A top sex therapist answers the most-often-asked questions and reveals her sex tips.
1. Am I Normal?
People want to know that their drives, responses, fantasies, or bodies aren’t somehow weird — probably because so many of us learned as kids that sex is dirty and our bodily needs shouldn’t be discussed. As adults, we crave assurance that we’re OK. The answer is yes — of course you’re normal! As long as your sex life isn’t harming anyone and you’re safe, there’s no reason to be concerned about the shape of your desires, or your genitals. “Normal” encompasses a broad range of behaviors and bodies. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed about uninhibitedly enjoying and exploring your sexuality. A first step in loosening those inhibitions is embracing this broader definition of “normal.”
Sometimes I sense that the unspoken question is really “My sex life is unfulfilling; is that normal?” It’s certainly common, a sad reality for many. I believe this is because most women don’t know how to ask for what they want in the bedroom (more about that later). Some aren’t even sure what they want. Accepting yourself as normal, with a right to an uninhibited sexual self, will start you moving toward the sex life of your dreams.
2. How Often Do Most People Have Sex?
The fear: that everyone else out there is having way more sex than you are. Relax. Research has shown that most long-married couples have sex once or twice a week, provided illness, pregnancy, travel, or a major issue like financial stress doesn’t get in the way. For new couples, sex happens more often, but the frequency will gradually decrease over time.
3. How Do I Tell My Husband What I Need in Bed?
Your partner isn’t a mind reader, so you have to speak up and be clear about what you want. Be honest, but not accusatory. You might say something like, “I love having sex with you and I want it to be the best it can be. That’s why I want to…” (“try a new position,” “have you touch me there,” “take our time” — whatever you need). Or try to frame your request as a compliment. If you’d like more foreplay, for example, you might say, “Honey, I was so turned on last night; I love it when you take your time with me before sex. It shows how much you care about my pleasure, and it felt amazing.” Your partner will be offering more foreplay than you can handle!
Women want to know how to manage having that “touch me here, not there” talk without killing the moment or sounding reproachful. Try saying things like:
“Can we slow down a minute?”
“Can you do that thing with your tongue again?”
“This feels good! You know what would make it feel even better?” (Then get on top, change positions, or move his hand.)
Sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all; you can guide him by gently lifting your hips or moving your body in a way that works for you. You can also moan or coo to give him added information so he knows when he’s doing something you enjoy. Remember that your partner wants to make you happy in bed, and he wants direction — our bodies are often a mystery to men, and any guideposts along the way are appreciated.
4. I’ve Lost My Sex Drive! Why?
Lack of libido is a common problem as women get older and experience the hormonal changes of menopause, but it can happen at any age. Fluctuating hormone levels can contribute (perimenopause can begin as early as age 35), but so can stress at home or at work, medications (some antidepressants and birth control pills have been linked to lowered sex drive), poor physical fitness, and lack of sleep. If you’ve lost interest in sex, first check physical factors. Visit your doctor for a general checkup and tests that will detect changing hormone levels. Consider whether low libido may be a side effect of a new medication, and make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthfully. Then look at your stress level: If your daily to-do list is overwhelming, don’t be a hero; get help.. If money woes have you on edge, schedule a family budget talk or a session with a financial adviser at your bank. If you find you need serious help with managing stress, don’t hesitate to confide in a therapist or your clergyperson. Finally, take time for the pleasures that can reconnect you with your inner vixen: a hot bath, a spa day, time with friends, date night with your husband.
5. My Husband/I Cheated. How Do We Get Past It?
It is possible to repair after an affair. First, the partner who cheated must cut off all communication with the ex-lover, and make it clear that he or she is recommitting to the marriage. The unfaithful spouse should be 100 percent honest about the affair, but refrain from giving too many gory details. Therapy is important; a couples’ counselor can help you find out what led to the infidelity and how to rebuild the relationship. Outside of the therapy session, the injured party should get to vent, rant, or cry for 10 minutes a day, and the unfaithful spouse must listen and accept the hurt he or she has caused. Limiting these venting sessions to 10 minutes a day preempts constant fighting about the subject and allows a couple to focus on rebuilding. I’ve seen this technique work over a six-month period or less: The more the wounded spouses allow themselves to feel and express their hurt, and the more they feel validated and heard, the lighter the emotional burden becomes, and moving on seems possible.
6. How Do I Tell My Partner About My Fantasies?
Sharing fantasies with your partner can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. Simplify the process by creating a “fantasy file” and keeping it in your bedroom. You and your partner can each write down a couple of fantasies (or several!) on separate slips of paper, and stick them in a folder (or notebook, or box). Whenever things get dull in the bedroom, pull a fantasy out of the file and act it out. Many couples I’ve worked with have used this strategy successfully. It may sounds silly, but if you agree to have fun with the project and commit to exploring new things, you’ll be surprised at how much your sex life can benefit.
7. How Do We Make Time for Sex?
It’s not uncommon for busy couples to miss out on sex because they’re overbooked, or overburdened, or overtired, or all of the above. But it’s essential that you devote time to your marriage (and by extension, your sex life), no matter how busy you are. Your marriage is the cornerstone of your family, and deserves your attention. Don’t wait for free time to miraculously appear; create it. If necessary, steal it from some other activity, with no apologies. Write your weekly date night in stone, and break it only for emergencies. Start saying “no” more often to requests for your time, from volunteer work to family gatherings. Leave housecleaning or laundry for a rainy day — better to have a pile of dirty socks than a rocky marriage. Make your relationship and your sex life a priority. If you don’t schedule time together, it just won’t happen.
8. We’re Stuck in a Sexual Rut. How Do We Rev Things Up?
Long-term couples often find that their sex lives become a bit boring. That can definitely change — but you have to work to keep things exciting and fresh. Small alterations in routine can have big payoffs. Initiate sex at a time that’s unusual for you — say, when he walks in the door from work (maybe Grandma or a friend can take the kids). Introduce a new move in the bedroom. Or just give your spouse a long, passionate kiss when he least expects it.
Bring flirting back into the equation: Send provocative e-mails or texts throughout the day to get each other going. And here’s a somewhat surprising turn-on: Express gratitude to your partner five times a day, and watch how much more you start appreciating your life together. Pretend you’re lovers having a secret rendezvous; book a night at a local hotel (or if that’s beyond your budget, turn your bedroom into a sweet suite, complete with pillow mints and a mood-setting movie).
Try having sex somewhere new and risqué, like a restaurant bathroom or the kitchen counter. It’s OK if you feel a little self-conscious at first. You’ll find that the more you add playfulness to your connection, the more natural it will feel — and the better your sex life will be.