Sexual monotony happens — to all of us. You’re not the first to contemplate how to spice up your sex life, and you certainly won’t be the last. Couples can find themselves in sexual ruts for all kinds of reasons, Dr. Laura Dabney, M.D., relationship psychiatrist, tells SheKnows. Over time, our sexual preferences change, and our bodies do too. The thing that charmed us at the start of our relationship may no longer resonate in the same way. Having the same type of sex over and over can get boring.
The thing is, spicing things up in the bedroom isn’t so easy. It requires time, energy and — most importantly — communication. You need to open a conversation with your partner about what you want. Whether you’re interested in trying new positions, integrating sex toys into the bedroom, or simply having a little more sex, what lay ahead is a frank but compassionate chat. And we spoke to four experts to find out exactly how to have it.
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The scariest part of all of this isn’t necessarily having the conversation — it’s starting it. How do you tell your partner you want to spice things up in the bedroom without insulting their performance or otherwise offending them?
You can start by emphasizing what you like about your sex life, Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and relationship expert, tells SheKnows. Do you love it when you take your time? Try something new? Escape to a fancy restaurant before a night of romance? Start there, then ask your partner for feedback. Dr. O’Reilly also suggests asking something like: “Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try in bed?”
Curb the complaints
Once you’ve asked your partner what they want, you can make your request. Dr. O’Reilly gives the following example: “I’d love to carve out a Sunday morning with no phones to try this new massage oil I bought and see where it leads.” But, she cautions, make sure your request is not a complaint. “Oftentimes, we wait until we’re frustrated to speak up and we don’t communicate as effectively as we could,” Dr. O’Reilly says.
Dr. O’Reilly gives the following example: “If you say, ‘We never make time for sex and it’s always rushed,’ your partner may not respond as favorably as they might if you were to make a request (‘Can we block off a few hours to spend some alone time in bed?’).”
Christine Scott Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR, marriage and family therapist, agrees: “Ask for what you want, rather than pointing out what you don’t.” Focus on giving your partner positive feedback wherever possible, she tells SheKnows. Veer too far in the opposite direction, and you risk shutting down the conversation — not to mention, hurting your partner’s feelings.
Make it a game
If this still sounds thoroughly uncomfortable, take a page out of Dr. O’Reilly’s book and start with an activity instead. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and ask your partner to do the same. On your paper, write down how often you’d like to have sex. And at the bottom, write down how often you believe your partner wants to have sex. “Exchange papers,” she instructs. “Have a laugh and start a discussion.”
This icebreaker can be used to jumpstart other sex-based conversations, too. You can inquire about fantasies, positions, toys and more. Just grab a piece of paper and get writing.
Use “I” statements
Talking about sex can get complicated, but Dr. Dabney has devised a quick-and-dirty template that should keep you on the right track throughout your conversation. Focus on constructing your sentences like this: “I feel X when you do Y.”
Using an “I” statement doesn’t put the focus on the partner and so can be less hurtful. Avoid making more pointed statements like, “You seem to only want to have missionary-style sex,” or “You don’t want to have oral sex any more,” for example. “Those are actually ways of attacking your partner, criticizing them, telling them they need to change,” says Dr. Dabney.
“You don’t want to embarrass or shame your partner ever,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., family and relationship psychotherapist. “Make it an adventure you’re exploring together.”
And don’t you already know what your partner is going to say, either, Dr. Dabney warns. “Stick with your own stuff,” she says. Keeping your statements focused on you and your feelings will encourage a more open and productive dialogue for everyone involved.
You can also emphasize what you like about your sex life, says Dr. O’Reilly. you can say things like: “I love when you __,” “I’d love to try __ again,” or “It makes me feel so good when you/we __. Can we do more of that?” To ask to try something new, you can say: “I’d like to try __ because I think it would feel so intense and intimate,” or “Would you be open to __, so that I could feel more __?”
Be sure to avoid negative or accusatory statements like: “We never __ anymore,” or “You’re too __.” Remember, the goal isn’t to place blame. It’s to work toward a sexual future that makes you and your partner happy. “Acknowledge that some conversations may be uncomfortable, and discomfort can breed growth,” Dr. O’Reilly says. Keep your eye on the prize: that growth.
Remember, this isn’t just about you. It’s about you and your partner. So if your partner indicates discomfort with the conversation when you first bring it up, respect that — but don’t drop the point entirely, Dr. Dabney says. “It’s very, very important that you understand that, as an adult, it’s your responsibility to take care of your own needs,” she says. That doesn’t mean forcing your partner through a conversation they don’t want to have right then and there, but it does mean following up about it later.
“Let’s say your partner is defensive or just not receptive [to what you said]—even if you said it in the right way,” Dr. Dabney says, “You might have to say at that point, ‘I can see you’re not able to talk about this now. I will readdress this with you over the weekend, over dinner, etc.’” That way, you’re respecting your partner without letting the conversation totally pass you by.
Then, once dinner, or the weekend, or whenever comes, bring it up again. “You have to follow through to build trust,” Dr. Dabney says. “Say, ‘We still need to address this. Is this a good time for you to talk about it?’” If they still say no? Keep bringing it up until you finally have the conversation.
“Too many people make the mistake of letting it drop and assuming they can never talk about it again,” she says.
Go beyond talking
While a conversation is a really wonderful and efficient way forward, you might be curious about other ways to spice things up. And they’re plentiful.
Dr. Walfish suggests surprising your partner with a weekend getaway — two tickets to Vegas, or something of the sort. There, you can get couples’ massages, grab a fancy dinner, stop by a strip club. “But be sure to take it one step at a time,” she says. “Take a step, and see if that much feels OK to your partner.” You can introduce things in a spontaneous, romantic way, but consent and comfort are paramount.
You can even take simpler steps, like bringing home a toy and asking your partner what they think of it, Dr. Dabney says. “Whatever you’re fantasizing about or wanting to do, you can take those first steps,” she says. “But you have to be sensitive to the fact that you may be surprising your partner.” Maybe they’ll be put off by the toy, or maybe they’ll be enticed by it. Either way, respect what they have to say, and treat this like the beginning of an ongoing dialogue.
You can also use supplementary materials as conversation starters — porn, books, pop culture. “If you see a scene on Netflix that turns you on, let your partner know,” Dr. O’Reilly says. “Clarify the details that pique your interest…Ask your partner what they think. Ask them if there are elements of the fantasy that might turn them on.”
And of course, you can always use this discussion as an opportunity to level up in the bedroom, yourself. “Show your partner what you want physically…Kiss your partner the way you want to be kissed,” Dr. O’Reilly recommends. “Oftentimes we have expectations of our partners that we don’t meet ourselves. Start with yourself first — what can you change before you ask your partner to change?”
Plenty of excitement is ahead — so get chatting. The sooner you talk, the sooner you can get to all the good stuff.