And Now for Something Completely Different

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Their bedroom was made for love, but not much love was being made. The satin comforter failed to inspire seduction, and the gleaming Jacuzzi was used strictly for soaking. This long-married pair had decorated their boudoir as a love-nest but rarely had romance-laden or hard-core, is the easiest way to add some spark to your sex life, says Lonnie Barbach, author of Turn-Ons: Pleasing Your Lover While You Please Yourself. Reading about sexual fantasies can give you ideas you and your partner can try. Some women find, for example, that dressing up in silky lingerie makes them feel more erotically aware. Other women (and men) may enjoy role-playing.

“Often people find the things they think they wouldn’t like, they like, and the things they thought they’d like are a dud,” says Barbach. The important thing is to make some kind of change. “It’s more a matter of doing something different, something new,” she says.

Sex therapist Zilbergeld offers several exercises to help figure out your sexual desires. One he calls “simmering,” which involves tuning into surges of sexual energy that typically occur throughout the day, even for people who say they aren’t aroused very much. When you’re aware of a sexual feeling, focus on it and develop a fantasy of what you’d like to have happen, he says.

Every few hours during the day, bring the image to mind. This works for both men and women, and doing Kegel exercises — squeezing your pelvic muscles as if you’re trying to prevent urination — can increase sexual tone and pleasurable pelvic sensations for both sexes, too. If you’d like to act on these feelings when you get home, make a phone call to your partner to see if the timing is right.

What Are Your Own Special Requirements?

Another exercise recommended by Zilbergeld involves defining your preferred “conditions” for good sex. Compare exciting sexual encounters with those that weren’t as satisfying, he suggests: Are there things you enjoyed in the past that you’d like to try again? Do you need to have sex at a certain time of day to enjoy it the most? Make a list of your conditions and act on them. Some women say they get an erotic charge hearing their partner utter the words: “I’ll do the dishes.” They could make doing the dishes a condition for having sex.

From personal as well as therapeutic experience, Zilbergeld says role-playing is a powerful way to increase arousal. Years ago, he was involved with a woman who would start playing a role during sex, he writes in The New Male Sexuality. “She would suddenly say something like, ‘You haven’t been a good boy today, so you’re not going to get any.’ Since what we can’t have is infinitely more exciting than what we can, my passion immediately skyrocketed, even though I knew she was only acting.”

Role-playing, of course, must be mutually agreeable. If one person finds another’s role goofy or unappealing, negotiation is needed to find a fantasy that both parties enjoy.

Cathy Williams says that her erotic map-making is never finished, which is what makes it so exciting. “Sex is a wonderful part of life,” she says. “If you’re not having a great sexual relationship, allow yourself to explore and see what turns you on.”