"I can't meet my husband's sexual needs." "I haven't wanted to give or receive oral sex in three years." "I will only have sex in the missionary position, in the dark." "I've never had an orgasm, ever."
These are just some of the confessions readers, most of whom are married with kids, have recently shared with me. The sad truth is that many couples struggle to keep their sex lives passionate and fulfilling after many years together.
But take heart: Kick-starting your sex life is not only easy, it's fun!
After more than 50 conversations in the past year with monogamous, married men and women, I've realized that the longer we're together, the more easily we tend to slip into traditional gender roles between the sheets. But it didn't start out this way, ladies. Early on, we felt powerful, desirable, and sexually adventurous.
Sexpectations, a word connoting the pressure to meet our partner's sexual needs, had not entered our lexicons. Yet after years of marriage, kids, and adult responsibilities, we soon start to notice changes: to our libidos, our bodies and even how we see ourselves sexually.
To learn more about why we may find ourselves inhabiting traditional gender roles in the bedroom, I reached out to Lisa Katona, a Chicago-based sex therapist. After years of working with both men and women, Katona says "Our culture at large tells us it's OK for men to be aggressive and for women to be passive. Add a layer of fatigue, and this becomes a recipe for traditional sex roles to surface. It takes energy and effort to switch things up, and those resources now go to other parts of life, like the kids and the bills."
While we struggle to redefine ourselves as women, men experience challenges of their own. Being a guy today is no piece of cake. Remember when Dad worked all week and then went golfing on the weekends with his pals? Those days are long over. Not only do women often expect their husbands to be the breadwinners, but we also demand they shoulder their share of child-rearing and household responsibilities while duly empathizing with our own sacrifices.
Sometimes we resent their freedom and their financial power (or they may resent ours). On two separate occasions, male friends recently told me only semi-jokingly that they couldn't watch a Sunday afternoon football game because they hadn't received a "hall pass" from their wives. How could this not impact their sexual identities? Men may feel they have to grovel for sex, creating tension and frustration on both sides.
Luckily, improving your sex life and balancing your needs and those of your partner is as fun as it is doable. Best of all, giving your sex life a little TLC can strengthen your relationship both in and out of the bedroom.
Most important to remember is that you deserve great sex. That's right! No matter how many kids you have, what the scale says, or how tired you are, you deserve fabulous, mind-blowing, orgasm-inducing sex.
To get started, here are some of the best tips I've seen from my work with Bedroom Chemist, a wonderful subscription service that helps couples keep the flames of passion burning:
Whether it's touching you too gently, coming on too strong, or using a little too much tongue, your partner won't know if he or she is fulfilling your sexual needs unless you clearly say so. Together, explore your body and find new areas that turn you on. Make sure to take some time to discover new pleasure spots on your partner's body as well so there is a sense of discovery for both of you.
Physical intimacy is sometimes as simple as a warm, firm touch. Once you complete your evening tasks, grab some lotion and give each other foot massages. While one person rubs, the other can talk about something good that happened that day or earlier in the week. Then switch. Avoid stressful subjects, listen attentively, and ask good questions. Be positive, fun, and sweet to each other.
Oral sex can and should be empowering for both men and women. When your sweetie gets home, take a quick shower together. Dry each other off. Then head downtown and give your partner a treat. Afterward, have your partner return the favor. An orgasm (or two) through oral sex and digital stimulation rather than intercourse is a great way to spice up your love life.
At some point during the week, send your partner a text saying, "Meet me in our bed, naked, at 8:30 PM." Over the next few hours, fantasize about your partner and think about what turns you on. When you get into bed that evening, tell your sweetie something easy to do that would make you hot. Maybe it's a certain way to touch or lick you. Don't be shy: A little direction can often go a long way.
If you typically assume the more dominant role during sex, allow your partner to take charge. If you can only have sex when the stars are perfectly aligned and your partner is not ticking you off, get over it. Have angry or makeup sex instead. Watch erotic movies, read sexy novels or use a vibrator. Dress up. Then go have sex upside down, in the shower, or right when you wake up. Be vulnerable, curious, and generous sexually, and new doors of ecstasy will open up for both of you.
Like anything else, feeling sexual and creating a satisfying physical relationship with your partner takes continuous effort. Power dynamics evolve, life throws us curveballs, and our sex lives require constant love and attention. As we strive to nurture our bodies with good food and exercise, remember that sex is also vitally important to living a healthy, satisfied life. I don't know about you, but I have no doubt I am a more patient driver, mother, friend, co-worker, customer, daughter-in-law, and spouse when sex is something I anticipate and cherish.
Wendy Widom is a lead writer for Bedroom Chemist. She also contributes to Huffington Post, ChicagoNow, CheekyChicago and Families in the Loop. When she’s not raising a ruckus in the parenting world, Wendy manages community-driven marketing campaigns and holds communication-training seminars in her beloved city of Chicago.