Having spent the last few weeks around people who are in different stages of love — new, romantic love to older, more seasoned love — it occurred to me that a lot of our sexual problems and frustrations can be avoided or better managed with a few things in mind.
LOVE THE SPACE YOU’RE IN
Whether you’re in the lust stages of your relationship or the calmer, more seasoned stages or even somewhere in-between, learn to love the space you’re in. Appreciate that things are as they are, and find reason for joy while in that space. Now, this is all well and good when you’re happy and things feel right but what about when you’re in a tricky season of your relationship? What about when one of you is recovering from an illness that’s taking too long, or you’re sleep deprived and irritable because your beautiful new baby cries too much to let you sleep? What about when you’re recovering from the effects of an extramarital sexual or emotional affair? How, then, do you find joy in those seasons? First, begin by understanding that the old adage is true; nothing lasts forever. Another thought that brings comfort during difficult times is “don’t trust in the permanence of the present.” In other words, things do change and will change. Secondly, recognise it for what it is: a season as well as an indicator of other things going on in the relationship. If the indicator is that there’s a problem, consider that information to be a friend, despite the hurt it can bring. This friend is giving you the gift of knowledge, and as we know, knowledge is power. Use this knowledge to improve things for yourself and your partner.
For some reason, humans seem to expect that love and sex should just flow. This may be true in certain seasons of our lives but in reality, these require deliberate actions that contribute to what you want. Think of it this way; how much sense would it make for you to expect a bumper harvest of maize when you neither planted nor watered your seeds? You want maize, you must be deliberate about choosing which variety and weighing it against the input necessary for the desired output. Looking at your sex life, begin by determining what kind of variety (sex life) you would like to have (great sex, ‘swinging from the chandelier’ sex, basic vanilla sex) and then weigh that against the required input. In other words, what are you willing to do? I’ll give you a hint here: a lot of sex challenges could be avoided or minimised if the sense of emotional safety is increased in the relationship. No lover will share their fantasies and desires if they anticipate being ridiculed or criticised. No one wants to make love or have spontaneous sex with a nag or a whiner. Learn, therefore, to observe your communication patterns and begin to change any sex killing traits.
Hearing is one thing but seeing it is quite another! The number of times I have seen couples literally leaning in to one another has led me to believe that this is one of the secret sauces to great sex. Don’t believe me? Try it! Next time you’re with your partner, lean in to them. When they speak, lean in. You may discover that it’s quite difficult for you, which would indicate to me that you’re feeling distant from them for whatever reason (see previous comment on the impact of emotional safety on your sex life & choose wisely) or you might find that it has the desired effect of making you want to be with them, making them feel desired and wanted by you and ultimately improving the quality of your sex life. Either way, give it a try.
Listening has got to be one of nature’s own aphrodisiac. Try to remember a time when you felt loved, cherished, respected, happy. I’m willing to bet that one of th reasons you felt so good was because you felt heard. Listening is a natural part of leaning in so when you lean in, or when your partner does it, follow up with attentive listening. Feeling heard makes it easier for you and your partner to progress towards sex that you’re both looking forward to because it feels like listening with clothes off will be correlated with listening with clothes on, and who wouldn’t want to have their bodies listened to like they contained the secret to life, love and happiness?
Before you engage me in some version of a chorus of the “that’s not African”...”I hate PDA (Public Displays of Affection)”, or “I’m a man, we don’t touch”, I want you to close your choir folder and look at this another way. This kind of touch is the kind where your knees touch when you sit down for dinner because of proximity, where you’re standing next to each other doing something and your bodies are in close proximity. Even letting your partner reach for something across you without you stepping out of their way, or feeling their feet touching yours in bed and allowing it. That’s the kind of touch I’m talking about. It’s almost like an unconscious touch; choosing to be in close proximity and resisting the instinct or the urge to move away from your partner. This kind of touch is about ‘allowing’ your partner to access your life space. It’s sending a subtle yet powerful signal to them saying that they are welcome into your space.
Find reasons to laugh together. Tell each other jokes or stories that are funny to you, and hopefully them. The thing with laughter is that it works for both of you by triggering happy hormones. The tricky thing here is that it’s a space of vulnerability for both of you so please, be kind. If your partner shares something cute or funny, don’t just leave them hanging! That can be such an awkward, painful experience that leaves them feeling embarrassed or even ashamed. It’s a power play on your part, and it’s a destructive one because they will rightfully retreat, lick their wounds ie their bruised ego and then determine never to let you make them feel like that again. You may have won the ego battle but you will have certainly lost the great sex war. If your partner shares something funny, cute, etc, make it your business to receive it. It’s meant to be a gift - a gift of laughter and bonding. Take it and enjoy it together. You can thank me for your improved sex life just by doing this little thing. On that happy note, I hope you finish reading this article with some ideas of things you can say, do or avoid in the here and now, to improve your sex life. I hope that you allow yourself to begin to invest in the kind of sex life you’ve fantasised about.
Maggie Gitu is a marriage, family and sex therapist. Reach her on: [email protected] or on Facebook page: Maggie Gitu