Sex Special: How you can... Detox your sex life
If you want to rekindle things in the bedroom, it's time to flush out the toxic problems. Here, sex therapist Eithne Bacuzzi tells Gillian Fitzpatrick what men and women need to know to revitalise their relationship…
January is the month for lifestyle changes - when we examine with a discerning eye our diet and exercise routines. And while being healthier can certainly boost your prowess between the sheets, should we prioritise a bedroom detox over trips to the gym and clean-eating?
A sex or dating detox will "impact your mind and body, enabling you to reset, rewire, and ultimately rejuvenate your love life," says Ian Kerner, author of the best-selling Sex Detox. "Turn off the noise, take a necessary pause, and rebuild your love life from the inside out."
He adds that those in a relationship need to view their sexual history "not just as a series of physical encounters, but rather as a unique and vital part of your identity, which needs to be nurtured and fed in healthy ways."
It's something that Eithne Bacuzzi, a psycho-sexual therapist with Relationships Ireland, applauds. With more than 20 years' experience in the area, she is viewed as being one of Ireland's leading relationship counsellors. "It's not unusual for a couple to sit in front of me and tell me that they haven't had sex in five years. That is actually surprisingly common.
"When you get to that stage it is very difficult to initiate intimacy again - so taking a step back, reviewing the sex that you had in the past, and then asking yourself what you need sexually from your husband or wife in the future should be paramount."
Here, Eithne reveals the top things that men and women should know about giving the other pleasure.
WHAT MEN SHOULD KNOW
Value me outside of the bedroom too:
Women really need to be loved, cared for, respected and valued outside the bedroom before you ever get between the sheets. Compliment her throughout the day - just because you've been together for years doesn't mean you should get complacent. If she feels more confident and self-assured because you pay proper attention to her on a day-to-day basis, she is far more likely to want regular sex. Of course women are physical; they want to be desired - but they also want to feel loved.
Physical contact shouldn't always be about sex:
A lot of women tell me that when their husbands begin hugging and kissing them, they suspect that they're only looking for one thing. So don't make your partner feel used; otherwise the result can be that women try to avoid all physical contact of any sort. So kiss and cuddle her regularly to show affection without any expectation of getting something in return.
Frilly underwear makes me feel good:
She's spent time buying something special for the bedroom, she's wearing it for you, of course, but she's also wearing it for herself because it makes her feel good. So don't try and jump on top of her and rip it off immediately. And the last thing you want is for her to feel silly.
We can't patch up our problems in bed:
A lot of men are programmed to hop into bed to solve a niggling issue with their partners - it's sometimes easier than having to talk things out or face up to specifics. But women will need these problems to be properly addressed. If she feels mistreated or that you've wronged her, it will be difficult to maintain regular sex.
Courtship goes a long way still:
Women don't need flowers, chocolates and jewellery every week - but even taking the time to buy your spouse a coffee or a glass of wine will go a long way to show that you quintessentially care deeply for her. You don't have to have a lot of money; even saying "the kids have gone to bed, I'm making you dinner this evening" will be greatly valued.
Prioritise gentle caressing:
When you get between the sheets, take your time and don't try to rush through the movements. Put thoughts of immediate, penetrative sex out of your mind, and focus on kissing and caressing her. Her lips, neck and breasts are erogenous zones. Stroke her hair and don't forget to play with her ears. In the bedroom it's too easy for the sensual aspects of sex to be forgotten about.
We don't always know what we want:
It isn't just a matter of show and tell. Especially after years of marriage and the arrival of children, not every woman is going to know exactly what works and what makes her tick. Explore and learn together instead of putting her on the spot and demanding she answer: "What do you want me to do?"
It's difficult to be a mistress, mother and a wife all at once:
Women are good at multi-tasking, but they don't necessarily find it easy to navigate through the roles of mistress, mother and wife easily. If your wife has put a screaming toddler to bed, has baby vomit in her hair and has just packed away the dishwasher, you might find it challenging to whip her up the stairs and into the bedroom. Recognise that she doesn't have a magic switch that allows her to park her alternative identities in a flash.
WHAT WOMEN SHOULD KNOW
If you reject us, we will take it personally:
Men equally feel rejected if their wives aren't open to intimacy. They'll over-think the issue, and probably assume that it's them - asking questions like "is she seeing someone else?", or "am I not attractive?" Be mindful of your actions and how you communicate with your husband. Rejection is just about the worst thing for romance, love and passion - so women need to create the time and space to be attentive to their partners.
It's not fun having sex with someone who's not into it:
A lot of men try to have as much sex as possible - but it's not exactly enjoyable if one party is lying there totally unengaged. Women shouldn't assume that any sex is better than nothing and that if he's getting something then your sex life isn't an issue. Couples need to meet in the middle and really get to know each other again. Things like showering together or massage are good ways to reconnect without full sex.
We'd love you to think outside the box:
Yes porn can cause a lot of problems in a marriage, but - as the likes of Fifty Shades Of Grey has proven in recent years - an erotic film or erotic literature experienced together can be a wonderful thing to reignite frolics. Women should be open to suggestions and unafraid to try something fresh. Exploring and discovering new things together is a fantastic way to work out what makes each other tick.
We're able to switch lanes very quickly:
Men are more inherently able to switch on their sex drive. Sometimes this can come across as clumsy or insensitive - there's an argument about a bill or taking out the bins and then five minutes later he's raring to go. Women can learn not to take this too personally, or jump to the conclusion that he's just being tactless.
Dressing up can be fun:
Fantasies can be fun to investigate together. Some fantasies should stay just that: a daydream that will never be realised. But others are more realistic. Men are intrinsically visual and love to see their wife dressed in a sexy outfit, like a short uniform. You don't have to take things too seriously - but instead of buying lingerie, consider picking up something little more risqué.
Sometimes we have to be told to take a shower:
Men sweat; if your husband is running around, jumping in and out of his car and working in a stuffy office, it makes sense that he might not be fresh as a daisy at the end of the day. If he needs to shower, he can be told so in a non-judgemental way. That's certainly preferable to a woman just rejecting her husband's advances outright because she doesn't think he smells very nice.
Performance anxiety is a very real thing:
Men want to be desired and want to please their partners, but no matter how much of a song and a dance they put on, almost all of them feel inadequate at some stage. And single men don't always want to have sex on the first date either. Unrealistically high expectations can lead to men developing erectile dysfunctions so women need to be sensitive to such issues.
EXERCISES TO KICKSTART YOUR LOVE LIFE
Yoga: Being flexible will help both men and women in the bedroom - and yoga is the perfect route to supple muscles.
Spin: A high-intensity workout will get your heart racing, allowing you to burn fat and increase your stamina. It will also clear your head and banish stress - things that play havoc on bedroom ability.
Squats: These can be done at home and will tone your legs and buttocks, but they also encourage blood-flow to your nether regions. Aim to complete a set of 30.
Weight-lifting: A great way to improve overall health and wellbeing, as well as making bodies more toned. Weight-bearing exercises also naturally increase levels of healthy testosterone in both sexes.
Kegels: We usually associated Kegel exercises with women - but they're important for men, too. Contract and relax your pelvic muscles regularly, and then reap the benefits between the sheets.
Foods to fuel your sex drive
If your libido has taken a turn for the worst, you might want to examine what's on your dinner-plate. "Extra fat can produce excess estrogen, which imbalances your hormones," says Dr Susan Lark, author of Dr Susan Lark's Hormone Revolution.
Dr Malcolm Carruthers of Harley Street's Centre For Men's Health in London warns that "men as young as 30-years-old are now showing signs of low testosterone." Meanwhile, almost half of all pre-menopausal women have experienced low sex drive at least once - meaning you're never too young to overhaul your diet in order to boost your bedroom antics.
Red grapes: The skin on red grapes contains resveratrol, which makes for hardier sperm. For both sexes, red grapes are packed full of antioxidants, which contribute to healthy cells and stimulate circulation in genital areas.
Oysters: It's true - oysters are an aphrodisiac, largely because they contain high levels of zinc, a mineral necessary for the production and release of sex hormones in both men and women. Alternative sources include cashews, chicken, and chickpeas.
Orange juice: Vitamin D almost doubles testosterone, according to one Austrian study. A vitamin D deficiency can cause estrogen levels in women to drop, which will result in a low sex drive - so start your day with a glass of orange juice.
Garlic: Not what you want for a first date - but since ancient times a garlic-rich diet has been touted as a way to increase libido. There's science behind the theory too: it is packed with allicin, a compound which increases blood flow and dilates blood vessels.
Eggs: Whatever way you like them, eggs are high in vitamins B5 and B6,which boost sex drive and effectively regulate hormone levels.