7 Simple Tips That'll Revive Your Sex Life
In a long-term love affair, the warm fuzzies are guaranteed to wax and wane, even at the onset of what appears to be a true-to-life version of The Notebook. It’s not magic (or voodoo); it’s simply science. The Kinsey Institute found that across monogamous heterosexual relationships of varying lengths, “women’s sexual desire decreases as the duration of the relationship increases.” Statistically for women, sexual desire can start to decline as early as a year into the relationship while men maintain a stronger drive for a longer time.
So why would anybody willingly turn down sex? Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel explores this frustrating question in her wildly popular TED talk, “The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship.” When fundamental emotional needs are met, the passionate lovemaking takes a nosedive. “In this paradox between love and desire … the very ingredients that nurture love—mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other—are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire,” she explains. Fire-hot heavy petting that results from novelty and surprise is sabotaged by familiarity and predictability. To Perel, “the crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination.”
But don’t toss out monogamy just yet. Dr. Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a New York–based clinical psychologist specializing in sex therapy, believes that “we’re wired to be sexual and feel pleasure in our bodies until the end of time or the end of our lives”—even if it is with the same partner. With a little hard work and creativity, women can become empowered to “keep their sexual pilot light on.”
While mythology purports that certain foods can arouse the body (care for a seed-abundant pomegranate, anyone?) and holistic nutritionists suggest natural herbs like Maca or Ginkgo Biloba, we all know that a smoothie isn’t the answer to our hottest sex ever. Last year, we were introduced to the first libido-boosting drug for females, the FDA-approved Addyi. While there isn’t a host of substantial evidence for its efficacy, Addyi supposedly helps alter the levels of neurotransmitters in our brains that inhibit desire. “For women, it’s always a mind/body connection. Our biggest sex organ is our brain,” says Dr. Fleming. “Women need to recognize that they have ways of turning themselves on and off long before their partner even enters the room.”
The key, however, doesn’t have to lie in a pill. Dr. Fleming says turning on your libido is at your disposal if your brain welcomes it. And though there isn’t just one turnkey solution, it’s important to “keep yourself aware of what your turn-ons are and how to express them.” Ahead, the love doctor offers a few solutions to help heat things up between you and your partner—no prescription necessary.
When Dr. Fleming meets with clients, the first thing she wants to know is if the problem is partner-specific. If the client has never experienced a lot of sexual pleasure, then Dr. Fleming starts homing in on what might be inhibiting them. There’s a difference between “I’ve been in this relationship for a long time” or if there’s an ongoing obstruction. Knowing the “why” in the case of a low libido is the first step to finding a remedy.
A busy job, motherhood, and even bumper-to-bumper traffic can take a huge toll on one’s mental well-being but also can make your sex drive take a nosedive. Studies show that spikes in cortisol, the hormone that’s triggered when your brain experiences stress, directly correlates to a decrease in arousal, desire, and sexual satisfaction for women. Dr. Fleming advises that taking time off from life’s anxiety-inducing burdens (sorry, kids) can help make room in the mind for some bump and grind, like enjoying a vacation or even a staycation. The doctor also encourages busy folks to plan for sex. “Prioritize the time so it can actually happen, and then be flexible in the moment to see what you both feel like doing.”
Not only does exercise do the body good, but “cardio exercise in particular is also an amazing way to decrease tension in the body,” suggests Dr. Fleming. Additionally, one of the biggest inhibitors of sexual desire for women is having a negative body image. “Exercise helps you feel good, which allows you to relax and enjoy physical touch.”
But running a marathon and sweating through a punishing SoulCycle class aren’t the only ways to get blood flowing to all the right places. You can do something as simple as making out, which studies have shown can help increase testosterone in women—when done with a man. According to biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., since saliva is known to transfer testosterone, kissing with a male partner over time can increase testosterone in the woman, thereby bolstering sexual desire.
Remember when all the ladies on the subway had their noses buried in 50 Shades of Grey? These women were onto something. Actively engaging your senses in sexual experiences, aka turning yourself on, requires a little heavy lifting. Trial and error is also to be expected. “It’s a set law of physics. Something in motion stays in motion. If it’s a cold engine, it’s not on the radar,” confirms Dr. Fleming. She often starts women on erotic reading, but “looking at pornography works too.” Then, the fun part: figuring out what kind of erotica you most gravitate toward. “Do you like amateur or do you like group experiences? Do you like a story and a plot, or do you want to get to the action quickly?” prods Dr. Fleming. “Exploring the types of porn and fantasy you’re drawn to is an important next step.”
Sharing a romantic moment with your partner without your smartphone intruding as a third wheel has become nearly as impossible as going through the whole day without swiping through Tinder when you’re single. Dr. Fleming believes that “recognizing habits that are distracting, like being on your phone or checking email, is important for keeping your erotic pilot light on.”
As much as we’ve come to rely on the buzz we get from our vibrators, our reliance on them can become a hindrance in the bedroom. “When you know how to give yourself pleasure, you want to get there quickly and you’re not building your arousal,” says Dr. Fleming. “Some women are conditioned to have that reflexive orgasm and they need that intense vibration,” which might be something your partner can’t duplicate. Go on a toy hiatus and seek pleasure “without being so goal-directed.” After all, Dr. Fleming firmly believes that sexual desire is always a mind/body connection. So turn off the vibrator, and turn on your brain.