We have a treat in store today for you! Please welcome Carlyle Jansen, Sex Coach and Educator, and founder of Good For Her, Toronto’s cozy, comfortable stop for finding a variety of high quality sex toys, books, adult DVDs, workshops, and educated advice. Good for Her promotes good sex for everyone, with Women and Trans only hours (Sundays 12-2pm).
One of biggest challenges in relationships is keeping the sexual side of the connection alive, especially once kids are on the scene. The passion once felt at the beginning often fades after 1-3 years into a preference for cuddling and romantic movies on Netflix, rather than romance itself or sex.
Many factors commonly impact our libido: relationship conflict, side effects of medications, financial, emotional or work stress, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, pregnancy, lack of sleep, being pawed all day by kids, and poor body image just to name a few. And it seems like there is less time for anything other than the essentials of getting through the day, leaving little energy at the end for anything other than falling into bed – to sleep.
Given that most of us struggle with one or more of these factors, one of the most common questions I get is how to regain and maintain time, desire, and energy for a healthy sex life in a long-term partnership.
Chances are your days will always feel too short. There are never enough hours in a day to do all of the things that we strive to do to create the perfect household for our family and childhood for our kids and still get some reasonable amount of shut-eye. Invariably one or many tasks are not completed by day’s end and get pushed to the following one. And sex is usually dismissed as less important and to be completed when all else is checked off.
If both partners feel contented that sex can wait, then so be it. But usually at least one or both partners eventually feel that the sexual connection and their needs have taken a back seat to other priorities, which can lead to resentment.
So how do we find the time? Sometimes we have to sacrifice the laundry for a little sexy time. Or take-out has to suffice for dinner. Erotic connection needs to sometimes take precedence over other priorities.
We also have to take advantage of small windows of time for pleasure. Quickies on occasion during naptime or TV time can go a long way towards keeping the spark alive. Coordinate playdates or call on grandparents, friends or a sitter to take the kids to the park or museum.
Some folks trade off with another family with kids the same age: on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons all of the kids alternate between either your house or the other family’s home. You get predictable amount of time to yourselves once every two weeks. During these breaks, spend a little bonding time working on a project together (for eg. cleaning out the garage) or indulging in something you miss so that you feel good about your time together. But leave enough time (at least 90 mins) to treat yourselves to the decadence of a little adult time together. The erotic side of your relationship can be an important foundation for your overall connection.
Some folks feel disconcerted at the idea of planning sex because in the movies it is always spontaneous. But at the beginning of most relationships there is much planning: what sexy outfit to wear, what new position you want to try, exciting new locations. Planning does not take anything away from sex. It often actually makes it better as you can make requests for pleasure and ensure that everything else – kids, food, distractions- is taken care of without worry.
It also pre-empts a regular “How about it?” followed by “Sorry Sweetie, not tonight” awkward interaction.
We expect to feel desire the same way we feel thirsty when we need water. But our libido does not function in the same way. Even though we may have had intense desire to rip our partner’s clothes off at the beginning of a relationship, most women do not continue to feel that desire after the New Relationship Energy wears off (1-3 years). Whereas (most) men feel desire on a regular basis regardless of relationship length, most women do not.
Most of us are actually the other way around: we need to feel aroused before our desire kicks in. Which doesn’t seem to make sense until we reflect on our experience. If you have ever decided to “take one for the team” by having sex when you weren’t really into it and then as you got involved and aroused you found yourself enjoying it and feeling desire to continue, then you’ve experienced your desire following your arousal.
The key to your desire then is noticing what gets you aroused and doing those things in order to help get you in the mood. So it is not about having sex when you don’t want to, it is about creating times when you’re open to building arousal through kissing, showering together, watching an erotic film, reading a sexy book, or whatever gets your mojo going that may lead to arousal and sex.
If, however, you are someone who does not get aroused during partner sex, it is important for you then to find out what does turn you on. Of course you won’t be excited to have sex if you don’t get aroused, just as you won’t be excited to return to a restaurant where the food doesn’t excite you. We have to take responsibility for knowing our pleasure and arousal and communicating our desires. Without pleasure sex quickly becomes a chore, and no one wants to have sex with someone who is checking it off their chore list.
Even when we are really tired, good sex energizes us. Just like dragging ourselves to the gym, yoga class, or pool when we feel like we have no energy for a workout, making it happen usually gives us more energy. As with exercise, so with sex. Even though we feel like we’d be better off resting after a hard day, a positive sexual experience can boost our energy rather than depleting it.
Of course it also helps if we are not beginning to get romantic at 11pm. Try to start a little earlier so that you don’t cut too much into precious sleep time and when you likely have more energy. And many of us notice that we get along better with our partner for a few days post sex, or even that we are all more are more cooperative and more forgiving of our pet peeves when we connect regularly. So even if you feel like sex will sap your last reserves of energy, try it out and see if you don’t feel more energized the following day(s).
In the end a little awareness, effort and communication goes a long way. Make time to get to know your body and your pleasure. Tell your partner what will make you more interested in having sex and they will likely be happy to oblige and do more of what you enjoy to help you get in the mood. Plan when you want to have sex and create the conditions to make it as successful as possible. Speak up to get the pleasure that you want in the moment. Value your time together and see what difference it makes in your relationship.
Many thanks to Carlyle Jansen for taking the time to share her thoughts on keeping the sexual spark alive. For more ideas and inspiration, visit her store Good for Her – it really is a welcoming spot.