As the year draws to a close, many people take the time to reflect on the year that’s past, and what the next year might be like. I often hear people talk about their relationships or their sex lives, and how in the New Year they ‘want things to be different.’ For things to perhaps be less tense, more fun, or even for there to be more sex than a few times a year! My response to this: Why not start right now? You shouldn’t have to wait until the New Year to reconnect with your partner and re-establish some physical intimacy in your relationship. Something that I will always get people to do is take it right back to basics, like kissing and touching. When you’ve been a couple for a while, you often forget that when you first got together, these two simple things were a fundamental part of the relationship. Almost all couples kiss, before they touch, before they have sex; and so by taking it right back to the basics, it should help you bring some of that sexiness back into the relationship.
Unfortunately, we grow up thinking that to be a good lover we have to skilfully turn our partner on and have orgasms (possibly multiple times). We need to read our partner’s mind and know just what they like. This exercise, known as sensate focus, is all about shifting your focus of attention to touch and sensation in the present moment. It’s about “zeroing in on sensations for yourself in the moment and without expectation for any particular response” (Weiner & Avery-Clark, 2017). As a sexologist, I use it with almost all of my clients to start them off in re-establishing an intimate connection. It also helps take the pressure off both partners to perform, and places the focus on exploring each other’s body and on the pleasure of sexual contact. Sex becomes about excitement, enjoyment, pleasure and arousal. It’s about ‘just going with it’ rather than trying to make it happen.
Start by setting the mood. You could light candles, dim the lights or only have a small light on, make sure the room is warm, and perhaps put on some soft music. You can both choose to be naked or in your underwear, whatever you prefer. Start off lying facing each other and kissing for a few minutes. So many couples forget to kiss! It’s the first place our brain gets a signal from that something sexy is happening, so why do we so often skip over this body part? After you’ve been passionate for a little while, you can then shift over to the touch part of the exercise.
Each partner will get a turn to be touched and to touch. The receiving partner should lie down on the bed, while the giving partner lies next to them, or is sitting behind them so that the receiving partner’s back is against the giver’s chest. Then it’s time to touch! Focus on your partner’s erogenous zones with different sorts of touches; strokes, tickles, a more deliberate touch or a squeeze. Our erogenous zones are any area of the human body that is heightened to sexual sensations, and most of these areas are often skipped over and completely forgotten about during sex. They include the following: lips, neck, ears, breasts and nipples, hands, feet, lower stomach, genitals, butt, inner thighs and backs of the knees. Some people also say that there are other parts of their body’s that when touched, turn them on, but these are the major ones and are so often skipped over!
What’s important here is that you explore your partner’s body with different touches and let them guide you on what feels good for them. The giving partner should use their hands and/or lips to explore their partner’s body from head to toe. The aim of the exercise is not to simply arouse your partner and stimulate their genitals, but to connect physically and emotionally without the pressures of sex. The receiving partner should use their words (just remember to say it sensitively) and non-verbal cues like moaning, to indicate if they like something and if it feels good. I suggest that each partner takes a turn to do this, and you should spend a minimum of 20 minutes doing the exercise. You could even split it up and let one partner receive one evening and the other partner another.
The most important part of this exercise… It shouldn’t lead to sex! It’s all about reconnecting, exploring, pleasuring and being in the present moment when being touched by your partner. I encourage couples to try this exercise twice a week, and with the summer holiday now upon us, there’s no excuse to not have the time to focus on each other and get back to basics in the relationship.