Sure, sex is all around us—in music, movies, the news, and even neighborhood drugstores. You’d think we’d all be having it, all the time.
In fact, in a recent study nearly 20 percent of American couples reveal that they hadn’t had any sex at all in the past month.
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A month off doesn’t mean you’re sex-starved (in clinical terms, that would be six months), but it’s certainly not a great way to keep a relationship strong. Physical intimacy, as we all know, is an important and necessary part of bonding. So, what’s going on here?
To find out, I turned to Celeste and Rob, who have been married nine years, are working parents of a 4-year-old, and admit that sometimes they are just too tired. They let me take a peek into their bedroom and offer some tips on revving things up.
The issue: More snoozing than smooching
Like many couples, Celeste and Rob have intense, mismatched schedules, which means they don’t connect much on week nights.
“During the week, my husband and I scarcely see each other. I leave really early for work, before he’s even up. Then Rob’s not home evenings until late, sometimes 9 p.m., just when I’m getting ready to pack it in,” Celeste says.
The Rx: Weeknight sex
It’s nice to have something to look forward to during the week, and sex is a great way to relieve stress and reconnect. To make it fun, take turns thinking of special treats for that night—food, a sexy video, massage oil, whatever inspires you.
Sex-o-meter: Yes, yes, yes!
When I checked back with Rob and Celeste, Thursday nights had become fun and sexy. Rob cut his lunch hour short so he could come home earlier. And Celeste got in the mood by indulging in a leisurely bath. He arrived with surprise treats, from sumptuous finger foods to sexy videos. Over time, Celeste started taking the lead—setting the stage or wearing something sensual.
The issue: Not loving the love handles
Like many couples, Celeste and Rob have watched their bodies mature over nine years of marriage in ways that are not so sexy. Celeste points out, “It’s hard to love your body and even harder to have sex if you aren’t feeling sexy. I know that I don’t want to have sex on days when I feel fat or just down about myself.”
The Rx: Get fit for great sex
Studies show that people get a nice sex-life boost from losing five to 10 pounds. Plus, exercising increases energy, sex-hormone levels, and confidence about sex appeal. Feeling that you look good has a lot to do with how much fun you’re going to have in bed.
Sex-o-meter: Feeling frisky
Celeste goes to the gym during her lunch hour now. And Rob started a before-work routine. The first time they took a run together, they returned very much in the mood, which led to a memorable post-run romp.
The issue: Lack of spontaneity
Sad, but true: After the early years of a relationship, you’re not so likely to be spontaneous or adventuresome. And all that scheduling to have sex can make it seem rote, Rob and Celeste admit.
“Compared with the early days, we’ve become very proficient,” Celeste says. “But I miss the spontaneous surprises and intensity.”
The Rx: Spice-it-up box
A fun way to add spontaneity is to use a suggestion box. Both partners can write down sexual things they’d like to do and stick them into the box. Then on sex night, they can pick a sexy suggestion from the box.
Sex-o-meter: Off the charts!
Celeste and Rob loved the box. “It gave us a safe place to ask each other for things without being embarrassed,” Celeste says. “This seriously made our lives a little more spontaneous and enjoyable.” Rob adds, “I often find myself writing down things at work and placing them in my pocket. My biggest fear is that I’ll forget to put my idea in the box and the dry cleaner will find it and look at me differently every time I pick up my clothes!”
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Linda De Villers is a certified sex therapist based in California and author of Love Skills.