on a negative: "It feels good when you hold me tight, but when you squeeze the life out of me I just want to scream." Stay with the positive. Get a good couple's communications book, and practice any exercises that look useful.

Do some research together.

Sit down together and leaf through a sexual manual that presents different sexual activities and positions. This will give you both new ideas and help you to feel comfortable with your sexuality. Sharing this input becomes a catalyst for discussion. If you can communicate sexually, you will be able to communicate on any level.

Be flexible.

Allow yourself and your partner to either have an orgasm or not. Orgasms are not mandatory; the goal of making love is mutual pleasure. Whatever gives you pleasure is enough. If one of you is not well or too tired for an orgasm, stop. If being held is your idea of pleasure, ask for it. If your partner insists that you give him or her an orgasm, and you don't feel up to it, kindly ask them to take care of themselves and plan another time to try again. Be sure to keep your next sex date. If you keep turning your partner down, take the time to look at the problem seriously.

Get the big picture.

Understand that what happens in your relationship is a generally reflected in the bedroom. If your relationship is in trouble, difficulties will frequently show up in the bedroom. If your partner avoids having heart-to-heart talks with you in the relationship; you might find yourself feeling a lack of his/her presence during lovemaking. You might end up feeling like you just had sex when you wanted to make love. Talk about the difference and see what happens.

Get help.

If you can't make these suggestions work, seek out a psychotherapist who works with sexual issues. Most sex therapy only requires a few sessions if you don't have a problem history. Having a rich sexual life is healthy, and worth the effort it takes to create.

1/19/98

Author Mark Weisner, Ph.D., is a Licensed Psychologist in San Diego. He is a trained sex therapist, lecturer, author, and maintains a private practice where he treats individuals and couples.

 

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