4 Ways to Have a More Lustful Marriage
World-renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth shares her top tips for getting back that lusting feeling.
Let’s be real: Married sex is not third-date sex
Take it from me: I’ve been married for a solid decade, and my husband and I dated for eight years before we tied the knot. It’s safe to say we’ve had a lot of sex, and it has changed just as much over the years.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to lament the bygone, carefree casual-dating days of my youth – the swipe-right chapter of my sex life. That thrill of sleeping with someone new and those incredibly hot, rip-the-other-person’s-clothes-off encounters that seem to go along with youth and a new-found lover are gone. But the truth is, I’m quite satisfied with the not-often-spontaneous, somewhat scripted, occasionally too occasional sex of midlife. It’s richer, more connected and somehow just as steamy as it was when we met in our 20s.
When it comes to long-term love, sexual desire is bound to ebb and flow. And sure, like most couples, we’ve had our share of dry spells. Sex definitely falls off the agenda when someone is sick, if one of us is working crazy hours or stress levels are skyrocketing, and certainly in the weeks and months after our kids were born. But with some work, we’ve always found our way back. After 18 years, we still have passionate sex.
I have no idea what goes on in other people’s bedrooms, but world-renowned psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer certainly does. She has been helping couples between the sheets for decades and written more than 40 books, including Sex for Dummies, which is now in its fourth edition. Dr. Ruth believes long-term love can and should be sexy, but you should expect to work at it. “A relationship has to be sustained, like a fire,” she says. “You have to make sure that the glow and spark continue.”
Read on for proven strategies to boost libido and keep you connected – and connecting.
(Also, check out what you need to know about sex in your 40s.)
1. Do it at the beginning of date night
If you’re saving sex for the end, you’re doing it wrong. Be honest: How sexy do you really feel after a big meal and a bottle of wine? If you plan to get busy after an evening out, chances are that one of you is going to play the “I’m too tired” card. The key to a successful date night is to have sex first, says Dr. Ruth. “If you have a sexual experience before – a quickie – then that takes the pressure off,” she says. “Then you can go out and have a nice dinner and, when you come back, hopefully have enough energy – enough desire – to have another sexual experience.”
Even if you’re not really in the mood at the beginning of the night, talking yourself into a quick encounter could really pay off. According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, when the partner who experiences low desire indulges the other person’s needs anyway, they experience a boost in feelings of intimacy. And increased intimacy typically results in more canoodling, so that’s a win-win.
(Psst: This is how many calories you burn during sex.)
2. Unplug and actually talk
Side-by-side scrolling, when you could be talking, cuddling or having sex, is clearly counterproductive. “What I’m worried about is that the art of conversation is being lost,” says Dr. Ruth. “Young people – millennials – are constantly on their iPhones. It’s going to be a huge problem because soon they won’t be able to have a conversation.”
Putting our phones down to actually talk – just talk – is the key to a healthy, active sex life. And those conversations should include the topic of sex, too. According to research published in BMJ Open, low libido was found to be associated with couples who lack emotional closeness and don’t talk openly about sex.
It’s too easy for our phones and tablets to become a way to avoid having tough conversations, in the bedroom and beyond. There’s also a danger of simply losing time – and the chance to connect – to the ’gram without even realizing it. Consciously putting the tech away at a certain time or banning phones from the bedroom, if necessary, can ensure that you give yourself time with your partner.
(Psst: Check out the most common sexual fantasies.)
3. Plan a "quickie" getaway
According to that same research published in BMJ Open, women are more likely to report low sexual desire if they have kids under five in their households. While having little ones crawl into bed with you can be conducive to lovely snuggle time for everyone, kids totally kill the urge to steam up the sheets. On so many levels, booking a night away from home – and household distractions of all kinds – is a smart way to up your chances of making a love connection.
Dr. Ruth recently teamed up with the travel site Hotwire to look at the benefits of “quickie” travel. According to the Hotwire Quickie Survey of 1,000 US adults, a whopping 86 percent of people agreed that they would be more adventurous in bed during an impromptu getaway. “Travel has always been one of the best ways to make new memories and reconnect with loved ones,” she says. “In today’s hectic world, it’s more important than ever that people take every opportunity to get away – to be spontaneous and make sure to have a quickie or two on the trip.”
(Psst: Here's how to have vacation sex all year.)
4. Dream big
When you’re back from your romantic weekend away, plan to do it all again. Or finally book that trip of a lifetime you’ve been talking about for years. Planning future adventures together, whether they’re travel related or not, is a chance to connect on a deeper level. “Pleasuring is not just sexual,” says Dr. Ruth. “It’s also psychological.”
In the meantime, use your last sexy getaway as fantasy fodder for a staycation or particularly hot Saturday night in. “If your getaway was successful, you can reconstruct that and do it at home,” says Dr. Ruth. “The important thing here is that you’re showing your partner that you’re in this together and willing to do some thinking in terms of your sexual encounters.” That could mean planning and cooking a romantic dinner for your partner, buying tickets to a play they want to see or taking them to check out the new coffee shop or wine bar on the corner. Whatever you do, include an element of surprise in your dates or evenings in together – at least from time to time, says Dr. Ruth.
(See what happens when couples stop having sex.)
Recognize the head-heart-libido connection
A few weeks ago, my husband came home from doing regular old weekend errands with a surprise bouquet of flowers for me. It was a small gesture, but it went a long way – all the way, actually. It all comes down to this powerful head-heart-libido connection. “What it means psychologically [when we surprise our partner] is that they thought about doing something to pleasure the other person,” says Dr. Ruth. Knowing that your partner is thinking about you, even just while passing a flower market, is super-sweet (and super hot), whether you’ve been together for 18 months or 18 years.
Next, check out these interesting sex facts you probably didn't know.