Marriage Makeover

Smooth out those bumps with these quick no-sweat strategies.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Smooth out those bumps with these quick no-sweat strategies.

My Reading Room

When you lack intimacy in your relationship, it can be a source of great worry. But Cate Campbell, a psychosexual counsellor and author of The Relate Guide to Sex and Intimacy, says with assurance, “If you are willing to make the effort, a lot can be changed.” Try these tips for a more fulfilling relationship.

1. Use your words

Feelings are not aired because couples do not want to hurt each other’s feelings. People say things like “I want sex” because it sounds more confident than “I’m afraid you’re no longer interested in me and I feel really vulnerable”. In reality, being vulnerable in this way actually promotes intimacy and connection. Also, the clearer you are with your partner about what you do and don’t want, the more likely you are to have your desires met.

TRY THIS: Use “I” statements rather than “you”. For example, say “When we haven’t had sex for a while I worry that you don’t fancy me anymore” rather than “You never want sex”.

2. Seize the moment

The daily grind of work, parenting and life basically takes over everything. One way to improve your sex life is to seize opportunities to keep the passion between you alive. Make physical intimacy with your partner part of your everyday life, several times a day, and appreciate when they are offering you affection and intimacy.

TRY THIS: Initiate intimate moments when the mood takes you: Enjoy a good smooch without it necessarily ending in sex, hold hands, cuddle up together on the lounge, and be flirtatious with your partner.

3. Importance of hygiene

Some people just aren’t very good at hygiene or think if their partner loved them enough, careless hygiene wouldn’t matter. Some people’s concerns about their own hygiene can also be a passion killer. A common issue is one partner wanting to make love first thing in the morning, but the other feels worried about their breath or body odour and would prefer a quick wash and brush-up first.

TRY THIS: Have a bath or shower before sex. Consider using this as a way of relaxing together or having some sexy, splashy fun. You could always casually suggest your partner have a quick shower before sex if hygiene is an issue.

4. Beware of porn

Some people turn to pornography as a form of stress relief, because they’re too tired for partnered sex. Do note that porn can be an intimacy sapper if overused. Be warned that Internet porn can literally change the brain in a way that makes real-life partnered sex less attractive and arousing. This is partly due to the highly alluring, quickfix nature of Internet porn, where even just the thought of your computer can ultimately become arousing. As the brain becomes programmed for the Internet fix, it becomes more difficult to enjoy sex with another person. If you use porn, limit your viewing time and have a few porn-free days every week.

TRY THIS: If one of you is using porn because you’re too tired for sex, talk about this and consider other ways to feel closer, starting with going to bed at the same time and ending every day with intimacy, if not sex.

5. Plan ahead

A typical problem with many couples is that one of you wants more sex than the other. Instead of choosing to discuss this issue, couples often tend to seek or avoid sex altogether, usually making them thoroughly miserable. Try to discuss and negotiate how much physical contact is reasonable given how tired, stressed and busy you are.

TRY THIS: Plan sexual encounters in advance and agree on the best times for sex; for example, the end of a long, tiring day is usually not the best time. If regular intercourse is unrealistic, talk about other ways to maintain physical intimacy, like sensual massages or oral sex.

6. Don’t rush off

The time immediately after sex can be as important and special as the lovemaking itself. It isn’t a great time to fall straight to sleep, dash to the loo, or get up and pack the next day’s lunch boxes. Stop and luxuriate in the feeling. Leaving straightaway creates insecurity and may give the impression that you didn’t value the special time you just had together.

TRY THIS: Put a positive seal on your relationship by indulging in cuddles and reassuring, tender kisses after making love. W

My Reading Room
Quick Tips

♥ Treat sexual issues as a couple problem, rather than one person being responsible.
♥ Be aware of your partner’s sexual needs and preferences and take responsibility for your own.
♥ Don’t be coerced into doing anything you don’t want to do. Voice out if you feel uncomfortable.
♥ Enjoy kisses and cuddles for themselves rather than hoping every show of affection will lead to sex... or dreading that it will.
♥ Make time for yourself and your relationship.
♥ Don’t be too serious about sex – enjoy being playful and having fun.