When your relationship has reached the ‘ever after’ stage of your once inseparable, giddy, can’t-live-without-you love, maintaining the passion can seem impossible.
Research has found 54 per cent of Australian men and 42 per cent of Australian women in heterosexual relationships are unhappy with the frequency of sex in their relationship — mostly because they’re wanting more.
If you’re feeling unsatisfied with the amount of sex you’re having, here’s what the experts recommend.
Schedule a sex date
It might sound more like the way to approach your job than a means of spicing up your sex life, but there are plenty of reasons to make regular appointments with your partner just to have sex, according to sex therapist and relationship counsellor Désirée Spierings.
“Whether sex actually happens is not the point, it is about being intimate together in a physical way, and making sure that happens,” she says.
While many of us are happy to prioritise a date, which might include dinner and a movie, very few of us take the same approach when it comes to our sex lives. And the sad truth is, by the time we get home from a date night, we’re often too tired to reconnect with our partner physically.
Ms Spierings says the point of a sex date is to set aside time where you and your partner can focus on being physical with each other.
It’s not all about intercourse
Sex doesn’t have to be the be all and end all, and focusing on other kinds of physical intimacy can help couples who are struggling with mismatched libidos.
“I recommend sometimes having a ban on actual intercourse altogether and to focus on everything else instead,” Ms Spierings says.
Having a bath or shower together, giving each other a massage or snuggling up on the couch can make you feel closer and more connected.
“Sometimes a partner may not feel any spontaneous desire, but may still be up for a lovely massage or a bath together. Once they start to feel a little bit aroused and relaxed, the response desire kicks in and they don’t mind continuing and participating in more intense physical activities,” Ms Spierings says.
Set the mood
In a long-term relationship, life is often busy and when things are rushed, it can feel weird to go from doing the dishes to making out with your partner.
Ms Spierings said it’s important to ease the transition from daily life to couple time by ‘building bridges’ and creating an opportunity for intimacy to happen.
This could include having a glass of wine or a cup of tea together at the end of the day, taking a walk after dinner or giving each other a neck rub while watching television.
“You might not have been thinking about sex, but now that you’re getting a foot rub and being told that you look gorgeous, you might think, it could be a nice idea to get a bit sexy with my partner,” says clinical sexologist Tanya Koens.
While the honeymoon phase is all about getting lost in the throes of passion, couples in long-term relationships need to actively work on building mutual feelings of desire.
“Foreplay starts with ‘How was your day?’ It’s about connecting and getting a conversation going,” Ms Koens says.
“It’s not necessarily about the tingling in the loins, it’s the idea of it.”
The sexologist recommends exchanging playful or sensual text messages throughout the day.
“Saying nice things to each other on a regular basis keeps the simmer going, so that you’re not starting from cold each time,” she says.
Switch off your devices
Ms Koens recommends couples go one night a week without technology.
“Eating dinner at the dinner table without any TV on is good. You can talk to each other and really connect. Have dinner, share a bottle of wine, and take a bath together,” she says.
While sex may or may not eventuate, it’s important to spend time away from your screens checking emails and social media.
“It’s one night a week that busy people make for themselves — there can be no other plans that interfere, no working late, no seeing family. Just: this is our night, and we’re going to make sure we’re connecting on that night,” Ms Koens says.
Understand why you want to have sex
Everyone has different reasons to have sex, and spontaneous sexual desire is just one.
“If you don’t have spontaneous desire, then that is not your reason to have sex with your partner. But there might be other good reasons that can act as your motivator,” Ms Spierings says.
This might include wanting to fall pregnant, feeling alive and happy after the experience, feeling closer to your partner, or simply enjoying the health benefits of an active sex life.
As well as understanding why you want to have sex, it’s important to consider the thoughts and beliefs you have about sex — and what it means for you and your partner to have sex.
“For somebody who thinks sex means enduring love, having a partner that has sex for sport — that’s going to be really interesting, negotiating the rate and the level at which you have sex,” Ms Koens says.
She said by understanding each other’s motivations, you can negotiate the level of sex you and you partner would like to have, and work towards that shared goal.
The six-second kiss
“Give each other a six-second kiss hello and a six-second kiss goodbye whenever you’re coming and going,” Ms Koens says.
The simple practice of being more “present” when kissing your partner and kissing them for longer can boost feelings of connectedness, she says.
“You can achieve a lot in six seconds, and it doesn’t have to be tonsil hockey. It could just be a lingering, lip-biting kiss. It could be grabbing the other person’s bottom. It could be gently nibbling all the way up to their ear and back again.”
Communicate what you want
People often expect their partner to know exactly what they like, when they like it and how they like it — without ever specifying, says Ms Koens.
“I’ve met people who have been waiting 25 years for their partner to work it out,” she says.
“I have a mantra: you don’t get what you want by saying what you don’t want. You need to say what it is that you might like. And if you’re not sure, then some experimenting together might be useful.”
According to the sexologist, vocalising what intimate experiences you enjoy and giving clear consent to your partner will amount to “sexy and safe sex”.
It’s hardly rocket science, but if you don’t feel good about yourself in terms of your physical and mental health, then you probably won’t feel good about yourself sexually.
“Trust that your partner is interested in you and your body. Censoring yourself or ‘spectatoring’ during sex is not useful. Enjoy what your body can do for you,” Ms Koens says.
Ms Spierings says you’re more likely to feel sexy if you pay attention to your general wellbeing, as well your physical appearance.
“It’s important to pay some extra attention to what we look like so we can feel good about ourselves and more confident when it comes to being intimate with someone,” she says.
Sex can be intimate or erotic, but don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If it is neither of those things, remember it can always be playful.
“You can have things like a suggestions box where each partner writes down things they want to try. If you get a tick from both partners, you put it in the suggestions box for times that you’re feeling adventurous,” Ms Koens says.
There are plenty of things you can do to reignite your sex life, she added, and there’s always room to try something new: a position, location, outfit or striptease.
And the best news of all? Your best sex is probably yet to come.
“You get to look forward to the best sex in your 40s, 50s and 60s because you know your body, and if you’re in a long-term relationship, you know your partner,” Ms Koens says.
“You can stop worrying about looking good, and get on with the fact that your body can do damn amazing things — and make you feel very good.”