When it comes to knowing what makes your partner tick in the bedroom, tutorials on "mind-blowing sex positions" only get you so far. To discuss a few practical ways couples can actually have more stimulating and gratifying sex, we sought out Dr. Bea Jaffrey—a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist based in Switzerland—and Mary Jo Rapini, a psychiatrist and sex therapist based in Houston. Below are some suggestions from Rapini along with tips from Jaffrey's new book on overcoming common sex issues, 159 Mistakes Couples Make in the Bedroom.
Tell Him What Turns You On
Research suggests that better communication is key to better sex, and no, we don't necessarily mean dirty talk. Communicating what you like and don't like can be instructional and informative as you get to know each other's bodies. If he's doing something you like, say so rather than relying on ambiguous gestures or noises. And if it's something you're not into, communicate that or guide him in a new direction. Want to try a different angle? Suggest one. If simultaneous orgasm is your goal and you're close to climaxing, don't be mum about it.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Praise
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers analyzed answers from 39,000 heterosexual couples that were married or cohabiting for over three years. Sexual satisfaction reported to be higher among the couples who revealed that they gave each other positive affirmation during sex and were open enough about embarrassing moments during sex to joke about them and move on. Dr. Jaffrey notes that this lighthearted approach to sex is key, saying, "Don't take life too seriously. Happy couples laugh together."
"If he's doing something you like, say so rather than relying on ambiguous gestures or noises."
Keep Things Spontaneous
Even great sex can start to feel monotonous over time if it's more or less the same old routine. To mix things up, Marie Claire's guy expert Lodro Rinzler suggests that "if you're in bed with someone and have a sense of something new you or your partner might enjoy, be it some teasing, a change in position, anything…go for it. Men love it when women are spontaneous and confident in their ability in bed."
Dr. Jaffrey also recommends switching up the time and place to avoid falling into a rut of once-a-week "duty sex." "Try new places to have sex, maybe on the sofa, in the car or on the kitchen countertops? Or how about the back row of a movie theater? Be careful though because sex is illegal in public places. Try role-playing...take a bath together. Be inventive, have fun."
Think of Foreplay as a Long-Term Act
Jaffrey notes that setting the mood for sex is vital, for women especially, and that foreplay should start long before sex even begins: "I am talking here about the mental foreplay that happens days in advance, not the one that you have just before sex. Make sure to be attentive to your partner. Small gestures and nice comments are significant to setting the right mood for sex." She also suggests keeping up communication during the day through texts or emails.
Exercise and Don't Skimp on the D (the *Vitamin* D)
If anyone doubted the power of exercise, there's a good chance the Class Pass subscription you passed up this year is affecting your sex drive. "Exercise improves circulation in the body, and that includes the blood flow to your genital area, consequently increasing the desire and lifting your mood". We're sure those endorphins don't hurt.
And as for those of us city dwellers lacking in vitamin D? "Even during the summer, we don't get enough vitamin D because we're scared of the UV rays causing us skin cancer and premature aging," says Dr. Jaffrey. "Though too much sun can be damaging to the skin, Vitamin D is essential for estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men. It boosts your libido so if you feel friskier during the summer, this is the reason." Our pressing spring fever questions answered? We think yes.
Go for Morning Sex or Afternoon Delight
Dr. Jaffrey notes in her new book that a major reason for mismatched desire between couples is the way men and women handle stress during the week. Men, she says, see sex as a stress reliever while women want to have sex after they've had time to unwind. As a result, women tend to go to bed exhausted, their minds focused on preparing for the next day.
Her solution? "A better alternative is to have sex in the morning. Set the alarm 30 minutes before your usual time and see what happens. Men's testosterone levels peak in the morning so you might be pleasantly surprised...Another alternative would be to have afternoon sex on weekends. Interestingly enough, women tend to ovulate in the afternoon, meaning that the optimal hormone level for female sexual desire happens at that time."
"Men see sex as a stress reliever while women want to have sex after they've had time to unwind."
Expand Your Vocabulary
The power of sexy banter in the bedroom gets underplayed, but it can be a serious mood-enhancer when you're trying to liven things up together. Going about that, however, isn't the easiest for people who aren't used to actually vocalizing 50 Shades-esque fantasies. "What my [clients] benefit the most from is when they go to a bookstore or they go online and they find an erotic book," says Rapini. She suggests that couples read from erotic books together, especially if they want to work on developing a "dirty talk" vocabulary that gives them the language cues without feeling self-conscious.Reading off scripts, she says, never works as well as if couples find a book they really like together and can build off of that jargon.
Experiment with Toys and Props
One way that Rapini counsels long-term couples on how to explore the unknown to enhance their sexual experience is to try shopping for products and toys together. That could mean anything from couples' vibrators (she recommends the remote-controlled Fiera) to massage oils to body paint to blindfolds, though Rapini says another way to set the scene is to try adding music as sexy background noise. "Make massage part of your routine and start touching each other. Many couples will start feeling their libido rise after they do that," she says.