Secrets to a happy and healthy sex life
Stuck in a sex rut? Break free with these tips to get the passion flowing again (and keep it going in the long term)
Improve your sex life
"Sexuality's not the sort of thing where what worked for you when you were 14 is going to work when you're 25 or 40," says Sarah Forbes-Robert, a worker-owner at Toronto co-operative sex shop Come As You Are. "It's a constant exploration of new ideas."
So if you feel like you're stuck in a rut when it comes to your sex life, you're not alone - or unusual. After all, with the pressures of a busy work and home life, who has time to research sex positions?
But if you're not putting effort in - and that goes for both of you - then you're doing yourself and your relationship a disservice, says Forbes-Robert. "You don't want to keep doing the same thing over and over again - it's not good for anybody," she says. "Trying new things - and using new muscle groups - are all very healthy for sexuality."
"If you're comfortable communicating with each other, even to the point of saying, 'My needs aren't being met this month, we need to pick it up,' I think that's a good sexual relationship," says Jodi Sirota, a therapist at Calgary's Hersh Centre for Sexual Wellness.
Not comfortable having those kinds of discussions? It might be the first thing you need to work on. One strategy Forbes-Robert suggests to make things easier is to read something titillating, whether together or separately, and share your favourite scenes. "Erotica can be a great way to find new things that your partner enjoys."
Try: The Best Women's Erotica series offers stories for all tastes.
Ditch goal-oriented thinking
Has sex become a chore on your to-do list rather than a fun diversion? Forbes-Robert suggests shifting the focus of one-on-one time altogether. You might say, for instance, "Tonight I'm going to give you a massage and if it goes there it goes there, if it's doesn't it's still something sensual we do together."
Sirota agrees, and notes that gift-giving is another way couples can get stuck in a rut - and find a place to freshen things up. "If every year it's the same thing, a dozen red roses and you get taken to Olive Garden, then you can up it and say, 'let's try something different,'" she says. For instance, she suggests, forget dinner out altogether, and spend the money instead on a hotel room.
Try: Ignite Me Massage Candles are soy-based and melt at a low temperature so you can drip them freely without getting burned.
Don't fear the vibrator
Sirota notes that she speaks to many people who are afraid of incorporating sex toys into their relationships - which she things is an attitude that needs to change. "If you want a sex toy, it's because you want more enjoyment," she says. "Who wouldn't want to incorporate more enjoyment? It's like feeling guilty because you want a couple of drinks with your dinner."
Forbes-Robert recommends starting with something small and inexpensive, such an external vibrator. "Sometimes there's an assumption that vibrators are for women only or not for people to use together, but it can be a great way for people to find out what areas are sensitive," she says.
Try: The waterproof, four-speed bSwish bNaughty comes in colour choices for the anti-pink.
Stop aiming for perfection
"Are you ever going to hit a point where you know everything in life?" asks Sirota. "I don't think there's anything that's perfection." Instead, what's important is to focus on the process - after all, what else is a relationship but a shared journey?
One thing that often changes for women - especially tied to hormonal changes - is natural lubrication, which is an easy problem to fix. "We talk about lube as a sex toy that people don't think about as a sex toy," says Forbes-Robert. "It can make sex more pleasurable for everybody."
Try: Come As You Are's Lube Sampler, a selection of their favourite water- and silicone-based lubricants, so you can find what works for you.
Get comfortable with change
"Our sex life does change over the years as we go through menopause, pregnancy, new jobs, living in different parts of the country" and other life changes, says Forbes-Robert. In other words, it's normal for your body's responses to stimulation - not to mention your mind's - to be different now than they were a year ago, not to mention five or 10.
"It is important to break routine," says sexologist Jessica O'Reilly - and that applies both inside and outside the bedroom. "Salsa dancing? Hiking? Spending quality time together trying something new encourages fun and intimacy."
Try: The waterproof We-Vibe 3 vibrator, which can be worn during intercourse to stimulate both partners - and comes with a man-friendly remote control.
Rather than surprising your partner with a new collection of sex toys, both Forbes-Robert and Sirota recommend exploring what's out there together. "We recommend conversation first rather than surprising someone," Forbes-Robert says.
Instead of handcuffs, for instance, you might give them a gift certificate to a sex shop, whether you intend to go in person or shop online. "You never know what you're going to like and what you're going to see," says Sirota. "Go with your partner and ask, 'What do you think it is - do you think you'd like that?' If there's something new, there's a whole other world."
Try: Come As You Are lists gift ideas that won't threaten, as well as gift certificates to be used in-store or online.