Think sensual not sexual
Sex is not just about penetration or orgasms it is a sensual experience that involves all your senses and your whole body. Thinking sensual removes any performance anxiety and leaves you free to enjoy the experience whatever the outcome may be.
Exposure to sensory stimuli, promotes the release of oxytocin (a peptide hormone), which is necessary for sexual arousal and pleasure in both women and men. So, engage all your senses by experimenting with:
Touch: try different types of touch (and not just with your hands) and textures (i.e., fur, feathers, body lotions)
Sound: Play some sexy music or tell your partner about your fantasies)
Sight: Get dressed up for bed (sexy underwear or fancy dress), use a little mood lighting, watch a sexy film together
Smell: A clean body is often best so that those sexy pheromones can get to work when you get ‘sweaty’ together
Tastes: Try some ‘licking’ foods or turn your partners body into a fruit salad
Talk WITH not AT each other
Couples who argue a lot tend to talk ‘at’ rather than ‘with’ each other. Lecturing, nagging, moaning and accusing your partner are talking ‘at’. The partner on the receiving end can become defensive, aggressive or might even become conveniently deaf and withdraw from further interaction. To talk with your partner try the PACT method (below):
Pay attention to what is being said by looking at the person speaking. Show how you are listening with gestures such as nodding your head. And what’s very important, don’t interrupt.
Acknowledge what has been said by restating it in your own words.
Check from your partner’s response to see if what you said was accurate. If not, then amend what you said and restate.
Think before speaking and respond without making accusations, assumptions or judgemental statements.
Forgive even though you can’t forget
It would be trite to suggest that if you have had a problem you should simply ‘forgive and forget’, since forgetting is impossible and forgiveness takes more than mere words. If you are going to stay with your partner, you will need to forgive and to let go of the past. It won’t be easy to overcome the painful memories, but it is necessary if you want to continue to co-habit without conflict and stop your past interfering with your future happiness.
This means that whatever has happened is assigned to the same bits of memory as what went on before you met. For example, if your partner has been unfaithful try to think of the affair in the same way as you think of the relationships they had before you met. No more recriminations. Don’t keep bringing it up every time something goes wrong. Don’t let your suspicions and imagination ruin your relationship. Letting go of the past means starting your relationship new – today is the first day of your relationship.
Show your gratitude
When we live with someone for any length of time, there is tendency to assume that our partners know and understand us and there is no need to express our appreciation. Also, with the pace of modern living, it can become all too easy to forget to say or do the things that make our partner feel special.
It’s a big mistake to assume that our partners know how important they are to us. They need to be told or shown how beautiful we think they are, how grateful we are for what they do and how much we appreciate their qualities. Psychological research has found that reminding ourselves of the good things in our lives and expressing gratitude can substantially increase our happiness levels, make us more successful and improve our health and relationships. So both you and your partner will benefit from some kind words. Tell your partner something that you like, appreciate or value about them every day, and tell them what you enjoy doing with them.
Couples that play together stay together
This might be the most important tip of all. One of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship is the amount of time couples ‘play’ together. Play isn’t a luxury - it’s a necessity. Psychological research has shown it is as important to our physical and mental health as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Play helps us relax and to relieve the stress of day-to-day living, it can strengthen emotional bonds, develop the creativity, build resilience and enable us to develop the habit of being happy. Play encourages us to be imaginative, open and trusting, which are all the key ingredients of romance.
But whatever it is that you’re playing, there are two things you have to take seriously: being together, and the sheer fun of it all. No game is more important than the experience of being together. If you have forgotten how to play then you can try the following:
1. Sit down, close your eyes and think about when you were around the age of 5 years (no younger than 4 and no older than 7 – if it helps think about a particular event like a birthday or the day you started school)
2. Now, think of the one thing that you always loved doing, the thing that your parents had to drag you away from – whatever it is you would always ask for just five more minutes (e.g., playing outside or with a particular toy)
3. Next, ask yourself what it was about that activity that was so special and try to find an activity that recreates that feeling
If that doesn’t work sit down with your partner and try to write a list of all the fun things you would like to do together. Failing that there are eight pages of idea cards for romantic and sexual fun in my book DIY Sex and Relationship Therapy.