RE­LIGHT YOUR FIRE

It’s sim­ple: reg­u­lar sex makes you feel hap­pier – and your part­ner seem more lov­able. But if the daily grind is get­ting in the way and love­mak­ing is now a chore, mar­i­tal therapist An­drew G Mar­shall of­fers these tips to help you reignite your li­bido

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Sim­ple steps to reignite the spark in your re­la­tion­ship

It’s well known that sex makes us feel de­sired, closer to our part­ner and a lit­tle more for­giv­ing of his ir­ri­tat­ing habits. But when we’re busy and tired, it’s easy to let it drop down our ‘to do’ chart — only to zoom up our list of nig­gles when we start wor­ry­ing that we’re not putting enough ef­fort into our love life or that ev­ery­one else is hav­ing more sex than us.

Dis­con­cert­ingly, a re­cent book which has col­lated data from 100,000 peo­ple around the world claims that al­most 40 per cent of cou­ples have sex three or four times a week! As it is hu­man na­ture to com­pare up rather than down to the 20 per cent of cou­ples who rarely or never make love, these sta­tis­tics may make you feel dis­sat­is­fied and jeal­ous.

How­ever, let me of­fer some re­as­sur­ance. In my ther­apy room, I put out the bunting if cou­ples are hav­ing sex twice a week, and the once-a-week Satur­day night or Sun­day morn­ing sex is more com­mon than you’d think.

Of course, you’d feel more lov­ing if you had more sex, but what re­ally counts is max­imis­ing the feel­good ef­fects and feel­ing like lovers even when you’re not mak­ing love.

Here are my sug­ges­tions on how to achieve this…

Pro­long the glow of love­mak­ing

All the sex man­u­als con­cen­trate on fore­play but I think af­ter­play is equally im­por­tant. By this I mean kiss­ing, cud­dling and look­ing into his eyes af­ter mak­ing love. You can fur­ther en­cour­age close­ness with a lit­tle pil­low talk and telling your other half what you en­joyed. It will not only make your hus­band feel 10 feet tall but en­cour­age more of the same next time.

Con­nect by flirt­ing

Al­though stan­dard when court­ing, flirt­ing of­ten goes out the win­dow once we’ve set­tled down. Sadly, lots of es­tab­lished cou­ples are un­sure what it in­volves. So let me ex­plain.

Flirt­ing is giv­ing your part­ner a bun­dle of sex­ual en­ergy and see­ing if he re­turns it — hope­fully with in­ter­est. It in­volves in-jokes, teas­ing and saucy texts and reveals some­thing about your heart.

It also says, ‘I’m still at­tracted to you’ or, if done at a dis­tance, ‘I’m think­ing of you’ and builds up sex­ual ten­sion — oth­er­wise when you are alone to­gether it’s like go­ing from nought to 90 in sec­onds.

Re­mem­ber, flirt­ing should be fun and play­ful — and it’s only fun if both of you en­joy the joke and not play­ful if it could be in­ter­preted as a de­mand for sex.

Step up the ro­mance

It’s all about show­ing your part­ner you care, but the power of ro­mance is in­creased by nov­elty (oth­er­wise it be­comes a duty) and there­fore needs to be re­newed by find­ing dif­fer­ent ways and adding an el­e­ment of sur­prise, such as meet­ing up for lunch on a week­day or both of you dress­ing up for a night in.

I also en­cour­age cou­ples to bring back spe­cial mem­o­ries by watch­ing a ro­man­tic movie you both en­joyed when dat­ing or go­ing some­where with spe­cial past as­so­ci­a­tions.

Other ideas in­clude giv­ing small gifts, funny cards and ex­press­ing thanks for some­thing that could eas­ily be taken for granted.

Re­de­fine sex

When cou­ples tell me they hardly ever have sex, I find they have a nar­row def­i­ni­tion — nor­mally some ac­tiv­ity that ends with an or­gasm. For some, it only counts if it is full in­ter­course. What about snug­gling up to­gether on a Sun­day morn­ing?

What about that quickie where you gave him plea­sure even though you weren’t in­ter­ested in go­ing all the way your­self? In my opin­ion, it all counts. To help cou­ples re­de­fine sex, I get them to draw a bull’s eye, like a tar­get for archery. In the cen­tre I ask them to put what they con­sider their core sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties, in the next cir­cle things they do oc­ca­sion­ally (such as dress­ing up) and, fi­nally, things they con­sider erotic (and maybe are part of their love­mak­ing).

I’ve had men write that they en­joy watch­ing their wife put on her makeup. If you’re in any doubt what to in­clude in this cat­e­gory, ask your­self:

‘Would it feel like cheat­ing if he did this with an­other woman?’ Af­ter do­ing my ex­er­cise, most cou­ples find that they’re hav­ing more sex than they thought.

Re­dis­cover the power of touch

This is per­haps the most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent for in­creas­ing the sen­su­al­ity of your re­la­tion­ship and makes it easy to cross from the ev­ery­day world of chores and rais­ing a fam­ily into the in­ti­mate world of sex. For ex­am­ple. kiss each other in the morn­ing be­fore leav­ing for work and in the evening when you re­turn home. Lie in each other’s arms on the sofa as you watch tele­vi­sion.

En­cour­age him to guide you through a door with a light touch in the small of your back or put your arm through his as you walk down the street. Oth­er­wise you are in dan­ger of fall­ing into the ‘all or noth­ing’ trap where any touch is an in­vi­ta­tion for sex, rather than a chance to feel con­nected.

Act like lovers

Rather than turn­ing into flat­mates or par­ents, use sexy pet names, sleep naked to­gether and ar­range nights out to­gether or a ro­man­tic week­end away. In the sur­vey that looked into fre­quency of love­mak­ing, three quar­ters of par­ents had never taken a hol­i­day away without their chil­dren.

In a sep­a­rate study at Har­vard Univer­sity, re­searchers found cou­ples in love spend 75 per cent of their time look­ing at each other when they talk as op­posed to the usual 30 to 60 per cent. So rather than shout up the stairs, speak face to face and when he’s talk­ing to you, turn round and stop what you’re do­ing.

Make love­mak­ing mem­o­rable

Sex be­comes bor­ing or a chore when you know ex­actly what’s com­ing next. So mix things up and ex­per­i­ment. There are lots of dif­fer­ent ways of kiss­ing and dif­fer­ent places on the body to kiss. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the lips, try his neck and shoul­ders.

You can also change the pace of your love­mak­ing by stop­ping and make him beg for more, then speed­ing up again. Wake up your senses by play­ing ro­man­tic mu­sic or wear­ing a favourite per­fume.

Re-create that ‘just met’ feel­ing

See your part­ner through other peo­ple’s eyes by go­ing to his work­place and tak­ing him out for a drink or invit­ing him to your con­fer­ence. Any­thing that al­lows you to see each other as de­sir­able, in­ter­est­ing peo­ple again. Sex needs sep­a­ra­tion as well as close­ness (as we don’t de­sire what we al­ready have). You’ll also find a small amount of jeal­ousy does no harm to your sex life.

Don’t ex­pect mind read­ing

You’re not the same peo­ple you were when you first met. You don’t go to the same places or eat the same food, but lots of peo­ple still have the same sex. So up­date each other by shar­ing a fan­tasy rather than set­tling into a rut.

It’s equally im­por­tant not to as­sume you can read his mind. So ask him ques­tions, like you used to when you were dat­ing. Warm up with gen­eral ques­tions, such as, ‘If you could live any­where in the world, where would it be?’ and move on to sexy ones, such as, ‘What one thing would im­prove your love life?’

Don’t com­pare your­self to oth­ers

We’ve al­ways com­pared our­selves with our neigh­bours but celebrity cul­ture and so­cial me­dia has widened our ref­er­ence points and made us more likely to worry we don’t mea­sure up. Just be­cause ev­ery­body else is trapped in the com­par­i­son cul­ture doesn’t mean you have to fol­low — es­pe­cially as peo­ple are no­to­ri­ous for ly­ing about sex!

If you must have a yard­stick, try the 2,2,6 rule that many sex therapists use: out of ev­ery 10 times that you make love, twice it will be fan­tas­tic, twice you’ll wish you hadn’t both­ered and six times it will be okay. An­drew G Mar­shall is a mar­i­tal therapist and au­thor of I Love You But You Al­ways Put Me Last: How To Child­proof Your Mar­riage, Macmil­lan, €10.53 at Ea­son

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