You may have sworn to love your spouse in sickness and in health, but most marriage vows don’t address the common problem of getting stuck in a rut sexually. We reached out to 14 of the world’s top relationship experts to bring you some helpful tips that will keep your marriage hot even in the chilliest of slumps.
April Masini, known to millions for her 'Ask April' relationship advice column, reminds us that great sex in marriage doesn’t always “just happen.” Often it requires effort and creativity. Think back to when you were trying to make a good impression on those early dates and rekindle that vibe.
“Strategic planning is part of keeping the X in your sex life. Things don’t always fall into place, but if you set the stage, they’re much more likely to. For instance, create the mood with music, candles and other nice lighting and wear what you think he or she will find attractive. Light a fire in the fireplace, have the wine or champagne chilled and don’t worry about what’s for dinner — have take out ready to go. You’ll be setting the stage for sex without indicating so.”
April suggests an upgrade on the traditional date. “If you’re both stressed, consider a massage instead of a movie. Either do it yourselves, or hire someone to come in…and then leave! Make your dinner and a movie date a light take-out sushi, sensuous couples massage and some crisp wine or cocktails that aren’t too syrupy or sweet, to create a mood for sex.”
The effectiveness of smart planning is echoed by Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels, co-authors of Partners in Passion. They acknowledge the difference between spontaneous sex and a precalculated rendezvous, but admit that in today’s hectic world a bit of planning can pay off in the bedroom.
“Schedule at least two erotic encounters a week for the next month. It’s up to you whether these encounters include orgasms for one or both of you. Take note of how this affects your general level of desire. We suggest that couples take extra-long lunch breaks so that they can meet at home for an early afternoon tryst. This type of weekly ritual keeps partners feeling hot for each other.”
While spontaneity is often equated with romance, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re not already part of a plan, as Patricia Johnson points out. “For most couples, dating is effectively a form of engaging in scheduled sex. Even if sex in this context feels spontaneous, it has actually been planned. Thus, scheduling sex is okay for most people, in certain contexts, provided they don’t openly acknowledge the scheduling.”
While no sexpert will deny the importance of touching as a key component in intimate sexual relations, relationship coach and author Lisa Hayes points out that touching outside of sex is just as vital to a steamy romance.
“When two people first meet they can't keep their hands off of each other. They hold hands when they sit next to each other. They snuggle on the sofa when they watch TV. They touch in passing as often as they can. They crave the touch and that kind of touch fuels sexual desire. As a relationship progresses and life takes over, that kind of touch tends to diminish. But you want the fire in the bedroom to continue to burn hot.
Nonsexual touch defines two people as a couple even more than sex does. It stimulates oxytocin production which is the bonding brain chemical. Foreplay starts way before you take your clothes off. Nonsexual intimate touch is a very important part of foreplay and it should be happening all day everyday. When it's happening, two people are far more open to each other both emotionally and physically.”
When we asked Lisa Hayes for marriage advice that doesn’t involve touching, she was quick to point out that what you discuss (and don’t discuss) as a couple can impact your relationship in unusual ways.
“Both sex and money are often very charged topics, however couples will find a way to talk about or fight about money a lot. It's very common for sex to be a topic that is almost taboo between two people who sleep together and share a life. I'm always surprised by what people can't talk about when it comes to their bodies. Sex needs to be something that a couple can discuss freely if their sex life is going to evolve. If a sex life doesn't evolve it will die.”
But how can couples open up about subjects that they may not be comfortable talking about? Apparently practice is the key. Hayes says, “The easiest way to normalize the subject of sex is to talk about it a lot. Even if you can't talk about your sex life, you can still talk about sex in general. You can always tell what a couple's priorities are by noticing how much time they spend discussing anything. Kids, jobs, and money are usually on the top of the list. Sex needs to be there at the top if two people are going to stay connected.”
Relationship therapy team Judith Claire and Frank Wiegers are the authors of So THAT'S Why They Do That! Men, Women and Their Hormones. They agree with Ms. Hayes’s advice on initiating an open dialog about sex with your spouse.
“Communicating about sex can be difficult for some while others want to talk about it all of the time. It's not a good idea to have serious sex talks while you are in the process of making love. The only talk you want during the lovemaking process is words of love and endearment. If there are some issues that you want to resolve around you sex life, it's best to broach the subject somewhere else -- like the living room or better yet on a walk or over coffee. A fun way to start is to ask each other for five fun things that you like about sex and then follow up with five things that you don't like about sex.”
Lifestyle strategist Natalie Blais has a different opinion of phones and computers. “Rather than viewing technology as something that takes away from a relationship, couples can use it to draw closer, enhance the romance and keep their relationship on track and sexy.”
While this advice may seem contrary to the experts who tell you to unplug, Blais has a more realistic approach to how you can turn your electronic device into a relationship saver. “Couples in 2015 need to learn how to use technology to their advantage! With the ability to video chat, text, message, Facebook, tweet and so much more, it is monumentally easier to stay close, connected and intimate.”
When asked for examples of what sort of content works best, Natalie explains. “If you took one minute each day to send your mate a sexy text message, a short mini strip tease video, a quick series of photos imagining your sexual encounter that coming evening, whatever the mood strikes you. Leverage the tools that are literally at your fingertips to keep those interactions red hot. Couples who are flirty, fun and playful will stand the test of time and the test of their relationship.”
When we asked Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Judy Rosenberg for her advice on how to keep your marriage hot, she came back with this fun acronym for S.E.X.Y.
S is for safety- Without safety, emotional and otherwise, you can't have a marriage. Safety means protecting your spouse's feelings.
E is for energy - You have to invest energy into your marriage, sexual and otherwise. It's not 50/50, it's 100/100 percent.
X is for X factor - It's the wildcard. Surprise your spouse in the way that makes the person feels X-tra special: flowers, surprise sexual romps, picnics, trips, etc.
Y is for yes - Forget the computer and cell phone, and spend quality time with your loved one. Try to eliminate “No, I don’t have time” from your vocabulary for a bit and just say yes, as long as it’s not offensive or abusive.
“Remember, SEXY is the relationship -- mind, body and soul,” says Rosenberg. “SEXY is when all three come together to enhance each person and create a 1+1=3, meaning that the collective we becomes more than who we are individually.”
Cammi Balleck, author of Happy, The New Sexy, advises couples to “accept each other for who they are and don't try to change each other.” She explains that people can strengthen their bonds in simple ways. “Express appreciation everyday for one thing. Do activities that you did together when you fell in love. My husband and I fell in love climbing mountains. Every time we climb it brings our sexy back.”
Balleck’s advice about finding activities that bond you and your partner is cosigned by many relationship experts, such as parenting coach Monique Prince. She takes the tip a step further and suggests couples “Be brave and try new things together. Whether it's a game of checkers or sky diving, do something together often.”
Prince makes an excellent point that often gets overlooked when planning dates with your mate. “Don't keep dates for night time only. If Sunday is your only day off, Sunday afternoon can be your date night -- or a weekday morning. Be open to different times of day to have a date with your spouse.”
Dates don’t have to be elaborate, it’s the togetherness that counts. Prince mentions one free date idea that can do wonders for a marriage. “Take a walk and ask about the best part and worst part of the other's day. Listen to each other's needs and meet them.” Once your partner feels appreciated, intimacy will follow, and often the sex will be improved.
“Sex separates the married from the unmarried so have a ball. Make love a lot and in a variety of places. Back rubs, massages, and taking a tub or shower together is wonderful,” says Prince. “Make sure both feel satisfied sexually, emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
Need some inspiration to get on the right track? We’ve got you covered - these 21 sexy date ideas will work with any budget (including no budget), and will have you cozied up to your partner in no time.
“Nothing beats boredom in the marriage more than a sexy romp of ‘Doctor and Nurse’,” says Sandy Daley, relationship columnist and author of Whose Vagina Is It, Really? “Plus this gets you out of character and you might learn a thing or two about your partner's likes and dislikes.”
Daley urges people to not be afraid of experimenting. “Couples need to let themselves be 'uncomfortable' during intimacy. Only through experimentation are they able to get to a higher place. Of course, there should always be the opportunity to stop if you begin to feel too uncomfortable during any intimate act.”
On the topic of playing out your fantasies, Judith Claire concurs. “Role playing games are fun. Try scenarios such as pizza man and horny housewife, teacher and pupil, doctor/patient, sheik/harem girl, cowboy/schoolmarm or cop/hooker. Costumes can be fun too. Light B&D (bondage and discipline) with cuffs and ropes including light spanking can also be exciting.”
One common theme that several of our pros hit upon is the effectiveness of lingerie and kinky costumes to help the ladies feel sexy and confident while offering their spouse some arousing eye candy that signifies an evening is about to heat up.
Relationship expert Hope A. Rising puts this theory to the test in her own relationship. “Once or twice a month I like to go to the adult store and buy sexy costumes, then create a theme around the costume. My guy never knows when he comes home who is going to greet him at the door or what the evening holds for him.”
Our resident sexologist, Dr. Jess gave similar advice in a recent AskMen interview with Aly Walansky. “I work at a few erotic resorts in the Caribbean (Desire Resorts and Hedonism II) and the couples have so much fun picking their outfits and dressing up that they can't help but reignite the spark!”
Dr. Jess understands the psychology behind roleplaying, and offers this interesting tidbit of information:
"Oftentimes, the most appealing roles are those that stray most significantly from our lived reality. If you manage great responsibility at work or in the home, you may derive great pleasure from indulging in a submissive role. And if you spend most of your days catering to everyone else’s needs, playing a selfish role may be the perfect escape from reality.”
Although Tiffany Mason, a life coach who specializes in “designing a meaningful marriage,” didn’t see the advice that the rest of our relationship panel offered -- her actionable tips perfectly summarize and reiterate what the others suggest for keeping your marriage hot:
● Drink a glass of wine and eat a piece of chocolate with your partner
● Turn off the television and light some candles
● Surprise your spouse by giving them a back massage before they fall asleep
● Dress up in a sexy lingerie when your husband comes home from work
● Send your lover a naked photo of yourself
So what’s the secret to keeping the passion burning in your marriage? Apparently it boils down to being open, giving, playful, committed, bold, creative and, of course, keeping your sex sessions well lubricated. Do you have any tips that have worked to keep your marriage hot over the years? If so, please share your own secrets to marital bliss by tweeting us @Astroglide!
Images are for illustrative purposes only.