From my column in Body+Soul
Question: "My husband and I don't 'make love' any more, we seem to just get it over with. We've been married for 15 years and are pretty happy, all things considered. But we both work, and we have two young kids (both under 10), so there's not really much time or energy left over for a raging sex life. I don't necessarily want 'firework-sex' all the time, but I do hope we can get back to being more tender, more connected, and yes, do more cuddling afterwards! Where do we start?"
Answer: Your situation is so common. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a couple who have been together for 15 years with young kids who haven’t had to deal with the issues of limited time and energy and the impact it has on their sex life. I see couples like you every day at my clinic. The ‘we love each other but have lost our mojo’ clients would have to be my largest category of client.
It sounds like you understand the importance of sexual connection, and want to have sex, but want better quality. That’s a great place to start, some people just give up at this stage, so it’s good to hear that you haven’t. Sex, or as you rightly call it, making love, is an essential part of bonding as a couple and through that keeping the vital life force strong in each of you as individuals. Without it we feel disconnected, irritable and flat, as though life has lost its vibrancy.
But it has to be quality sex. Disconnected or obligation sex can make your relationship and your own sense of well-being worse, rather than better.
So, what is quality sex? It’s certainly not falling into bed late at night when you’re exhausted and rolling on top of each other for some ho-hum intercourse. That’s dullsville for most people, more like ‘getting each other off’ at best, and lying there hoping it will end soon at worst.
To move from ho-hum to quality is much more about approach than technique. Bear with me while I get a little scientific with you here. You can’t get into quality sex if your mind and body is at either end of the nervous system’s arousal scale, that’s either hyper-aroused, where you’re stressed, anxious, stuck in your head thinking, or at the other end of the scale, hypo-aroused, where you’re tired, checked out, vegging out in front of a screen.
So, here’s the big secret for ongoing great loving in a long-term relationship – you need to focus on a chilled build. What I mean by that is that you need to focus on connecting in a low-key way and allow the desire and arousal to build. Sex starts way before you get to the bedroom. In fact, sex should permeate the whole of your relationship. It starts with how you greet each other when you first wake in the morning, with a smile and a positive greeting. It continues throughout the day with small acts of kindness and interest. And it needs to finish with some quality ‘us’ time, what I call the couple bubble.
Once the kids are down, spend some time together where it’s just ‘you and me’. Sit on the couch, or on your bed, put the screens away, play some music, get snuggly facing each other, and have a good chat. Leave the logistics out of it, and focus on each other. Talk about hopes, dreams, interests, memories. Be interested in each other. It means you’re in each other’s presence enjoying each other’s company in a relaxed and engaged way. This is the perfect state you want to be in physically, mentally and emotionally to then move with tenderness, deliciousness, a real desire to take your connection to the ultimate level of your bodies uniting.
You can move into intimate, gorgeous lovemaking, then drift off in each other’s arms into a deep satisfying sleep.
Then wake to a loved-up, refreshed greeting, and so the positive feedback loop continues!