On the internet, in self-help books and in magazine agony aunt columns there is a sea of advice on how couples can keep their sex lives alive.
The conflicting plethora of dos and don’ts can be overwhelming and further fuel the anxiety some couples have over whether they are doing things right, as well as making them confused about how to get things back on track if the sexual side of their relationship has began to stagnate.
It is therefore no surprise that sex therapists often hear the same concerns from such couples.
Their advice is surprisingly straightforward, yet surprising given the less-than-spontaneous nature of the tip: schedule in time for sex.
The author tells all couples to make time for sex.
She estimates around 60 to 70 per cent of her clients who come to her with a problem in their sex life – most usually the fact they are not having enough of it – often then fail to put into place the practical measures she suggests.
“They always say ‘We haven’t had time’, every single time. They’re over-committed and have busy jobs, commuting, kids, family commitments… the problem is a lot of couples will prioritize other things but not their relationship. If something in the sex life or relationship needs work, you actually need to put the time aside to work on it. I know it sounds obvious but lots of couples don’t. I don’t know if they’re expecting a quick fix… it often takes quite a lot of work on their part. It takes quite a long time for their sex life to deteriorate so it can also take time to build it back up again”
The author argues that if you have can make the time for all the other goings-on in your life, there is no reason why the same principle can’t be applied to your sex life.
“You have to prioritize it,” she says. “Quite often couples will say they haven’t had time but they are able to stay late at work for a last minute project or able to get the marathon training run in. I think it is a matter of how important it is.”
Jenny Rivers, a sex therapist and counselor at Relate, also stresses the importance of making time for sex.
“A lot of people recoil at the idea of planning for sex because they think it should be something that happens spontaneously but when you have busy lives, you do need to plan it, especially when the initial feeling of being all over each other has worn off,” she told The Independent. “You plan doctors appointments, meetings at work, and meeting up with friends so why not plan intimate time with your partner? In order to make time, you just have to make a decision. You don’t even need to put the whole night aside – just maybe an hour.”
There are also other complaints sex therapists tend to hear again and again, with both therapists saying the lack of non-sexual touching is a recurring one.
“It’s important to get used to physical touch that doesn’t necessarily lead to anything,” says Ms Rivers. “I never cease to be amazed by the number of couples who tell me they can’t remember the last time they kissed passionately together. Sometimes one person in the couple can feel under pressure to have sex after a passionate kiss or any kind of touch, so make it clear that it doesn’t have to lead to anything. However, remember that by kissing or touching your partner more regularly they are more likely to want sex because they are getting that regular physical contact. It’s in everyone’s best interests! You need to put petrol in the car if you want to get anywhere.”
The author adds that if the basic physical affection is not there it can seem like a “big jump” to suddenly obtaining a good, quality, sexual relationship.
She also adds that maintaining sensuality is important as well as sexuality so exploring the other senses whether it be by candles or aromatherapy as is keeping the romance alive in relationships.
Ms Rivers says an unhelpful characteristic a lot of couples do is drawing comparisons with other people’s sex lives.
“A fundamental ingredient for a happier sex life is recognizing and enjoying the uniqueness of your own sexual relationships,” she said. “Drawing comparisons with other people’s sex lives can lead to feelings of inadequacy and discontent”.
She also advises being realistic and having a mutual understanding that the sexual relationship you have with your partner is not going to be the same can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other experience it was at the start.