If you’ve been together for a while, chances are you’re no longer tempted to join in the outrageous commercialism that goes with Valentine’s Day. But that doesn’t mean you should pass up an opportunity to spice things up in your relationship.
Flowers, chocolates, champagne, jewellery… whatever. Many of us find Valentine’s Day, and the saccharine sweet images of happy couples that go with it, fairly off-putting.
But you don’t have to ignore the occasion altogether. With research suggesting we’re having sex less frequently than we were a decade ago – down from 1.8 to 1.4 times a week – maybe Valentine’s Day is a good time to start focusing a little more on your love life.
So we’ve pulled together some tips from some of our favourite sex therapists to help get you inspired and make this Valentine’s Day sizzle.
Plan a sex date
Sex therapist and relationship counsellor Dásiráe Spierings says there are plenty of reasons to make regular appointments with your partner just to have sex.
Spierings says the point of a sex date is to set aside time where you and your partner can focus on being physical with one another.
“Whether sex actually happens is not the point, it is about being intimate together in a physical way, and making sure that happens,” Spierings says.
Even if you aren’t in the mood, she says you should still give it a go. (How often have you made the effort to go out for a date despite feeling tired, grumpy or stressed, only to have a great time once you get there?) And if you really want to go out for dinner, you can always head out afterwards.
Sex can be intimate or erotic, but don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If it is neither of these, remember it can always be playful. Spierings suggests thinking about what worked during your honeymoon phase that you haven’t done for a while.
Or trying something new: a new position, location, outfit or a striptease. Be creative!
Put in some effort
“You can’t expect to have fantastic sex in a long term relationship if you don’t work at it. I don’t mean slogging and sweating. By working at it I mean you have to give it some thought and know what conditions make good sex for yourself and your partner,” says Dr Margaret Redelman, NSW president of the Society of Australian Sexologists.
“You need to create variety because boredom and monotony kill sex drive.”
Don’t have sex
A ban on sex sounds like the last thing you would want to do if things are a little slow in the bedroom, but it can help a couple who are struggling with mismatched libidos.
“I recommend sometimes having a ban on actually intercourse altogether and to focus on everything else instead,” says Spierings.
If one partner has a low libido, they don’t have the spontaneous desire to have sex, which can sometimes mean they avoid all types of physical intimacy.
Instead of focusing on sex, Spierings recommends being physically intimate – having a bath or shower together, giving each other a massage, snuggling up on the sofa or taking a romantic stroll.
“Sometimes a partner may not feel any spontaneous desire, but may still be up for a lovely massage or a bath together… once they start to feel a little bit aroused and relaxed then the response desire kicks in and they don’t mind to continue and to participate in more intense physical activities.”
In a long-term relationship, life is often busy and when things are rushed, it can feel weird to go from doing the dishes to making out with your partner.
Spierings says it helps to implement bridges in your relationship. These are things you might do that set the mood and provide a sign that you’re moving from work or family time into couple time. Your ‘bridges’ might be to have a glass of wine or cup of tea together at the end of the day, take a walk after dinner or give each other a neck rub while watching television.
The idea is these ‘bridges’ can help create an opportunity for intimacy to happen.
It’s hardly rocket science, but if you don’t feel good about yourself in terms of your physical and mental health, then you probably won’t feel good about yourself sexually.
Spierings says you’re more likely to feel sexy if you pay attention to your general wellbeing, as well your appearance.
“It’s important to pay some extra attention to what we look like so we can feel good about ourselves and less self-conscious and more confident when it comes to being intimate with someone.”
So this is another reason to watch your diet, be physically activity, get enough sleep and take care of your emotional health.
Focus on why you want to have sex
Everyone has different reasons to have sex, Spierings says, and spontaneous sexual desire is just one.
“So if you don’t have it then that is not your reason to have sex with your partner, but there might be other good reasons that can act as your motivator.”
Reasons she’s come across include wanting to fall pregnant, feeling alive and happy after the experience, feeling closer to your partner afterwards, and even enjoying the health benefits of a healthy sex life.
As well as understanding why you might want to have sex, it’s also important to consider what it means for your partner and your relationship to have sex.
“Again you should WANT TO make your partner happy and that should not feel like a MUST DO.”