We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: how to stay sexually connected in a longterm relationship.
Q: “I married my high school sweetheart, so we’ve been together forever even though we’re both still young. Our relationship is fantastic in every way except for when it comes to sex. We’re both outgoing outside of the bedroom, but we get so shy and reserved once the clothes come off. The sex itself really isn’t that bad (phew!), but we just don’t feel very connected to each other. Maybe one way of saying it is that it doesn’t feel like ‘us,’ if that makes any sense. How can we get connected during sex?“
A: Thanks for the question! I get some version of this question pretty frequently. A lot of people believe that their sexual connection will develop naturally, but I think it actually requires ongoing effort. Just as you and your partner have had to work on other aspects of your relationship, you have to work on being yourselves in the bedroom. Here are 11 steps towards more connected sex.
1. Think About What You Want
First, you should get a little more clarity about what you’re wanting from your sex life. Sometimes when we get anxious about our sex lives, we let the anxiety take control and we don’t take the time to think about what we actually want.
What does “disconnected” sex feel like? What does “connected” mean to you? What are the specific qualities that you and your partner possess outside of the bedroom that you want to bring into the bedroom? For example, you might be able to identify that you’d like to be more playful, or more present, or more passionate. If you have any favorite sexual memories together, look to those for inspiration. What, specifically, made the sex so great in those instances?
2. Look At Potential Blockages
You may also find it helpful to think about any particular blockages you might have to intimacy. Are you aware of anything that has made it hard for you to connect with each other? Maybe you and/or your partner grew up being taught that sex was bad or dirty. Maybe one or both of you have experienced sexual abuse. Maybe you have insecurities about your body or your sexual technique.
To be clear, all of us have hang-ups about sex, so don’t feel bad if you start identifying blockages. Having awareness of them is the first step towards letting go of them.
3. Share Your Goals
You want to make sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you want. Has he mentioned feeling disconnected too? I’d suggest saying something like, “I enjoy the sex we have but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s you and me in the bedroom. Do you ever feel that?” Tell him about your favorite sexual memories, for example, “remember that time we were in Mexico? It felt like we were so goofy and spontaneous. I loved it.”
4. Talk About Sex More
It sounds like there’s some level of discomfort around sex that you and your husband both feel. One of the best ways to get more comfortable with sex in general is to talk about it more frequently. Sex shouldn’t be something you only talk about when things are going poorly. Try to have lots of small conversations about it. Whenever you see an article that intrigues you, send it over to him and ask for his thoughts. Read past sex advice columns to him out-loud and ask what advice he would give. If you see a sexy scene in a TV show or movie, tell your partner what you liked about it.
Masturbation offers you a great opportunity to practice being more connected in the moment. You’re literally connected to your body through touch. When you masturbate, try to really pay attention to what it feels like to touch yourself. Notice any thoughts, sensations, or feelings that come up for you. You can also play around with ways of feeling more like yourself when you masturbate. What are your favorite ways to touch yourself? How do you like to set the mood?
6. Set Yourselves Up For Success
It’s hard to feel present with each other if you’re distracted by your cell phones ringing, the pile of papers in the corner of the room, or thoughts of your to-do list. If you want to feel connected to your partner during sex, it helps to set the scene.
Clean your bedroom and remove all the clutter. Light some candles and dim the lights. Spend some time unwinding together. Keep in mind that you don’t have to take this step too seriously — sometimes a friendly wrestling match is a great way to get more relaxed!
7. Play Music
You’d be surprised by what a big effect music can have. Most people try to create “sexy” playlists that wind up feeling too over the top. Don’t put on the R&B jams if you’re more of a Motown kinda girl. Play music that actually makes you feel sexy or puts you in the mood. Bonus — music also helps fill in those awkward moments of silence.
8. Keep The Conversation Going In The Bedroom
Hopefully all of the little conversations about sex outside of the bedroom will make it easier to talk while you’re actually having sex. You don’t need to have a full-blown conversation mid-thrust, but it helps to give each other little compliments or pieces of feedback. Even simple things like, “I love you,” “that feels so good,” or “hey there” (said with a sexy smile) can help you feel more connected to each other. This is another thing that doesn’t need to be so serious. Call him by a silly nickname or remind him of an inside joke.
9. Make Eye Contact
One of the fastest, most effective ways of feeling connected in the moment is to make eye contact. So many couples avoid eye contact during sex because it can feel so intimate and vulnerable. But that’s precisely what you need to feel connected. Try catching your partner's eye and giving him a little smile.
10. Expect An Ebb And Flow
Throughout all of this, it’s important to have reasonable expectations. It’s tricky to stay connected the entire time, every time during sex. Your mind naturally wanders. Vulnerable moments inevitably come up. As long as your overall experience is positive, it’s OK to have moments of disconnect.
11. Remember To Laugh
Let’s face it — sometimes sex is just plain awkward! Someone will fart, a position will feel weird, he’ll slip out, or the cat will pounce on you. Don’t freak out if you have an awkward moment. Sometimes the best thing you can do to regain your connection in the moment is to giggle with each other and keep truckin.’
Images: Bustle; Giphy