Shaking up your sex life isn't a one-time thing. But it can be really hard to get the ball rolling if you're unsatisfied in bed and don't know why, or what to do about it. Luckily, sometimes an honest check-in with yourself can be a really big step on the road to some really great sex.
"There is absolutely a taboo around admitting you want a change in your sex life," health and wellness coach Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "This is because society has helped to perpetuate the myth that sexual frustration is something to be ashamed of. ... This could not be further from the truth." Being proactive, it turns out, is super sexy.
It can be hard to tell, though, whether you need a change. Satisfaction is a completely subjective pursuit, and our libido levels change for various reasons throughout our lives. That's why it's important to check in with yourself, and your partner, consistently. "In any long-term relationship, I feel a shake up or being proactive is an on going process," Dr. Dawn Michael, Certified Clinical Sexologist & Sexuality Counselor, tells Bustle. "When I counsel couples about improving their sex lives, I explain to them that changing things up and checking in with each other often can help with sexual boredom." And who wants to be bored doing one of the most fun things possible?
Here are nine signs it's time to shake up your sex life, according to experts.
1. Everything's Great, Except The Sex
It can be difficult to bring up that you want a change if everything else is going great. "[People become undersatisfied when] the relationship they are in is good except for the sex and they don't want to rock the boat and create an issue about it so they just endure or do the duty, so to speak," Dr. Michael says. But bringing up what's bothering you is an important part of any healthy relationship.
"It is generally the people in relationships who are capable of [admitting they're unsatisfied] who stay in their relationships and the people who try to work around this problem who end up losing their partner," Backe says. Not talking about it is not necessarily the kiss of death, but bringing it up likely won't hurt. Suggest trying a new position this month, or discuss new things to explore that you are both comfortable with.
2. You Know You Want More, But Haven't Admitted It
If you know you need a shake-up but aren't willing to admit it to yourself, this is your sign. "Most people realize [they're unsatisfied], but many are not honest with themselves about it," Dr. Michael says. "When you're in a relationship, being sexually unsatisfied is an uncomfortable truth that a lot of people [don't want] to confront. They'll simply ignore the elephant in the room until the problem boils over, which is never a healthy way to deal with relationship issues." You may be worried that accepting that you want more from sex might be something you shouldn't discuss, but that is not the case.
"In our culture, it is expected that adults know everything about what makes sex good, and if we don't then we often label ourselves or others 'bad in bed.' So admitting you want to change your sex life often feels like admitting 'I'm bad at sex.' But that couldn't be further from the truth," Ren Grabert, M.Ed., Sex Educator, tells Bustle. In fact, the first step to learning what you like, and developing a healthy, enjoyable sex life is opening up the discussion.
So admit to yourself, then your partner that you want a change. "Plan a sex date at least once a month where you check in with each other and do something fun and different," Dr. Michael says. Then you can get the ball rolling by introducing a new toy to the bedroom next time, or add some more weekday sex into the mix, as long as you both discussed it and are comfortable with it.
3. You Think Sex Isn't That Big Of A Deal
Sex is important. And a lack of pleasure or excitement is not something to skirt around. "It really varies with people but with some long-term relationships there is a complacency that can take place, where the notion of 'I will deal with this tomorrow' idea comes into play and that can prolong being unsatisfied," Dr. Michael says. So even if it feels like a low priority, it might be time to shake things up.
Confusing your priorities about pleasure is perfectly common. "Most of us get little to no sex ed in school, and it's almost unheard of to learn about pleasure in school sex ed," Grabert says. "So most adults are struggling to figure out why they aren't experiencing pleasure the way they want to." So keep it open, playful, exploratory, and always check in to make sure everyone is on board. This is something worth paying attention to.
4. You've Stopped Talking About Sex With Your Partner
Open communication is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship, and communicating about sex is a really important part of that. Once you stop talking about your sex life, things can get unsatisfying pretty fast. "The longer a couple is together it gets harder to talk about not being satisfied because there is this notion that they should know everything about each other," Dr. Michael says. "This is not the case and bodies change over time as well as what turns a person on." No matter how long you've been together, it's vital to check in with one another. Desires and needs change; that's part of the fun of being with someone, so keep the dialogue open, and discuss the ways you're looking to shake things up.
5. You're In A Porn Rut
Watching porn is just fine, but if it's getting in the way of your ability to enjoy real-life pleasure, then it may be time for a change. "All too often, individuals will consume pornography and other forms of media which give them an inflated or unrealistic sense of what can and should be satisfying them sexually," Backe says. While porn can definitely heighten your sex life, take note if your expectations seem to be too high as a result. If that's the case, it may be time to switch up your porn habits for a time and seeing how things feel.
6. You Don't Look Forward To Sex
Another red flag is if you used to get super excited for some one-on-one time but no longer feel the same way. "Sex should be one of the highlights of your day, week and life," Backe says. "It is supposed to be fun, exciting and intimate for you and your partner. If you don't look forward to your next sexual encounter with your partner, it is a big red flag that something is troubling your sex life and a sign that underlying sexual issues need to be addressed." Once you're ready to make a change, try a game to spice things up, perhaps. And if you're noticing that your sex drive has dropped, grant yourself some honesty and forgiveness, and check in with yourself to see what might bring it up again.
7. Sex Always Happens On A Schedule
If your sexual routine is just that, a routine, then (chances are) you needs a bit of a shakeup. "Scheduled sex is often a necessary element of a busy work-life-family balance, but it shouldn't be the only form of sex that you and your partner are having," Backe says. "There's no replacing the hot and steamy spontaneous sexual encounters that couples can experience, and if it has been a long time since you've had one of those encounters, a certain spark is likely missing from your sex life." You can keep the spark alive with some honest conversation and emotional intimacy about the subject, but a change of scenery can't hurt either. Some good old-fashioned spontaneous car sex might be just what the doctor ordered.
8. You Aren't Allowing Yourself Enough Pleasure
Checking in with your pleasure levels is probably the most important thing when it comes to deciding whether your sex life needs a shakeup. Unfortunately, a lot of us might be out of touch when it comes to what really constitutes good sex.
"When asked how they define 'good sex' for the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, cis men usually said that good sex meant an orgasm (no mention of anything leading up to that orgasm — nothing about enjoying time with another person or bonding) and cis women said it meant sex without pain (no mention of pleasure at all). So clearly there are a lot of instances where people are unclear about their level of sexual satisfaction," Grabert says. So, ask yourself, are you really having fun in bed? And even if you are, is the excitement level where you want it to be?
"An important element of any healthy sex life is excitement," Backe says. "Sexual excitement by definition requires stimulation that sends neurons firing and blood flowing. It's important to be inventive in the bedroom so that new and exciting experiences and sensations successfully combat sexual dissatisfaction."
Even if you didn't learn about pleasure when first putting a condom on a banana, there's no reason not to do a little homework now. "The more research someone has done, or the more they talk to their friends about sex, the higher their sexual expectations tend to be," Grabert says. And who wouldn't want high sexual expectations?
As always, when it comes to sex, everything boils down to communication and honesty. It can be hard to admit that you need a change, but the rewards of shaking up your sex life are undeniable.