One of the joys of children growing up and leaving home is more uninterrupted between- the-sheets time – no sleepless nights worrying our teens will make it home safely from that party, or in the early years, listening for little footsteps outside the bedroom door.
So why, instead of lighting candles and getting in the mood, are we talking about putting the bins out? Why, when we have more time to devote to our relationship than we have for years, are we wondering why our libido has gone AWOL?
“I spend a lot of my time reassuring clients that these feelings are completely normal,” says Denise Knowles, a couples counsellor and psychosexual therapist with Relate, “In a long-term relationship, it’s no surprise that we slip into routines – around domesticity but also our sex lives.”
But, according to the experts we spoke to, this is a time of opportunity – not just to reclaim our relationship but also take it to new levels of sexual satisfaction. Put the bins out? no thanks! we’re going back to bed…
Find the best way to communicate – for you
People show love in five main ways, says Ben Edwards – a self- confidence expert and relationship coach-: with gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of devotion and quality time. “Think about what makes you feel loved and communicate it to your partner.” And remember that he may need to be shown love from you in a different way too; consider what he likes, not what would make you feel good.
Start off with small gestures
“When our intimate relationship has gone off the boil, we may withdraw completely from physical contact because we fear it creates an expectation of sex,” says Denise. She suggests introducing a sense of connectedness without pressure to take it further. Hold hands, kiss on the lips instead of pecking each other on the cheek, cuddle on the sofa.
Talk about sex
Amidst the hubbub of work and home life, it’s entirely probable that the two of you have got this far without ever really talking about sex. It’s time to be brave and talk the talk. The point is not to lay blame but to begin a discussion. And if that’s difficult, you may want to consider seeing a therapist who can help you navigate the conversation. Listen to what’s really being said. “We can often jump ahead and think we know what our partner is saying, or misinterpret their message, then resentment and misunderstandings can fester,” explains Ben.
Rediscover the power of self-love
Research shows that women who masturbate regularly have a higher libido than those who don’t. “It keeps you closer to the simmer,” explains Emily Power Smith, a clinical sexologist who provides sex-positive education, coaching and therapy. Rather than being a selfish activity, feeling more sexual and knowing how to pleasure yourself can make you more responsive to your partner, or proactive about initiating sex.
Put date night in the diary
Committing to time together shows you’re not ready to let your relationship drift and can reawaken a sense of excitement about the person you’ve seen first thing in the morning and last thing at night for – ooh – donkey’s years! “A date night can also be a great way to boost your confidence and get some of your sexual mojo back,” says Ben. “When you’ve both taken care to dress up and prepare for your date, it sends a signal to your partner that you want to attract them – a great way to reboot your love life.”
Accept that sex changes
“Our tastes in food, wine and holiday destinations change as we get older, so it’s no surprise that we may want to try different ways of enjoying intimacy, too,” says Emily. Rather than surprising our partner with a sudden interest in bondage or sex alfresco, she suggests sitting down and reminiscing about sexual moments you’ve enjoyed and whether they’d work for you now. And if not, what you might try instead.
Do the “double glide”
Hormonal changes can cause vaginal dryness as we get older, particularly after the menopause. And the lack of lubrication can make penetrative sex more painful. A lubricant can really help but choose a chemical- and sugar-free product that won’t irritate sore spots or cause thrush.
Emily advises using organic coconut oil around the entrance and inside the vagina, or she recommends the natural and organic brand yes (yesyesyes.org). She also advises the “double glide” technique, which combines water-based and oil-based products for the best experience.
Start by applying an oil-based lube to your partner. then generously cover your vagina with water-based lube. The water-based product slides over the waterproof oil-based lube, increasing the degree and duration of the “slide”. Try the yes dG (double Glide) combo pack, £16.99.
Look back to move forward
“The passion doesn’t have to fade in long-term relationships but it can become buried,” says Ben. He advises looking back to the early days – what attracted you to each other, what activities did you enjoy together? “In the first flush of romance, we dress up for our partner, treat them with love and respect, and do kind things for them ‘just because’, with no expectation of return.” Try putting some of that energy back into your relationship. it may be one-sided at first, but simply getting off the sofa to kiss your partner hello when they walk in the door shows you’re glad to see them.
Words by Andrea Childs