Lohani Noor, sex and relationship therapist on BBC Three’s Sex on the Couch answers your questions on sex and intimacy
I love my partner and we’re very happy, but, I am bored in the bedroom, and can't stand the thought of another 'vanilla' encounter. What can I do to mix things up without hurting their feelings?
With busy work/life schedules, it’s easy to fall into the monotony of repetition when it comes to sex in intimate relationships. Sometimes we don’t need another difficult discussion, we just need to take the lead and do something different. How would it feel to gently instigate exploration during sex by simple moving yourself into a new position? You could also invest in some lingerie or perhaps some sex toys to satisfy you and your partner. Your local sex shop will stock a selection of games designed to encourage intimacy, or you can get these online. If that feels too much, consider sending your partner a flirtatious text message telling them what you’d like to try.
My partner and I have very demanding jobs, so it can often feel like we don’t see each other. We love each other very much, but I can’t remember the last time we had sex. How can we make time to reignite this part of our relationship?
It sounds like you both need a date night. Don’t leave it to chance, and it’s likely it will never happen. A scheduled night together will give you both something to get excited about. I recommend that you take turns at inviting the other and setting the scene. As a general rule, ban all technology unless it’s in the service of the date (i.e. an erotic backdrop to your intimate encounter). Think about the sex you previously enjoyed together and see if you can re-enact a version of this. If you enjoyed sex in the car but now have young kids, consider moving the car to the garage and have sex in it there.
Date night doesn’t have to be costly or even involve going out. Invite your partner to take a bath/shower with you, offer them a massage, and don’t limit sex to the bedroom. Make full use of your kitchen counter so that erotic memories come alive whilst you are cooking your dinner.
When we have sex, it’s great, but generally I worry that the intimacy in our relationship has gone. I know sex is just one factor, but I don’t know what to do. How can we get our intimacy back?
It sounds to me like you have focused on becoming sexual beings, but have neglected sensuality. I recommend taking penetrative sex off the menu and instead focus on spending quality time together. Kiss each other for at least 2 minutes daily, without the expectation of it leading to sex, just indulge in the moment. Send flirtatious texts to one another to build excitement and to let the other know you’re thinking about them. Enjoy full body cuddles in the morning, allowing yourselves to really caress and hold one another, again with no expectation of it leading to sex. Offer one another tender loving care. Share fond memories from the past and talk often about future plans.
My wife wants to spice up our sex life and is particularly keen on talking during sex, often in a way that I feel is quite disrespectful. Rather than turning me on, it’s putting me off. How can I talk about this without refusing to compromise?
Talking during sex is a really great way of letting your partner know what you want and don’t want, and also that you’re having a good time. Finding mutually satisfying dialogue might be the way forward. Instead of saying what you don’t like, try saying ‘I really like it when you say…’. In other words, be more directive about what you want to hear and give lots of praise to your partner for complying. You might also want to tell them the sort of things you like to hear, so that they can know what it feels like to receive those words.
My sex drive has pretty much disappeared. I’m worrying that it’s not enough for my partner, but I’m embarrassed to talk about it with them. I’m so happy in my relationship, but why don’t I want to have sex?
There are many reasons why someone might lose their sex drive. Age, so the onset of the perimenopause for women and reduced testosterone levels for men, and stress, being the two primary factors. Use of nicotine, alcohol, recreational drugs, antidepressants and other medications can create all sorts of sexual dysfunctions, such as an inability to orgasm, painful erections, poor or absent erections, dry vagina resulting in painful penetration, which all in turn can lead to a loss of desire. If the dynamic of your relationship is not at fault, I strongly recommend that you see a medical practitioner to explore the cause of your loss of libido.
3 tips for talking about sex
- Take sex talk out of the bedroom - Don’t talk about sex whilst having or attempting to have sex. Find a mutually safe place where you are both relaxed and won’t be interrupted. Don’t instigate discussions when one of both are tired, hungry or preoccupied. Schedule time together for the sole purpose of talking about sex and intimacy.
- Talk about yourself and your own experience - It’s not OK to assume what’s going on with the other, but it is OK to be curious and ask direct questions. For example, you might want to say, “I really liked it when we used to have lots of foreplay before sex, I’m noticing that we have less now. Is there any way we can spend more time on foreplay before penetrative sex?”.
- Use a checklist - Can’t find the dialogue to say or ask for what you need, or maybe you don’t even know? Maybe you want to attempt a little BDSM/kink, or perhaps you are just curious. Using a checklist can help both you and your partner open up your thinking and dialogue in a safe and manageable way. Two well-known checklists include scarleteen.com or autostraddle.com.