How is your sex life going during the COVID-19 year? And what can you do about it?
Are you getting into a vicious cycle?
For some people, touch deprivation is a real thing and it affects their mood and the immune system. Maybe you become more irritable when not touched on a regular basis. When you are in a bad mood, you may not feel like touching or being touched by your partner. Same if your partner does something that upsets you. You then stop doing the things that used to get you back into the “sandbox” to play, you get even more irritable, and you feel like touching/being touched even less often, which makes you or your partner even more upset or irritable. If this sounds all too familiar to you, you have entered a vicious cycle.
Another cycle occurs when people are stressed (and boy, are we stressed these days!). And the more stressed and overwhelemd you get, the greater the impact this has on your sex lives.The less sex you have, the more disconnected you feel, and the more disconnected you feel, the less sex you have. And keep in mind that by sex I mean all physical activity of a sexual nature, not just intercourse.
The Covid19 pandemic may have accelerated these interactional cycles.
No one is feeling sexy these days.
In addition to stress, It’s no surprise no one’s feeling sexy. We don’t like how we look, we are putting on pounds, and we are not always taking daily showers. Additionally, we’re not out in the world, getting away from the routine, doing the things that give us confidence – hobbies, travel, seeing people. We are deprived of daily moments of connection, the conversations, the smiles, that make us feel energized and alive.
And even if you are not fighting with our partner, you may be a little sick of the person you’ve been cooped up with 24/7. Paraphrasing relationship expert Esther Perel: “Familiarity and too much proximity kills desire”.
But for people who are in a relatively stable relationship and generally have good relationship habits, sex may make you feel more energized, more alive, more connected to yourself and our partner, and it relieves stress. So, think about what would happen if you let this part of your life slide into background for too long.
What to do?
Researchers and relationships experts have a lot to say about this. Don’t listen to the pundits that make things complicated. Try these simple and tried and true solutions. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
1 • Find new ways to interact with the world
In normal times, we interact with people all day long—strangers, co-workers, friends and family. Those interactions feed our need for bonding and keep our moods from going down hill. We are used to going places or doing new things that energize us and make us interesting. That has all gone away. Try to connect even in the smallest ways. Schedule times in the week to talk to friends. Chat with store clerks. Give compliments. Try to make someone smile or laugh.
2 • Give space to the relationship.
Build space between you and your partner. Nobody feels like having sex with a roomate or a sibling. Independence is sexy. Mystery may breed desire. Find ways to do things without your partner. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a class. Find a hobby you can enjoy safely. These things create breathing room in your relationship. They make you feel refreshed and fulfilled. And they give you something new to talk about.
3 • Make romance happen.
Spend some time hanging out without screens, plan a nice dinner—and eat it by candlelight. Dance in the living room to a favorite song (in front of the kids is good too!). Turn off your phones and make eye contact. Greet each other in the morning and before going to bed with a 20 second hug (Yes, only 20 seconds!). Show verbal appreciatiation often (you don’t want to take your partner for granted) and use simple touch: a pat in the back, a neck rub, rubbing feet together when you are sitting next to each other.
4 • Plan for sex.
For couples who have been together for a long time, sexual encounters don’t happen spontaneously anymore. It actually never happened spontaneously. Think about it: You were anticipating and planning in the early days too. Some people are against planning for sex because it feels unnatural, but they then complain that sex never happens. If you want sex to happen more often, you need to plan for it and stick to the plan. Put sex on your calendar. Aim for a time when you’re both likely to be in the mood. Flirt more often. Play music more often. Do nice things for your partner more often.
5 • Talk about sex.
Don’t ignore sexual discrepancies or sexual frustrations. Talk about what turns you on and listen to what turns your partner on. If you want more sex than you are getting, ask your partner what he or she needs in order to be open to having it more often. If you don’t want to do it as often, try to find a balance between your wishes and your partner’s.
6 • Prepare for sex.
Take a shower, dress in a sexy way, get out of the sweats. Feeling more attractive opens you up for possibilities. You used to do those things in the early stages of the relationship. Keep doing them.
7 • Rethink how you initiate sex.
A kiss or shoulder rub or dinner out used to do it. (At one time in your relationship a simple look would do it too.) But now that we’re exhausted and stressed all the time, we need to build up to sex, to give ourselves time to relax and get in the mood. Learn to set the “to-do’s” aside, try something new (a different room? a different outfit?). Research has long shown that novelty boosts arousal and desire. And that turn on is a mental inside job. Learn to turn off the offs, and to turn on the ons. What makes you feel sexy?
8 • Do sexy things to or with your partner.
Practice self-empathy. Stop focusing on the things you hate about your body. Your partner doesn’t notice them nearly as much as you do. If you want to feel sexy, you need to focus on the things that turn you on. Stop rejecting your partner when you’re rejecting yourself. Allow your partner to find you attractive, even when you don’t feel you are. You don’t have to believe you are sexy to be aroused by someone else or for someone else to find you sexy. Use your imagination and fantasy. Share your fantasies with your partner. Talk about what you want to try sexually but are a little afraid of.
9 • Just please your partner.
Don’t wait until you are both in the mood. Not all sex is a mutually intimate moment. Taking care of your partner can be a generous and loving thing to do, even if you are not into it. And intercourse is not the only way. Be creative.
10 • Don’t blame your partner.
This is a couples issue. You have a role to play in getting what you want or don’t want with clarity, kindness and persistence.