Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand. – Woody Allen
Somewhere between buying your first king-sized bed (for nights of endless passion) and getting a second bond (for the orthodontic work on your son’s teeth), you lost your sex life. It’s annoying enough losing your car keys, but losing an entire part of your life is downright strange. One minute it was right behind you, keeping you warm in the freezing storeroom at your cousin’s bar mitzvah, and the next second it was gone.
A lot of things will go missing over the years when you are parenting, but this one is the most elusive. It first disappeared during that disastrous round of organic washable nappies you attempted. But way back then, its absence was noted with relief. It made a brief reappearance one night after three bottles of wine when your in-laws offered to babysit, but then the darn thing went AWOL again for another four months. Excitingly, you had a crazy non-stop love-fest during your six-year anniversary trip to Mauritius after that pesky episode when he had a crush on the yoga instructor. And then it went into long and seemingly permanent remission.
Quiz … Are you avoiding the S word?
Do you find a cup of chamomile tea more satisfying than Saturday-night sex?
Do you feel it’s okay to wear your knitted socks so that your feet don’t get cold during nooky?
Is your family e-mail account getting hit by spam about ‘hairless Asian cookie’?
Can you count the times you had sex this year on one hand?
Is your old French Schoolgirl gear sitting in the box marked ‘donate to the school fancy-dress club’?
Do conversations about sex end in one of you falling asleep?
Do the kids frequently sleep in your bed?
Mostly yes: Your sex life is in danger of becoming extinct. Go out and ravish your man, now!
Mostly no: You’re keeping it together. Read on to find out how to make things even hotter.
You’re on a road to nowhere
Before you know it, you could become one of those couples who flush when there is a raunchy sex scene on the telly. You’ll find yourself squirm-ing as you clear your throat and politely ask the room if anyone wants tea. It’s not a flush of desire; it’s one of embarrassment as you remember … we used to be like that. We used to do stuff like that.
But sex isn’t like that any more. The sometimes-good news is that it’s not totally gone. Only now it pops back at the darndest times. Like when your man is at a two-week conference in Tokyo. Then, suddenly, it’s like you’ve been given an intravenous shot of horny goat weed. Every night you’re raring to go and thinking thoughts that would make a hooker blush. But he’s not there. The poor sod just missed your annual mating season, and he’s just got to take your word for it.
When you drive him back from the airport, you’re planning to unleash your unruly desire on him. You have planned the whole dirty scene perfectly. And then, three days later, while you’re gluing noodles to Mars for your son’s Magic of the Planets display, you spy the tube of lube and the rubber whip peeking out from under your bed, and you realise that you totally forgot to give hubby his welcome-home gift. It must have slipped your mind.
Then you remember that, as you arrived home, the two of you spotted a leaking drainpipe in the driveway and spent the next hour calling in a repairman to fix it before the cold front hit for a week of rain.
What the hell happened to sizzling sex?
There are no more sensual Sunday mornings. It’s not even only on a Sunday morning. Of course, there are many mitigating factors: your six-year-old is still sleeping on a mattress on your floor; you are flat-out exhausted every night; and all your energy is going into training for the family fun run in order to shed those five kilos that crept onto your waist eight years ago. Sure, it’s tiring having to feed, clothe and care for your young. There are all the reasons in the world not to have sex. And, granted, your man is by no means blameless. He no longer has those abs you could grate Parmesan on, and his persistent lower-back pain has been making him cranky for the last two years.
But you’re not quite ready to sell off your collection of imported handcuffs and close up shop. That’s what grandparents are supposed to do, not foxy minxes like you. For heaven’s sake, Hugh Hefner is, like, 180 and he is still having raunchy (albeit medicated) sex.
So what’s gone wrong? How did you turn into those people who rate knitting above knobbing? What you need is a practical guide to putting the passion back where it belongs. Date nights are for Smug Marrieds. Let’s bring out the big guns.
Fifty ways to leave your lover
There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are just as many ways to get him or her back. Check out these saucy solutions to common problems:
There are three in the bed
Problem: You’re in the last trimester of pregnancy and sex is starting to present a few problems, not least because you’re the size of a house, which creates a technical challenge when you’re trying to do your old Karma Sutra fave, Splitting the Tongs.
Solution: As you grow, you will become limited to two positions:
The Congress of a Cow: Man’s best friend, Doggy Style. This ass-in-the-air position will see you through the entire pregnancy pain-free.
The Classic Spoon: This is an easy one when you hit the heavy stakes because you can just nod off if it’s not floating your boat. If you are feeling energetic, you can lift your top leg to rotate a bit further onto your tummy, as he takes his weight in more of a kneeling position.
What a pain
Problem: It’s some time after D-day and you’re still experiencing pain in the vagina during sex. Often, it may feel as if your partner’s penis is too deep. The most common cause is early uterine descent. This means that your uterus has dropped a few centimetres from its usual resting place and your partner’s penis is hitting against your cervix during pene-tration. Another reason could be a prolapsed bladder or rectum. This would feel more like fullness in your bladder or rectum during sex.
Solution: The first thing to do is to experiment and find a position that eases the pressure. The missionary position, or any arrangement where you are lying on your back with your legs pressed against your body, will shorten your vaginal canal and cause additional pain. With you on top, you can control how far you are penetrated. Alternatively, try a spooning position; it may ease the feeling of depth.
HOT TIP: Use your imagination. Sex isn’t only about penetration. Some possibilities include sexy stares across the room, dirty talk, sensual massage, showering or bathing together, mutual masturbation and anything else in between.
Dry as a bone
Problem: You’re breastfeeding and any extra liquid in your body seems to be gushing out of your breasts, making it practically impossible to have sex because of vaginal dryness.
Solution: Breastfeeding lowers levels of estradiol, the hormone responsible for keeping the urogenital tract lubricated and supple. This is a temporary problem. Just stock up on some lubricating creams, oils or gels. Remember to use a water-based lubricant with condoms.
Too tired to tango
Problem: You’re new parents, exhausted and sleep-deprived. Your lives are so hectic that you scarcely find a chance to pee. You barely manage to fall into bed every night, and sex is simply not on the agenda.
Solution: Exhaustion is a libido-killer. Accept that life is going to be frenzied for a while and try mornings instead.
Problem: You really want to take your sex life to another level, but you just can’t seem to pull it off. You plan the event. You get the gear. You melt the wax. Then you get the giggles or make a blunder, and it’s back to the usual routine to finish it all off. Ho hum.
Solution: Sure, it’s scary doing things for the first time. Public speaking, waxing your upper lip and skydiving are all nerve-wracking events. But it’s usually worth the leap of faith. And nobody minds a few giggles – just make sure you get back into the mind games. ‘Stop laughing,’ you can snarl. ‘I am going to have to spank you for that.’ If you can get into a space where you can let your playful side come out, you will get beyond the fear. And he will be pathetically grateful.
The performing act
Problem: You still want the other person to find you desirable, arousing, sexy and raunchy. You gasp, ooh and aah, arch, ride and buck like a star show pony. Of course, he loves it, but it’s not so much fun for you; you’re left wondering: Is there more?
Solution: You are jeopardising your own exploration of sensuality by acting like a porn star to get him fired up. That can work for a while, but it will eventually get boring. He thinks you rock, so you can kill the lights, step off the stage and start to explore your own feelings of arousal without having to please him. Agree to a no-sound rule for a few sessions. He’s big enough to handle that. Besides, watching our partners experience true pleasure is one of the biggest turn-ons.
The endless receiver
Problem: Sometime over the last ten years, you got really comfortable just lying on your back and closing your eyes.
Solution: Your man is genetically programmed to be the giver in sex, so this is not a real problem for them. The challenge in a longer-term relationship is finding an equal balance between giving and receiving. Of course, it’s easier to lie back and think of England, but sometimes you need to haul your ass off the bed and get moving. It burns more calories too.
The line’s dead
Problem: You feel disconnected from your partner. In the early days, you spent hours kissing, exploring each other’s bodies, groping, hugging, touching – all those wonderful things that establish intimacy. After a few years, that delicate dance shortens. There’s a bit of fumbled touching, followed by penetration. Before you know it, you’ll be going directly for penetration and orgasm.
Solution: You need to work to bring back the intimate touch. Work towards touch without penetration once a month. Massage courses, dancing together, necking at a party or sneaking in an under-the-table hand job will up the ante.
Problem: Sex has become about orgasm and physical release. This is usually a masculine problem, but it’s one that many women also start to experience in a long-term relationship. You know exactly which routine works for you, and you don’t want to deviate from it in any way. You just want that physical release so you can get on with the day.
Solution: Remember those boys who used to go straight for third base? Well, you’ve become one of them. You need a no-orgasm rule at least once a month. So, touch each other, but avoid the temptation to bring each other to orgasm. What’s the point? You will teach each other about intimacy all over again and get away from the panting pursuit of the goalposts. In the end, you’ll kick that ball way higher than you ever thought possible.
The fat lady won’t sing
Problem: You just can’t seem to have an orgasm any more. You’ve tried all the old moves and nothing stirs your loins. You’re so frustrated by it, you don’t even bother to try.
Solution: This can be linked to an emotional or psychological block, but the reasons can also be physical, and these are easier to tackle. Poor blood flow to the genitals, for example (caused by cardiovascular conditions like diabetes, smoking or heart disease), makes it harder to reach orgasm. Some tugging and nipping could help (or check out devices like the Eros on page 111). Other common culprits are antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are infamous orgasm-busters. Alcohol will also reduce your ability to reach orgasm, as will lack of foreplay or stress about sex.
The half-hearted climax
Problem: You can reach the finish line, but winning just doesn’t feel like it used to. In fact, your orgasms are so dismal, you’re beginning to wonder whether they are worth the effort.
Solution: Pregnancy and childbirth all but blast your pelvic-floor muscles, which are key to strong orgasms. Kegel exercises that tone and firm the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles in the pelvic floor have been described as the gift that keeps on giving (see the box ‘Get a grip’). Studies indicate that the stronger the PC contractions, the more likely the woman is to have an orgasm from vaginal stimulation. Delaying an orgasm can also increase its intensity, so, easy tiger … Breathe deep.
The one-handed poker player
Problem: It is far easier to get solo action with a quick glance at those perky Russian blondes at vacuouspussy.com. He just needs to lock the office door, and it’s six minutes to glory.
Solution: You need some rules around porn. It may be used as a quick fix, but in the longer term, self-satisfaction is going to feel far easier and more ‘normal’ than taking the time out for some real loving with your partner. Limit or cut out solo porn. If your partner gets off on it, watch together; otherwise have a twice-a-month limit.
The fail-safe sex routine
Problem: You know you can both have a smoking-hot time in eleven minutes if you just follow the tried-and-tested formula. A guarantee is better than a possibility, innit? What’s the problem?
Solution: As long as you’re both having fun, this can work just fine. But all habits have a downside. Yawn. Yup, most often this is the kind of sex you will end up having. But this mustn’t be the only sex you end up having. Mix it up. Draw it out. Even if it’s only once a month.
Problem: He’s been watching too much Eastern European porn and thinks that you need to change position every five seconds. Sex has turned into an endurance test, and he has completely forgotten that you have a love button.
Solution: Men love it when their hands are tied above their heads. If stringing him from the ceiling will raise suspicion, opt for leather wrist cuffs and just raise his arms there.
Problem: Menopause has knocked your sex drive for six, and you feel as though your sensual days are over.
Solution: Contrary to popular myth, menopause doesn’t often actually result in loss of libido, and many women feel a lot sexier and have more orgasms during the post-menopausal period of their lives. The drop in oestrogen, however, can create thinning, tightening, and dryness in the vulva and vagina. These changes can lead to such discomfort that some women come to dread sex because of the pain. Happily, this can be remedied on the spot with oodles of lube. Vitamin E vaginal suppositories used twice weekly can also help.