No matter how satisfying things are in the bedroom, we all like to spice things up now and then. But what if you could transform your sex life with just a few simple changes?
1. Self-pleasure for self-care
We may not talk about it, but us Brits love a bit of solo-TLC. According to the Tenga 2019 Self-Pleasure Report, more than a quarter (27%) of women and a fifth (21%) of men in the UK prefer masturbation to having sex. Whether it’s to satisfy sexual urges, just for fun, or to help us relax, many of us embrace masturbation as a regular part of our self-care routines. Sure, sharing some sexy fun with our partners is all well and good – but who knows you better than you?
Even the experts agree. Sexual wellness doctor, Elle Vooght, from sexual wellness brand Kandid, advocates for the benefits of masturbation. “I’d recommend making masturbation part of your weekly, or even daily, self-care routine. Self-pleasure is a proven wellness tool that has a multitude of health benefits. Regular masturbation can reduce anxiety, help with relaxation and deep sleep, and create happy hormones. Plus, it’s fun!”
2. Boost your intimacy outside of the bedroom
Intimacy is important in any relationship – but are you making sure you foster these feelings both in and out of the bedroom? Relationship counsellor and psychotherapist Beverley Hills shares her thoughts on the importance of nurturing our relationships as a whole, to improve our intimacy and desires.
“Most of the work that goes into re-creating sexual desire in an established relationship happens outside of the bedroom – the thoughtful touches, the sexy texts and, believe it or not, possibly taking sex off the agenda altogether.
“Stepping off the sexual gas can help relieve tension by reducing expectations, and allowing the partner to fully relax in the company of their loved one. This does take time and patience, but it can also ramp up the passion; tell someone that they can’t have something, and they want it even more…”
3. Communication is key
Practising open, honest communication can help you to not only improve your sex life, but your relationships too. When we become too afraid to talk about things, it can feel like we’re building a barrier between ourselves and our partners. When we’re hesitant to communicate our needs and desires, over time it can feel like we’re turning perfectly natural feelings into something taboo that we become reluctant to speak about.
“Intimacy begins with communication, so why is it sometimes hard to communicate with our partner?” Beverley asks. “So many clients say, ‘If only she’d desire me a little more,’ and the reply is often along the lines of, ‘Well I’d have time to if you emptied the bins once in a while.’
“If you’ve never set a precedent of telling your partner what you want, then how are they to know? We expect them to read our mind or at least the signals, but the problem is you’re talking in semaphore, and they are talking Morse code!”
Opening up the conversation can help ensure you’re both on the same page, and that any underlying needs you may have – sexual or not – can be spoken about and, hopefully, met.
4. Nature’s aphrodisiacs
What you eat can have a significant impact on your libido, stamina, and overall wellbeing. Ensuring you have a balanced diet can lead to improvements in your mood, and even decrease feelings of stress, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.
Ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin E can improve testosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone levels, while making the switch to organic foods could reduce the number of pesticides you’re exposed to. For men, testosterone production-boosting foods, such as beans, egg yolks, tuna, and low-fat milk, can also be good sources of vitamins and protein.
While oysters may not get you in the mood, they can help with stamina and increasing sperm quality. Dark chocolate, thought to be one of the most romantic sweet treats, can increase blood flow thanks to the cocoa and its phenylethylamine (PEA) or ‘love chemical’ content.
In counselling we look at what’s preventing you from being the best you can possibly be, both in and out of the bedroom
5. Self-confidence is sexy
Knowing confidence is sexy is one thing, but how can you improve your self-confidence if it’s starting to affect other areas of your life – and relationships?
Beverly explains: “If you don’t feel good about yourself, your body, the way you look, or even who you are right now, then you’re going to find it hard to feel sexy. There’s the old adage: ‘If you rely on someone else to bring you happiness then you’re doomed, because that person might go away.’ The message being that it’s best to find lasting happiness within yourself. A happy you is a happy sex life, and so in counselling we look at what’s preventing you from being the best you can possibly be, both in and out of the bedroom.”
If you’re worried low self-confidence may be holding you back, working with a counsellor or a life coach can help you reframe negative self-thoughts, and work towards loving you for who you are.
6. Embrace your wild side
50 Shades may have been and gone, but in its wake are thousands of curious readers who are much more open to embracing their more unusual desires. Researchers from the Netherlands have revealed that those of us who practise BDSM regularly are both better communicators with our partners, and report a higher overall sense of wellbeing.
They found that those who take part in BDSM are less neurotic, more open to new experiences, and less sensitive to rejection than their ‘vanilla’ counterparts. Women particularly showed more confidence in their relationships, had less need for approval, and felt less anxiously attached. Sounds like there isn’t a downside!
If you’re new to fetish or BDSM exploration, make sure that you and your partner clearly discuss your desires – and relevant safety implications – first. While 50 Shades may be a fun weekend read, it’s not known for promoting the safest of practices. If you’re unsure where to start, Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams’s Playing Well with Others, Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction, or Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon, all provide solid introductions.
7. Assess your stress
Feeling stressed on occasion is perfectly normal, but too much stress can have a big impact on us. From difficulty sleeping to feeling anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed, stress can lead to us actively avoiding the things – and people – we enjoy the most.
Taking time out to assess your stress levels, think about your schedule, and question how you’ve been feeling, can give you the space to recognise if there’s something that may need addressing.
8. Mental health matters
It can be easy to forget, but your mental health can have far-reaching effects – for better and for worse. How you are feeling can affect your perception of yourself, your relationships, and those around you.
While sex and loving relationships can have huge physical and wellbeing benefits, it’s important to ensure that you are (and continue) putting your wellbeing first. Whether you’re feeling anxious, are emotionally eating, or are just feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to first identify and address these problems, before looking at ways to boost your sex life.
9. Focus on foreplay – not on finishing
If you’re in a long-term relationship, it can be easy to let things fall into a pattern. Sex can become, well… predictable. By bringing the focus back to foreplay, you can not only increase your desire and libido, but can also create the chance to focus on fostering a sense of intimacy and closeness.
Relationship counselling isn’t a last resort – it can offer a safe, neutral space to talk about things that you may feel nervous to bring up
10. Acknowledge differing libidos
Throughout our lives, our sex drive fluctuates. It’s perfectly natural to have a period where we just aren’t feeling it – or another where we can’t get enough! It only becomes a problem if you struggle to talk, and allow it to become the elephant in the room. By talking about things together, you can air any concerns before hurt feelings have time to fester. Together, you can come up with creative solutions that leave you both feeling satisfied.
No matter what you decide to try, it’s important to remember you don’t have to do this alone. Relationship counselling isn’t a last resort – it can offer a safe, neutral space to talk about things that you may feel nervous, embarrassed, or uncertain how to bring up.
Beverly says: “Relationship counselling can enable translation to take place. It offers a safe, confidential space with a third person who can help you to hear each other’s wants and needs in a non-judgemental way. It can gently uncover anxiety-making blocks that have been holding you back from having a fulfilling sex life, and it can give you the confidence to create a new way that works for you both.”