If you’re looking to spice up your relationship this Valentine’s Day then try these expert-approved ways – trust us, they can reconnect you as a couple and re-boot your sex life.
Not had sex in a while? You’re not alone. But you might be wondering ‘why have I gone off sex?’ or contemplating tantric sex as your next move. It doesn’t matter why your sex life has bumped down your to-do list, all that matters is you’re looking to make changes.
Morphing into ‘roommates’ after years together is normal. After all, a healthy sex life takes effort and time – something we could all do with more of. In fact, according to a 2020 study from health website Zavamed.com, 57 per cent of couples start having less sex after just six months together.
Juliette, Relationship and Intimacy expert agrees; “Life and all its mundane aspects can pull at us. Who we are erotically isn’t even someone we recognise anymore, as it’s so far removed from our boring reality.”
So, get your sexual groove back and reboot your intimacy settings with these expert-approved sex strategies to really spice up your relationship.
We know that sex isn’t everything in a relationship, but regular, fun and enjoyable sex means real connection. And that connection means feeling wanted, desired and seen.
How to spice up a relationship
1. Reconnect with each other
Communication and connection are the two most important aspects to a healthy sex life. Michele Weiner-Davis, an internationally renowned relationship therapist, best-selling author, and marriage educator talks about disconnect on her Ted talk: A Sex Starved Marriage.
In addition, research by Jones, Robinson and Seedall (2017) examined whether greater sexual communication leads to better sex. And the findings revealed that yes, talking more about sex increased orgasm frequency in women and greater relationship and sexual satisfaction in both sexes. Sounds like a win-win.
Michele goes on to explain how lack of sex usually looks like one spouse longing for more touch, more closeness and the other spouse is thinking ‘what is the big deal it’s just sex’.
But for the spouse longing for more physical touch it’s about feeling connected and loved and wanted and that is a huge deal. When this disconnect happens intimacy goes right out the door.
Michele’s top three tips to spice up your relationship are;
We not only have to know our way of connecting with our partner we also have to become experts in our partner’s way of feeling connected to us – it’s a two way street.
If you’re with someone who wants more touch, more sex try not to dismiss it as ‘just sex, like scratching an itch’, sex is a powerful way of connecting and bonding with somebody you love.
When you figure out your partner’s way of connecting to you, you don’t have to fully understand it you just have to do it.
2. Start the conversation
In a couple almost every decision is discussed, where to eat dinner that night, which school to send the kids to, how much to put into savings, where to go on holiday. You discuss it all, the pros and cons, likes and dislikes.
But when it comes to sex there’s an absence of chat. And studies show that couples who aren’t talking about sex, aren’t having sex. So start the conversation, put your phones away, switch the TV off and get ready to do some questions and answers.
Juliette Karaman, Relationship & Intimacy expert at FeelFullyYou suggests asking curious questions like; ‘what were you taught about sex?’ and ‘Who taught you about sex?’ as well as ‘How do you know what you like in sex?’ and ‘What does sex mean to you?’
“Being open to talking, and laughing brings connection and normalises sex in all its awkward and vulnerable glory.” She says.
Juliette works with Dyads – the power of two and tells us,”I use [a dyad] as a communication tool. Our brains can’t hold onto two things that are opposite. For instance they can’t stay angry if they’re remembering a nice memory. The sole aim of this tool is to understand the other person. Not to agree, not to like, but to understand.”
She goes on to explain that this would start with a prompt like ‘tell me what you love about our relationship’. Your partner might answer; ‘You bringing me coffee makes me feel loved.’ and you would reply with ‘thank you’ if you understand (even if you think you do way more that that, now’s not the time to bring that up.) You would both continue this with five questions…. and slowly you get to the deeper things.
Juliette continues, “the next question could be ‘what are your fears?’, followed with ‘Tell me a desire you have for us as a couple?’ and then maybe ‘What’s your aim… where do you want us to be in 20 years time?’ This immediate vulnerability creates intimacy.”
In couples we so often feel misunderstood and we let the connection slide. Ask questions, be curious with each other again.
3. More than a date night
The term ‘date night’ is used often and lightly within relationships. With couples always encouraged to make sure they have date nights regularly and get dressed up for them. And yes, it’s a nice thing to do together but pointless if your relationship is missing real connection. Which, in many relationships where there’s little to no sex, is exactly whats missing – the connection.
“Some couples are so disconnected they don’t know where to start and a ‘date night’ just comes laden with pressure,” says Juliette.
“So, instead plan in intentional time together. Get it in the diary, make sure you have a babysitter and discuss and agree ground rules first. Such as ‘we won’t discuss finances/kids/family tonight’ and stick to that.”
She goes on to add; “It’s so easy to let the connection slide; we are so busy in our own world, a bit of good intention goes a long way. Make it a thing, say ‘hey we are going to spend this time to get to know each other again’.”
To help take the pressure off this ‘planned intentional time’ Juliette suggests a game; “Ahead of your time together each make a list of 10 things you used to really enjoy doing as a kid, it could be your favourite Super Mario game, a certain park you visited etc. This makes it fun, and light and will lead to more questions.
4. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes
It’s not only women who have low libidos, men ‘not being in the mood’ is our best-kept secret. One study found that 15.2 percent of men self reported that they had not had sex in the past year, and more than eight percent of men in the same study had not had sex in five or more years.
While another study reports that about 16 percent of relationships in the U.S. could be considered sexless. And, while it’s little talked about, whoever it is in your relationship that doesn’t fancy sex, drives the sexual agenda.
So if one is happy with the dry spell, the other might was well go and have a cold shower because it’s not happening. Well now’s the time to change that narrative in your relationship. Regardless of whether you want the sex or not, imagine what your partner might be thinking, feeling or going through and try to be there for them. It’s one step closer to re-connecting.
Dr Julianna, PhD in Counselling Education, Licensed Marital and Family Therapist, and Licensed Professional Counsellor agrees. “I do scripts or role playing as not everyone is great at naturally empathising with another.
“I had this one couple, he really wanted more sexual connection. She felt reticent. They misunderstood each other, she assumed he wanted penetration, when really he just wanted to know that she wanted him.
“Once we got to that answer then we were able to really look at what that meant for him, to feel unwanted. And what it meant for her, to be the gatekeeper that always turns him down.
“And when they got to that they had complete empathy for one another and an automatic attraction to each other. They then understood each other better and worked together to problem solve rather than getting defensive with one another.”
5. Create an exclusive ‘members only’ podcast club
Instead of a book club, agree to download and listen to the same erotic podcasts and then pencil in a time to discuss together one evening.
Dirty Diana – Produced by (and starring) Demi Moore, this new narrative fiction series is the biggest name on the audio erotica block. Moore stars as Diana, a woman stuck in a sexless marriage, who secretly runs a website featuring sexy audio confessions from anonymous women – one is played by Melanie Griffith – on the side.
Sex with Strangers: A Grown Folks Podcast – When a podcast boasts episodes with names like ‘Spit in My Mouth’ and ‘Celibacy with Strangers’, you know you’re in for a saucy time. Every week, hosts Cii, Jaxon, and Juice get into it on a variety of sex- and dating-related topics. Come for the raunchy real talk; stay for the hosts’ insane chemistry and banter.
D Is for Desire – What does it mean to desire something? On this HuffPost podcast, host Noah Michelson sets out to discover the answer. Every episode, Michelson does research and interviews guests about a different type of desire (past episode topics have included period sex, and erotic witchcraft). The result is a listening experience that’s totally shameless – enjoy!
6. Change of scenery
Our homes can be uninviting for our erotic alter egos. After all, at home you might be mum and dad, chef and chauffeur. So, if you can, book some time away, somewhere new. Even if it’s just a night away in a local-ish hotel doing something new, creating new memories together.
Emma Davey, Relationship Counsellor, My Trauma Therapy agrees; “Take it away from the house, everyone gets bored of the same surroundings. Invest in some time spent somewhere new. Spark some excitement.”
7. Share sexual fantasies
Emma tells us; “Boredom is the biggest trigger for falling out of sex. Communicating with your partner is a huge part of having a healthy sex life, so kick start that with sharing some sexual fantasies.”
If you don’t feel comfortable doing it in person, try texts first. Emma adds; “Part of connecting with our partners is about showing vulnerability. And sharing sexual fantasies can feel very raw and honest.”
8. Explore each other
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen each other naked, now is the time to bite the bullet. Touch helps us to reconnect with each other.
Emma says; “People would rather talk about the right day to put their bins out than what they want from sex. And it’s this disconnect, these miscommunications that can be hard to get back from. Bodies change over time, as a couple you have to learn to grow together.”
Mum-of-two Jasmine tells us; “It took me so long after the birth of my children to let my husband touch my stomach again. Going slow really helped and now we’re almost back to where we were, sexually.”
So, remove the pressure that it will lead to sex, it’s just exploring. Dim the lights if it helps, turn your phones to mute, wait for the kids to be out or in bed asleep and take the time to reacquaint each other with your body. Let your partner know how their body makes you feel.
9. Schedule spontaneity
Get the wall planner out and the time and date etched in Sharpie. Both scheduling and spontaneity can work for couples. After all, a sexy session that’s planned and anticipated just builds on the sexual tension. It’s always worth reflecting on things that you’ve both enjoyed previously — and how they were approached.
Additionally, think about how you act on spontaneously intimate thoughts, perhaps by sending a flirtatious message?
Dr Julianna is a firm believer, she tells us; “I think you need to schedule intimacy. But instead of ‘time for sex’ title it ‘time for sexual connection’. It should be time filled with a wide range of things, sex acts and behaviours that include penetration but don’t rely on only that for success.
“I do a four quadrant exercise with my clients. A couple goes through different sex acts, from kissing hands to the wildest sexual ideas, and they put them into a list of;
Things I’ve done and would like to do again
Things I’ve done and wouldn’t like to do again
Things that I haven’t tried and think I want to
Things I haven’t tried and don’t think I want to
This tool helps couples who don’t want to get into a rut with their sexual connection and it’s useful when scheduling as you can choose ahead of time or on the spot.
Dr Julianna adds; “There’s nothing bad or negative about having a busy life which makes it hard to fit in sex. But if you are going to fit it in then that time has to be sacred. Because life will always be busy.
“I encourage people to think about their day and take off work if they need to, and to change locations. Midnight in your car in your drive way, or your study in your house – liven it up and invite spontaneity in that way. I also encourage couples to mix up times. Plan long sexual connection times, and also short quickies.”
10. Understand and speak their love language
Dr Chapman was quoted as saying; “If we learn to meet each other’s deep emotional need to feel loved, and choose to do it, the love we share will be exciting beyond anything we’ve ever felt.”
Knowing your partner’s love language is fundamental in a relationship. Because while you can love someone with every fibre in your body, unless you are conveying that love in a way they can understand it, they’ll never truly feel loved and desired.
So if your partner is a hugger and you’re not, try and give them what they need. As long as you feel safe doing it, it’s an act of love and compassion that will go a long way.
Dad-of-two, Jay tells us; “I love a hug in the kitchen, once the boys are both in bed but before we make dinner. It’s not sexual, I just need her to understand that I like to be held. To feel her, and smell her. But she’s not a hugger. And shrugs me off, it makes me feel so lonely.”
11. Surprise them
Take the time to surprise each other. It doesn’t have to be lavish gifts or spending money regularly, maybe coffee in a new spot? A text to ask them to meet you somewhere different.
The usual evokes feeling of the humdrum. The purpose of this game, Juliette explains, is that it creates a pattern interrupt in your brain; “You’re not going to the same old places, you’re not doing what you usually do. You’re creating spontaneity and all these endorphins get released when we do and learn new things.”
12. Send notes
Emma says, “Sex doesn’t have to start in the bedroom it can start by texting, it can start by little notes, it can go throughout the day.” Now, this one can be hard to remember to do, to fit it into your day. Which is why when you do it it’s so special.
“I like my couples to have nicknames for one another or a secret language just for them,” says Dr Julianna.
“I had this one couple who had ‘shmily’ See How Much I Love You and it was this fun contest to see who could come up with the most fun and creative ways they could write SHIMLY to each other.
“Like a post it note in a suitcase, dry eraser on a mirror, written in the dust of the car, etc. All sorts of fun things, that culminated in a personalised car number plate with SHIMLY on.
“It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, handwritten notes are always a winner. It just tells your partner that you’re thinking of them and they’re special to you.”
You can put a note in your partner’s pocket to read before work or stick one on the bathroom mirror to start their morning, stay spontaneous by leaving your personal messages for them to find as they go about their day.
As a society that revolves around technology, spending the extra time to handwrite the notes will mean more and hopefully re-ignite your romance.
13. Try a couples’ vibrator
Adding a sex toy to the mix is kind of like adding a third party, but without the emotional attachment. From vibrating, to pulsing, to penetrating try not to feel overwhelmed. Treat this purchase the same way you would an expensive beauty buy. Look for premium quality, body safe, and even gender neutral toys. We recommend the Lelo Tiani 2 for equal gratification, the design helps you and your partner enjoy it in equal measures.
Dr Julianna assures us that this is about having fun together. “I always ask a couple to approach this with curiosity, look at sites together, read reviews together. And if this isn’t for them, that’s okay. Chalk it up to ‘now we know’. But, it’s not a failing. Look at it like you’re a pioneer of curiosity, you’re information gathering.”
14. Comparison is the thief of orgasms
As humans it’s natural for us to look at our peers and wonder why we don’t look like that, have that, or can do that. But Emma warns that comparison can be very damaging, “Looking externally for validation and comparing our relationships will only lead to one thing, misery.”
She recommends doing a ‘social cleanse’. “Only follow inspirational people on Instagram. People who make you want to be a better you, not a different you. This is taking you one step closer to connecting with yourself, which will help you to re-connect with your partner.”
15. Switch locations
“Get down and dirty on the kitchen counter. Have sex in the hallway. Do it on the sofa,” says Emma. “It doesn’t matter where, just pick a place that isn’t your usual spot.” According to Emma, the new smells, sounds, lighting and different textures will help keep your sex life on its toes.
“The best fix for falling out of love with sex is change. Our brain’s excitement levels are fuelled by dopamine, which is boosted by new experiences. So, shake things up.”
Maybe ban your usual sex position. And, swap the predictable bedroom for a new and more exciting location. And watch plenty of boxsets or movies with great back stories and sex scenes – such as Netflix’s horny period drama Bridgerton – together for inspiration.
16. Touch yourself
Masturbate! This is basically the war-cry of every expert we talked to: “Once you know what helps you orgasm, you can ask for that from your partner,” says Juliette. “Masturbation is your best friend,” she says. “It’s the best way to create a pleasure roadmap to empower you and help your partner become a better lover.”
And research shows that it can help increase your desire to want sex. For example, this study links frequent vibrator use to a high sex drive and positive sexual function, as well as general sexual wellness.
Mum-of-twins, Deirdra tells us; “My husband kept on at me to use my vibrator more without him, that maybe that will make me want sex. So I did… and it actually helped. It’s like it reminded my body ‘hey this is good, I like this’. Obviously I don’t tell him he’s right. But we’re having sex again so he knows.”
17. Create a ‘turn ons’ list
“Create a bucket list of no-stress, exciting ideas to try together,” says Emma. If you come up with something that not both parties are into, put it on a ‘maybe’ list, and revisit it later, she suggests. Not only is making a list together fun, simply talking about desires can keep things hot.
“Communication allows you to fantasise consensually so that you can focus on pleasure in the bedroom with no hesitation,” agrees Emma.
An obvious but really hard one to do. Our phone’s are like another limb, aren’t they? They’re our best friends and our worst distractions — especially when it comes to interacting with real life. There’s nothing more impersonal than telling your partner about your day only to have them respond with an occasional glance up from scrolling Instagram.
And now, an alarming new 2019 study compiled by global tech solutions firm Asurion, has laid bare the toxic effect that phones have on relationships, too. Nearly three in four Americans take their phones to bed with them and more than a third admit their sex life has suffered as a result.
So, unplug discuss and make it a joint goal to detach from technology when spending time together. Even though this sounds like a small action, it’s one that’ll ignite the large connection that you may have felt was fading.
19. Try watching porn together
Cliche we know but, research published in the the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that couples who watch porn together are generally more satisfied with their sex life.
“Watching porn can build sexual tension, pique curiosity and give conversation of likes and dislikes a kick start.” says Juliette. But don’t limit yourselves to screens, Juliette recommends taking turns reading erotic literature to each other. “Even if you’re giggling before you turn the page, you’re on the right track.”
Laughter is a great way to spice things up, too.”Laughing together about mutual things releases the happy hormone!” agrees Emma.
20. Be honest with each other
Juliette tells us that movies and unrealistic porn scenes can ruin sex lives. “When you want [sex] to finish, just say it, it doesn’t have to go on and on until you climax. Try saying, ‘I’m not going to reach orgasm tonight, can we cuddle?’ or ‘I’m not going to manage an orgasm like this, want to help me with my vibrator?’ It’s time to be open, take climax off the table and have honest open-ended fun.”
She continues: “Making sex a goal-orientated thing is the wrong direction, when the actual achievement needed is connection and intimacy.”
21. Remove no from vocab
There will always be times when you’re simply not in the mood to have sex. Be it because you’re stressed, tired, angry, or simply just not feeling it—and that’s okay. Rather than saying the word ‘no’ to your partner, try switching up your language to something a little less rejecting, like offering to reschedule.
Rescheduling is a statement of gratitude for the invitation, followed by an explanation of what you might need before feeling sexual. “For example, you might need a good night’s sleep, a glass of wine in the bath to decompress, or a night out together to emotionally reconnect.” Says Juliette.
22. Take time for you
The saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ also applies to sex. “Only when we have true self care can you truly care for another,” says Juliette. “You have to tune in with yourself, ask yourself ‘what do I want to reclaim in myself, what is my erotic personality?’ Your self-care comes first.”
As Relate say in their video, put boundaries in place and be protective over your time. Book an afternoon off work, and spend time with yourself. Feel your body, recognise what you do and don’t like anymore. Reintroduce yourself to your body in it’s entirety.
23. Express your feelings often
It’s so easy to get bogged down by the minutiae of life, take time to let your partner know you love them. Know and understand what kind of connection your partner likes, if it’s regular hugs go for it, or if it’s a simple bum grab as they walk past in the kitchen, tune into it and do it.
“Knowing your feelings and being attuned is really important and not a skill to take for granted,” says Dr Julianna. “Sometimes we can have a really small repertoire of feelings words to use and don’t realise it. I always recommend my clients look up words for feelings and use them.
“I also encourage my clients to tune into their partner to try and guess what they may be feeling and ask them to correct them if they’re wrong. Walk into it with out gender bias too, men can be sensitive too.”
24. Create a new tradition
A great way to inject a little excitement into your relationship is to create traditions that make you anticipate the future. From trying a different coffee shop every month to taking part in Park Runs together every autumn. Holding your relationship accountable to the traditions you choose is a fool-proof solution to making time for each other — and looking forward to it.
Mum-of-one Louise tells us; “Before we had our daughter my girlfriend and I went to watch the Nutcracker every Christmas. We’ve missed the last two, but have vowed to each other to pick that tradition back up – just the two of us.”
25. Make hugs last longer
Michele Weiner-Davis says, “as human beings we are hard-wired for connection, our need to connect with people we love is more fundamental and more basic than our need for food and shelter.” So, when you think you’re ready to stop the hug with your partner, continue for 10 more seconds.
Studies show that hugging releases the ‘happy hormone’ oxytocin, known to increase feelings of connection and decrease feelings of stress.
26. Go slow
Slow your breath down, when you’re making love. It doesn’t sound like much but it has a big impact! Slowing down helps partners concentrate on touch and movement, which means you’ll experience a more intense connection.
Dr Julianna, who also teaches basic tantra, tells us; “The breathing aspect is such a beautiful way of a couple to connect again without the direct pressure of penetration or obvious sexual connection.
“But, I get it, for a lot of people the basics of tantra can feel a little awkward, similarly to eye gazing. But it is so worth it.
She recommends doing it in small doses; “Build yourself up in time frame and open yourself up to intimacy feeling different with your partner. As opposed to it being just about sexual connection. It’s about two souls connecting.”
Intrigued? Try Tantric sex—a meditative practice. Not sure how? Start by ordering a Tantric book. Just opening the package with your partner can spark the excitement.
27. Hire a sex coach
Ways to spice up a relationship and tips can be helpful, but what if you’re still in a rut? If your partner isn’t open to talking about sex or improving your sex life, or if you never orgasm, a good sex coach could be a major relationship saver.
Visit the COSRT (the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists), the UK’s professional body for therapists and counsellors specialising in psychosexual and relationship therapy issues to find a coach or practitioner near you. “The best tip of all is to know it’s okay to ask for help,” says Juliette.
How can I make my relationship more exciting: a counsellor’s verdict
Dr Rosemary Basson, a Clinical Professor and Director of the UBC Sexual Medicine Program claims the human sexual response cycles has four stages. The first is desire. Second is arousal, third is orgasm, and the fourth stage is resolution – you essentially you go back to neutral.
Now, according to her studies she thinks stages 1 and 2 are reversed – the arousal has to be in place before the desire shows up. “So when you eventually do have sex and you think to yourself ‘I really like that why don’t we do it more often’, it’s because modern life, with its fast pace and no time, make it easy to never let arousal get that far,” says Juliette. “Allow yourself to be aroused, and then just go with that feeling.”
Juliette adds, another imperative to make your relationship more exciting is to have your partner feel safe with you. To make sure you’re both on the same page. That what excitement means to you is on the same level as them. With feelings of safety, comes communication and setting and holding of boundaries. Set the intention – that could be 20 minutes of just kissing with clothes on to build anticipation – then work towards it.”
Dr Julianna agrees; “If you want any sex tips to make a difference you need a deeper connection. A few things that make a good foundation making a deeper connection.
The first is safety. Often when I ask a couple do you feel safe in this relationship their first thought is physicality. But I’m actually asking on a deeper level.
Do you feel safe in being who you are, in communicating, do you feel safe in growing and do you feel safe that your partner is having positive regard for you and cares about what you need and what you’re asking for in the relationship or in conversation.
Often times there is a safe language that each person has and we often think that what we need to feel safe is the same for the other person, but we’re not all the same. We have different needs.
So the first question is, what do you need to feel safe in this relationship. What do you need to feel safe in communicating about risky things, things that feel vulnerable to you, what to you need physically verbally and non verbally and what from your environment.”
Dr Julianna teaches the concept and skill of agency. Which is finding your voice and making decisions and having confidence in your decisions and living with the consequences of those decisions.
She goes on to tell us; “[I talk with my clients] about what each person needs, and the agency in this relationship. Then we create an agency dynamic for the couple.
“In a relationship with a two people there are three parts of agency in action. Each persons and the relationships. What I mean by that is that you decide what’s right or wrong in that relationship, not your friends, not society not the media but you two people. You decide and agree on what feels right, whats a yes and whats a no in your relationship.”
Finding out if the couple really knows who they are, is imperative according to Dr Julianna. “If your partner does self awareness exercises, if they’re self reflective. Are they authentic? Do they look at their strengths and challenges? And do they check in with if they’re okay about who they’re becoming.
“Or do they just go through life and feeling discontent or disconnected? If you don’t know who you are then you can’t show up authentically to someone else.”
And, Dr Julianna goes on to tell us that if you can’t show up authentically to your partner then you’re not going to feel that deep connection with them. “You’re not going to feel that they see, need and want all of you. You let the pieces that you don’t show have the largest voice of shame and guilt. And that doesn’t breed connection and all that is so important.
While this isn’t unique, it’s so important to communicate in your relationship as a team. Dr Julianna tells us; “Look at things together and problem solve together. This needs to be present in the language you use and your physicality you show.
“You have to be thee person that your partner feels safest communicating to.”
Build good sex habits
Emma agrees, “Sex is at it’s best when a couple operates successfully on open communication, mutual respect, and making decisions together. For sex to be driven by one half of the couple means ultimately the demise of the relationship. Healthy relationships are based on mutual care-taking. We have to take care of each other.”
Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits. Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym, it takes you a while to build that habit, but it’s so rewarding once you’ve nailed it.
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