I love reading all of your stuff. I was wondering if you had any advice on getting back into a sexual relationship. My partner and I have been together for over four years and our sex has fizzled out a bit. I think now we feel really nervous about it and don’t know how to get back into it even though we both really want to! If you have anything to read or any advice to give that would be amazing.
— Rekindle Our Romance
It’s perfectly normal for long-term partners to feel their sex life fizzle a bit. While mainstream sex culture seems to embrace the notion that sexual flames between partners may falter, we don’t have as much acceptance of how rekindling those flames means that you might have to do some fanning. As in, that sexual fire certainly isn’t going to stoke itself!
Lust, sex drives, and turn-ons carry the narrative that they must be spontaneous in order to be acted on or “real.” Waiting for two people to both fall into The Mood at the same time, in the same place, at the right time, and the right place, is a great recipe for waiting around for your sex life to happen … for … quite … a … while.
Creating blazing, amazing bonfires in long-term sexual relationships takes kindling, fuel, tending, and intention. Don’t wait for lightning to strike. Make it happen. On purpose.
Here are some tips:
First: Learn how to build a bonfire. Each of you do some homework — whether that’s watching porn (see my earlier column “Gimme That Grass Fed Porn” for my suggestions), doing one of Emily Nagoski’s great turn-on and turn-off worksheets (thedirtynormal.com/worksheets), or reading an excellent how-to book about sex in general (Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon, for example). Reacquaint yourselves with what turns you on and share that info with each other once you know.
Gather your kindling. What’s going to fuel your fire? New sex toys (Oh My Sensuality in Northampton, Adam and Eve in Greenfield, babeland.com online)? A fancy lube? Just a nice afternoon of self-grooming and a new pair of jockeys? Get ’em!
Build your fire pit. When and where’s the party at? Make a sex date. Schedule it: 8-10 p.m. on Sunday we are setting aside for The Sex. Guess what? Sex doesn’t actually even have to happen during this time. But the intention should.
If Sunday at 8 p.m. rolls around and all y’all muster is talking about the new sex toys you got, cuddling naked, or making out and then watching Netflix, then hurray! You’re doing it! You’re building time for sex and carving out space for intimacy. Keep it up! The sex will likely build and follow.
Pro Tip: For the love of human connection, turn your phones off and put them away in an unreachable place during The Sex Date Time.
Light it up. The time for being hesitant to initiate is over. Strike the match and lean in. Of course, never do anything your partner doesn’t want to do. But don’t settle yourselves into a waiting stalemate. Initiation doesn’t have to be slick. “Hey, do you want to try to have sex now?” works just fine.
Fan those flames. Sex begets more sex. Once that initial sex fire is ignited, don’t neglect it. Add more wood. (Definitely couldn’t help myself on that one.) Spray your lighter fluid all over it (or that one). Toast some marshmallows and get s’more (Damn, now I’m on fire!). The point is, once the hiatus is broken, it’ll be easier to keep up your sex life more continuously. And if not, see step one.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.