If you’ve ever Googled something like ‘how to improve my sex life’ you’re probably now being served some quite persistent adverts about ‘sexual enhancement’, involving miraculous herbal remedies, dubious contraptions, or maybe, if you’re lucky, a very powerful love spell… When you feel like you’ve already tried everything that you can think of, it’s tempting to turn towards the idea of a ‘quick fix’, some kind of magic potion that will fix everything overnight. Unfortunately, when it comes to libido and desire, there’s no such thing as a quick fix, because it’s not just a pelvic switch that you can turn on and off in an instant. Everything that we do here at Blueheart is based on the most up-to-date science in sex and desire, so we’re gonna cut through all the weird stuff, and only give you techniques and advice that are proven to be effective in real life.
So, on that note, here are some concrete things you can do that, over time, will go a long way to improving your sex life.
Funnily enough, one of the best things you can do for your sex life happens outside of the bedroom, and that is: communication. Talking about sex can be a really uncomfortable experience, especially with your partner, because you might be embarrassed, worried about hurting their feelings, or what they might think, or how they’re going to react. Having said that, it’s really important that you do it. According to research by a relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, 91% of couples who can’t comfortably talk about sex together say that they’re not satisfied sexually. In other words, being able to talk comfortably about sex is better for your sex life.
Of course, you’ve got to find the right time to do this. Talking about sex is already difficult enough, so doing it while one of you is tired or stressed, or in the middle of doing the laundry, isn’t going to help. Definitely don’t do it while you’re having an argument! The best time is when you’re both relaxed and engaged with each other. For some people this might be immediately after sex, as a sort of check-in, and others might prefer to have the conversation away from a sexual context, so that it doesn’t feel like a performance review. It’s hard for these conversations to happen naturally, so don’t be afraid of scheduling this time. It’s not like it comes up in everyday conversation over dinner, and you say ‘pass the potatoes darling, do you think we have enough sex?’
Good communication is definitely a skill you can learn, but a lot of it is also about your attitude. If you can, try to be curious about your own and your partner’s experiences, and not to take anything personally. Is there anything you’d like to do more of, or less of, or just differently? Is there something completely new you’d like to try? If any of these things are met with hesitation, be curious about that too.
And, importantly, be honest about how you’re feeling and any issues that you might be experiencing. What are you not happy with? How does it make you feel? All of your feelings are completely valid and it’s helpful for you both to hear them presented in a calm way that’s sensitive and compassionate to each of your feelings, so have a think about what those feelings might be, and how you might express them. Talking about sex is a really brave thing to do, and even though it’s hard and you might blush and laugh a bit, that’s OK! You’ll get so much more out of it if you can be as honest and open and authentic as you can be - and allow your partner to do the same thing.
Communication isn’t limited to talking, either. We communicate just as much with our bodies as we do with our words - whether we’re holding hands, or crossing our arms, or avoiding touch altogether. And sometimes our bodies speak to us, and speak for us - especially if we’re feeling any kind of stress, anxiety, or pressure to perform in a particular way. If you’ve ever had arousal difficulties during sex, this is normally your body’s way of telling you that something’s not quite working for you, either in terms of the context around you, or if you’re not being touched in the right way for you in that moment, or if you’re getting caught up in your head thinking about how you look, or about that email you’ve been putting off for three weeks because you just don’t know how to find another way to politely say ‘per my previous email’.
One of the main techniques we use at Blueheart to reconnect with touch, is something called Sensate Focus, which is a series of touch exercises that are designed to reduce sexual anxiety and provide opportunities for you to explore your own and your partners’ bodies. By focusing only on the sensations you feel, you learn to get out of your head and into the moment, which gives your body space to respond naturally. By focusing only on the sensations you feel, you learn to get out of your head and into the moment, which gives your body space to respond naturally. You go entirely at your own pace, doing only what you feel comfortable with, and touch for your own curiosity, without trying to force any kind of response from yourself or from your partner. And it really works; in a 2015 study of the effectiveness of Sensate Focus as a treatment for a variety of sexual difficulties, therapists found it to be 83% effective.
And last but not least is: education. Now I’m sure you know where everything goes and how babies are made, but there’s always more to learn. Like any area in life that you’re working on, whether it’s how to be a better cook, how to play chess, or how to do some DIY so you can finally fix that creaky floorboard, it just makes sense to be more knowledgeable about it. For example, learning about how arousal works, how your brain thinks about sex, and how your past experiences and personality affect your libido, can make a significant difference to your sex life, even if just by getting rid of any concerns you might have about what’s going on for you. We tend to think about sex as something that we should just naturally know how to do, but it’s just like playing an instrument - you wouldn’t expect to pick up a bassoon and be able to play Mozart. You have to put the work in.
Similarly, learning more about sex and broadening your definition of what it is and can be, can help you take some pressure off yourself, and start to get creative. Sex is so much more than just penetration and orgasm; those two things are very nice, but they are not prerequisites for good sex. At its best, sex is about pleasure and connection, however you want to define them: whether that’s you connecting with and giving pleasure to yourself, or you and your partner connecting with and giving pleasure to each other.
So, when you’re thinking about how to improve your sex life, don’t be overwhelmed by the mountain of strange information out there - remember that there are proven and effective things you can do to help. Talk to each other about what you need and want, start to find your way back to the essence of curious touch, and seek out some resources that can help you learn more about what’s going on with you. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, it’s probably a bit more like a three-legged race: it’s awkward and silly, and hopefully fun - and to get to where you want to be, you’ve got to work together.