Long-term monogamy can wreak havoc on sexual connection. That ‘spark’ – the intimate electricity that drew you together and bonded you in your early days as a couple – can fade, like any fire, without proper tending, or suffer from the effects of stress, life changes, different schedules and childcare.
Sexual connection is more critical to your relationship’s health than you think. Many couples push it to the background or just accept it (“we’re not young any more”, “it’s less important to us now”), but the erosion of intimacy spells deep schisms, and can be a significant contributing factor in divorce, particularly in the 40-50 age group.
Fortunately, re-establishing sensual connection doesn’t have to be difficult. The most awkward thing, evidence suggests, is confronting the problem and committing to solving it together; if you’ve never had open talks about sex in your relationship, discussing it at crisis point may be difficult and prickly. (A prime tip: avoid blame. Once you start saying “You have no time for sex” or “You never initiate”, nobody’s getting naked.) Once you’re over that hurdle, happily, there are many strategies for making your spark come alive again.
Many useful lessons come from tantra, which is focussed on connecting to your partner rather than the ‘end-point’ of the bedroom. Tantra’s basic practical tenets – synchronising your breathing, making your bedroom a special and intimate space, and taking things very slow rather than racing towards orgasm – are helpful starting points. The next time you get intimate, look into each other’s eyes, commit to a lot of foreplay, and try to shift focus from achieving orgasm to enjoying the time together.
Tantra is all about being the moment. David Yarian, a psychologist and sex therapist, told Women’s Health that “There’s all of this noise, this kind of static that goes on while people are making love that really degrades the experience of sex.” Worrying about the kids, thinking about the washing up, wondering if your partner’s come yet – all that counts as white noise. “This is the genius of tantra,” Yarian said, “to provide methods for putting the brain in neutral so that the body can fully experience all the sensations of sexuality.”
Sound a bit too New Age for you? It’s not. It’s all about awareness and not being distracted – but not in a headlong, aggressive way. Connect to all your senses – what your partner feels like, how they smell, how their breath sounds – and use that awareness in a positive way.
Annette Baulch, of OzTantra, adds a few physical aspects, like sleeping naked and planning a ‘sex date’ regularly. Touch is one of the human race’s most common bonding mechanisms: studies have shown that happy, connected couples touch each other regularly, in the course of day-to-day life, whether it’s holding hands, hugging regularly, showering together, or just incidental skin contact.
Emotionally, Baulch recommends taking risks. Being willing to be vulnerable, turning off the ‘escapes’ you’d use to avoid intimacy (like TV), and being kind and positive to yourself and your partner can all contribute to an emotional closeness that resonates sexually.
A common pitfall: don’t introduce a bunch of novelty toys and tricks from 50 Shades and other places in the hope of “getting the spice back”. While these are fun, unless they’re accompanied by a serious commitment to reconnection, they’re just band-aids: a diversionary tactic that will gradually wear off. Kink isn’t just for Christmas, and won’t save anything if there isn’t emotional work behind it.
Lady Friday xx
Taking the pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday…
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