The following is intended for readers 18+
Sparks fly and bodies meld when you’re having great sex. But what happens when it cools and morphs into a routine?
Sexual intimacy presents an opportunity for great connectivity, self discovery, pleasure and vivacity. But it can also be a source of loss, pain, fear and vulnerability. The typical reaction to these sides of sex is to withdraw and create walls.
What if instead, you chose to open up to the barriers you are hitting, including your own self-doubt or shame, fear of loss, long-term doubts about the relationship, or the jealousy and comparisons with past partners? Introspection and perpetual striving for new ways to connect and explore your essence as a sexual being, and that of your partner, is the key to increased intimacy and better sex.
Here are a few key mechanisms to maximize healthy sexuality, intimacy, connection and passion in deliberate and fun ways.
1. Reimagine Passion
Passion is an important component to intimacy. It is the drive to go deeper, the fire to connect. Passion is usually second nature early in romantic relationships, the new relationship energy perpetuates the momentum to explore. You try new things, crave finding every nook and cranny of your partner’s body and soul. Some couples maintain this longer than others, but eventually we need to imagine new ways to connect. Here are some ideas:
- Explore your passion. What turns you on? What are some recent fantasies you’ve had? How comfortable are you allowing your body and mind to sit in those fantasies and potentially new and scary sources of arousal? Explore your body and think about ideas, pictures and things that arouse you.
- Practice becoming comfortable with sharing and exploring fantasies together. Your partner can’t be the sexual being of your dreams if you don’t know what that looks like or give them a chance to understand. Make a list of fantasies and share this with your partner, with the understanding that there is no judgement or expectations on either side. Fantasies are just that. They may be things you try, but they should remain strongly seated in the fantasy realm. Intimacy expands as you share this and experience acceptance from your partner. Watch any insecurities that come up, and get help from a therapist if it becomes a barrier (ie: jealousy, fear, comparisons, difficulty accepting a sexual act, idea, or interest).
- Put all media and devices away and put the flat palm of your hand on your partner’s chest. Look into his or her eyes and practice breathing simultaneously. As you do so, take turns describing five physical things you love about your partner, five non-physical traits you love, five ways you love to be touched, five places, foods, cities that seem erotic to you, etc. If you’re feeling comfortable, progress into sexual touch maintaining synchronized breath.
2. Increase Playfulness
Sexuality should be fun and silly at times! Actively fight to eliminate the stress, anxiety, pressure and negative associations about sex that stem from childhood, cultural/ societal norms, past relationships, current insecurities or problems in the relationship. You can do this through playful and lighthearted exploration and connection. See your partner through a new lens as an independent, accepted sexual being. Try some of these:
- Intimacy, sex and energy exchange doesn’t have to be spontaneous, fluid or enthralling from the first minute. While that can be awesome, the expectation it will always be like that limits creativity and opportunities for deliberate playfulness. Instead, make a plan for fun. Set a timer for six minutes, tell your partner something you would like done to you (ie: Massage, oral sex, a new toy), your partner does this, then you switch. Continue to take turns, sticking to the time allotted until you both feel energized and ready for more.
- Go sex toy shopping! The stores seem intimidating, but they are actually fun and allow for silly, sensual conversations and exploration. The staff generally will demonstrate and explain products and help you find new things to explore together. Again, no judgement and no expectations is key.
- Try intimate touch in new places…at a park under a blanket, under the table at a restaurant, in the car, on a secluded beach. It’s possible to respect others and the law while adding excitement and playfulness that leads to increased intimacy and connection.
3. Present Moment Connection and Acceptance of Self and Other
Many of us never learned how to be in our bodies, fully present and aware during sexual touch. Religion, culture, family and early sexual experiences create anxiety that can interfere. But when you are with your partner, find ways to contain these outside forces that inhibit your ability to fully engage and connect. As long as you’re engaging in safe consensual activities, showing your partner dignity and respect, any sexual choice you make is alright and worth exploring. Learning to practice mindful intimacy — acceptance of yourself and your partner fully while noticing your experiences — takes intimacy to an entirely new level. Here are some tips to create mindful intimacy:
- Practice acceptance by having conversations with your partner (during neutral times) about how past histories, religion, culture, family values impact sex. Discuss strategies for overcoming these factors, perhaps with the help of a therapist.
- Just as you do in other areas of mindfulness, practice being in your body; notice sensations, texture, movement, pressure, color, intensity in various parts of your body. Practice doing this at various non-sexual situations during the day, then during intimate touch. Notice the shifts in energy, temperature, tension, movement and share this with your partner. If you’re having a hard time noticing it, slow down, take deep breaths and track each body part. Try new ways of touching yourself or your partner, and discuss the changes in your bodies.
- Slow down. Give your sexual self and your partner the time and space to grow and evolve with your relationship. Just as you exercise your body and create healthy physical and emotional habits, so too is it necessary we invest time and energy to grow and thrive sexually.
As you go into this week with your partner, practice acceptance, mindfulness, and openness through activities that reimagine passion, playfulness and present moment engagement. This should increase your intimacy and create new levels of connectivity. It’s time to reignite that fire, but if you’re having trouble don’t be afraid to give couple’s counseling a try.