THEY SCHEDULE SEX
What? Put “Have sex” on your calendar? “Absolutely!” say couples happy with their sex lives. Rather than killing the mood with a lack of spontaneity, scheduling sex tends to “take away all the very real excuses I could otherwise use, like that I’m exhausted after working and getting the kids to bed,” says Holly Jenkins,* who has been married for two years and has three boys under the age of 10. “For couples in long-term relationships, planning a romantic interlude leads to a higher-quality, more enjoyable sexual experience,” says Victoria Zdrok Wilson, JD, PhD, who cowrote The 30-Day Sex Solution with her husband, John Wilson. Instead of thinking of calendar sex as unromantic, view it instead as a delicious form of foreplay. Send each other anticipatory texts, plan what you’ll wear (or not), and so on.
Your sister, your best friend, your cubicle-mate you keep hearing about these women who enjoy fabulous sex lives with their partners. But how do they manage to keep it hot, especially when they have a couple of kids and more than a few years together? So you don’t have to broach the subject yourself, we asked a few lucky women for their secrets to a satisfying sex life. Here’s what they had to say and how you can apply their advice in your own bedroom.
THEY LOCK THE BEDROOM DOOR
This little bit of hardware is essential in a home with children, says Jennifer Flanders, who’s been married 24 years and has 12 children, ranging in age from 11 months to 23 years. She jokes that whenever the family moves to a new home, a new lock on the master bedroom tops the to-do list. Even if you don’t have a physical lock, creating a sense of boundaries is key, says Sacha Mohammed—married 14 years, with 7 children. “I always made sure the children were put to bed on time when they were little so my husband and I could have our time together; the kids were also taught to always knock to announce their presence.” According to Dr. Zdrok Wilson, “each couple needs to evaluate their environment and determine the optimal conditions for great sex.” For some, a lock may be enough to create an adults-only barrier. Others may need to go further to create a sensual, relaxing haven in their bedroom by banning electronic gadgets, computers and TVs, not to mention kids and their toys!
THEY HAVE PERFECTED THE QUICKIE
During certain critical periods in a marriage particularly when you’re new parents time and energy are both at a premium. Couples who maintain a good sex life during these challenging times have learned to make the quickie something that’s good for both of them. If you’ve avoided speedy sex sessions in the past because it takes time for you to physically get in the mood, don’t underestimate the power of the mind-body connection. Try thinking of a place or time when the sex was amazing, and use it like a meditation, taking yourself back there in your mind, says Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, marriage and family therapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage. And “don’t be afraid of fantasizing,” she adds, because if you can figure out how to use 20 minutes to your advantage, you can avoid dry spells in your sex life.
“Be open to different ways of expressing yourself sexually,” says Jenkins. “As with music, people tend to like a mix of the predictable and unexpected.” You have to find the right balance between being adventurous and being conventional: Don’t be so conventional that it’s boring. But don’t be so adventurous that you lose your intimacy–or level of comfort. This could mean everything from positions to the overall attitude you bring to the intimate encounter. Sexual ruts always doing it on a certain day, at a certain time, in a certain room––can breed boredom. Something as simple as mixing it up on the living room floor or in the shower can add some much-needed spice. Or get out of the house entirely. “Many couples report that they have the best sex when they’re not at home,” says Dr. Zdrok Wilson. “I call it ‘the dirty little motel’ syndrome.” And it doesn’t have to be limited to when you’re on vacation hire a babysitter or drop the kids off at their grandparents’ house every once in a while so the two of you can book a room even if it’s only for a couple of hours.
THEY KEEP COMMUNICATING
Mohammed says that “excellent communication skills” is the top reason she and her husband continue to enjoy a satisfying sex life. “Before we got married, my husband told me we would talk about everything, and he meant it,” she says. There’s no other way to understand what your partner wants, needs or enjoys other than talking. And don’t make assumptions: You may be surprised to learn that what you thought was foolproof doesn’t really float his boat anymore, says Gilchrest O’Neill. “Save those conversations for when you’re not having sex, though in the actual moment, speak up about small adjustments your partner can make to increase enjoyment.”
THEY AVOID OR REJECT EXCUSES
“Many of the excuses other couples use to avoid sex like headaches, stress, tiredness or arguments––are some of the exact same reasons we choose to make sex a priority,” says Flanders. “Sex relieves pain, reduces stress, promotes better sleep and motivates us to settle our disagreements quickly.” Beware of letting excuses take on a life of their own, because, to use one example, the kids aren’t needy babies forever, and before you know it sex is so far on the back burner it’s fallen completely off the stove. “Brainstorm solutions to the things that get in the way of having sex,” suggests Gilchrest O’Neill. Tired? Go to bed earlier. Not enough time? Get creative with the hours or minutes you do have. However, if the root of your excuses isn’t fixable with practical changes (for example, if there are underlying problems or resentments), consider seeing a therapist.
THEY TRUST EACH OTHER
Jenkins cites her and her husband’s adventurous sex life, but is quick to add that for adventurousness to exist, it has to be preceded by trust. “Great sex is a reflection of the overall rapport and communication you have in other rooms of the house. To have trust with your spouse, you have to always try to build each other up outside the bedroom. If you say or do something critical or disrespectful to your partner during the day, why would he want to be naked and try something new with you later that evening?” she asks. Trust, comfort and ease with each other happens when you engage in active listening, says Dr. Zdrok Wilson. “You have to work on listening to your partner in an active, empathetic way and reciprocate by confiding in him, and baring your own feelings,” she says. Once you two feel like allies not adversaries your sex life will feel more honest and, hopefully, a lot hotter!
THEY CARE ABOUT THEIR APPEARANCE AND HEALTH
“We still take pride in how we look for each other,” says Mohammed. Certainly staying in shape and paying attention to appearance helps you and your partner maintain the mood. But it’s not just about pleasing your partner’s eye; taking care of yourself makes you feel good about yourself. Not only that, but your libido is dependent on your overall health. “When you feel unhealthy, tired, ill or lacking in energy, you’re not likely to be motivated to engage in regular sexual activity,” says Dr. Zdrok Wilson. So, hit the gym, put on some makeup or dress up even if you’re not going anywhere. Do whatever makes you feel sexy and he’s guaranteed to notice.