Q: I’ve been with my husband for almost 15 years. We used to experiment a lot but, for the past few years, things in the bedroom have been very quiet. He did have some health issues which impacted our sex life but that’s under control now. I loved how wild we were, and he says he wants to explore that side of us again, but it just hasn’t happened. I am itching to expand our sex life, which is otherwise OK, but I don’t want ‘OK’ — I want ‘out of this world’. We aren’t new to things like kink, but we have to get back into things. When we do have sex, it is great and we both tell each other we enjoy it, but then it doesn’t happen again for ages. How do we keep that energy going and refocus? We say we will, and then it just fizzles away.
Dr West replies: It is great that you both are on the same page about wanting to explore, as many couples struggle with this. It is also natural for our sex lives to ebb and flow, especially if there are health issues. Perhaps your husband would benefit from another medical check-up, and that might ease any anxiety around that aspect of his health. Relationships have to be worked at, and it is so common that we can fall into a comfortable state where we take each other for granted and get through the day together. Making sex and intimacy a priority rather than something that happens randomly can help bring you closer, and while it’s very easy to sit on our couch and scroll through our phones, that doesn’t help our sex lives.
Think back on your wilder days. What was it about those encounters that really did it for you? Was it the activity or the connection you had with your now husband? The excitement of planning a date and preparing outfits, toys etc? The freedom from responsibilities or date nights?
That sense of excitement of looking forward to a date can be regained and built upon. If you are still interested in exploring a kinkier side to your pleasure, you can add some accoutrements to your bedroom play. Kink can cost a lot, and there are plenty of high-end toys and equipment that you can invest in, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Take a trip to a homeware store and see if you can find items that you can use in your sex life. These are called pervertables and can include items such as spatulas, elastic bands, furry gloves, wooden spoons etc. These everyday items can be incorporated into sensation play, whether that is impact play or soft tactile play. Your limit is your imagination, and it can be fun to traipse around the shop spotting what you can use.
If you wish to go more high-end, something you might consider when Covid restrictions allow and it is safe to do so, is to book a trip abroad to an adults-only club. Nobody knows you, so you are free to indulge in an adult environment that might be a kink club, a swinger’s night, or whatever niche appeals — there really is an event for everyone. Check out the reviews of the place, bring extra money for taxi fare, a change of clothes, and snacks. Snacks might seem a little odd but if you are getting your kink on in an unfamiliar environment, your blood sugars can drop, and you don’t want to have to scramble around trying to find a spot for food.
For a different kind of weekend away, you don’t have to go anywhere that is an expressly sexual place. A week away on the coast or in nature will allow you to reconnect with each other while your senses are stimulated by nature. There is a Japanese philosophy of looking after yourself by taking a ‘nature bath’. Obviously, this is not quite an actual bath in nature, but it means being immersed in nature so that every sense is refreshed by the natural world and we feel connected to ourselves and the earth again. Not to mention the wonders of fresh air to revive us. That sense of stripping away all distractions can help you find the space to reconnect with each other on an intimate level. Or if a week away is out of reach, a simple date night each week that is just for you two will give you back that sense of anticipation.
It could also be an opportunity to take some online classes, buy some new sex education books and toys, or listen to some podcasts. Both of you could also spruce up your lingerie and underwear collection, and the excitement of buying presents and trying them out will add some anticipation to your everyday life. Creating a checklist of activities will help you talk about what you want to try out and when.
The ‘when’ is important as you have said that both you and your partner want to improve your sex life but it hasn’t happened. This can be due to being tired or caught up in the demands of everyday life. If you used to have sex at night, try it in the morning or on a lunch break if feasible, and that may help get your libido up and running again. Modern life can be quite stressful and the pressure to find the time to have sex can add to stress. However, if it is viewed as a nurturing, self-care time that is scheduled in or prioritised, that can help you make that time happen. It doesn’t always have to be full sex either. Sometimes a quickie that only features oral sex, for example, can be exciting and increase your desire while boosting your mood.
Consciously working on pleasure has the benefit of enhancing a relationship overall, and if you embrace this process together, it won’t just be your orgasms that become more frequent, but your sense of connection will grow too.
Dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr West regrets she cannot answer questions privately