By Dr. Heather Wilder
Many couples reminisce about the great sex in the early days of their relationship but complain that the passion has faded over time. Couples often wonder how to get back to the days when they had enjoyable and exciting sexual encounters. Most people do not realize what a powerful impact that recent sexual encounters and expectations have on the outcome of the sex they have today. In fact, the positive emotions associated with love in the beginning stages actually help create enjoyable sexual encounters because new lovers often spend time anticipating a positive sexual experience. Over time, many couples begin to form patterns that interfere with positive expectations and anticipation. For example, when one member of a couple engages in sex for their partner’s sake, it can have an unintended consequence. The tired, sick, or just not in the mood partner will likely be going through the motions of having sex. Regardless of how enthusiastic the attempt, it is likely that the sexual encounter will not be as connected and passionate as it might have been if both individuals had been ready to have sex. Both lovers will hold onto those feelings (going through the motions when they don’t really feel into it, or feeling like their partner is not enjoying him or herself) and those feelings will diminish the expectations for passion during the next encounter. If the next encounter is passionate and exciting, the impact of the “just okay” sexual encounter will be minimized or eliminated because the couple will likely think back to the positive sexual experience when they think about future sex with their partner. However, if a pattern develops where one or both lovers have recurrent negative or just “blah” thoughts about sex with their partner, the likelihood of having spontaneous, excited and passionate sex will slip farther and farther away.
Though this may seem bleak, there are some simple strategies that can help rekindle the passion and rebuild positive expectations for having fun and enjoyable sex together. The key is to re-build the excitement and anticipation that led to great sex and recreate the conditions that made that possible.
What to do if you and/or your partner have caught the sex blahs:
1. Remember those times when the sex between you and your partner was good. Think of the encounters and what you enjoyed the most. Try to remember the emotions and activities that led to the good sexual encounter and tell each other your favorite moments (be sure to leave out any less than awesome moments so you don’t bring negativity into your fantasy).
2. Stop having routine sex for the sake of having it. You should have sex when you think conditions are right for having an enjoyable time (eg. After a romantic moment, or a fun date). If these conditions are not present in your everyday life, then add them to your life. For example, you might start taking walks together, or slow dance to your favorite songs as a way to make these moments possible. However, do not simply add pressure by making sex the end goal of every romantic moment. So, do not ask your partner to dance with you with an expectation that it is only successful if it leads to sex. Enjoy the moment and if sex is the result without that pressure, it is likely that you will have created a positive sexual moment to build upon.
3. Make your partner feel desired and attractive. If you look over at him or her in a crowded restaurant and feel sexual toward your lover, tell her. Letting your partner know that you want him, or miss him, sexually will build anticipation for a future moment when you can be sexual. Also, don’t forget to tell your partner when you find her especially attractive, even if the feeling is not sexual. Anticipation of being sexual and feeling like your partner is attracted to you is part of the condition that makes sex so good when lovers first begin a relationship and it can be a great way to keep the passion alive.
4. Remember that there are many ways to be sexual. For couples who engage in intercourse, remember that not all sexual encounters need to end in intercourse. If you and your lover have fallen into a pattern of less than positive expectations about sex with one another, stop engaging in the routine sexual behaviors and do something emotionally connected that will be enjoyable. What behaviors this will include will vary greatly by couple should not be engaged in with the expectation of intercourse as an end goal. For instance, try lighting candles and giving each other massages. If the encounter results in a spontaneous and mutually wanted sexual encounter, great. If not, the positive experience will result in a more positive expectation of sensual touching which will begin to set the stage for more positive sexual experiences in the future.
5. If a couple continues to experience the sexual blahs, there are many additional techniques that can be provided by a mental health professional that specializes in sex therapy.
Heather Wilder, Psy.D., is co-owner of Wilder Therapy and Wellness in Cranston, RI.