January 28, 2014 9.27 am This story is over 94 months old

New year, new sex life

Reconnect: In her first column, Relate counsellor Elizabeth Hicks explains how to reconnect sexually with your partner.

January, it seems, is the ideal time for a yearly check or “MOT”. The statistics show that we are all likely to encounter a sexual issue at some point in our life, but also that we are not likely to discuss this with others. Sex becomes a taboo subject which can lead to a sense of isolation.

Here are some tips for giving yourself and your relationship a sex ‘MOT’.

It is hard to connect sexually if the only time you prioritise for each other is five minutes late at night, when you are both more than ready to get to sleep. Remember to laugh and have fun together, dare to try something new and also put a boundary around the time you spend together. Life changes have an impact on our relationship and sex life, such as moving in together, starting a family, children leaving home, illness or retirement. It’s important we adapt and grow along the way.

We know that having electrical appliances can disturb our sleep, but it can also disturb our sex life. Checking your mobile for emails or browsing the internet in bed, distracts us from time with our partner and can increase stress levels. Oxytocin known as the ‘love hormone’ is released when we take time to cuddle our partner and can give a sense of wellbeing both physiologically and emotionally.

Warming the context for sex is vital for increasing desire. How we feel about our partner sexually is related to how we feel in our relationship in general. Making an extra effort to show our love and support to the other helps us to feel connected.

“Simmering” helps to put sex back on our radar — maybe read a steamy novel, or remind yourself of a previous sexual encounter with your partner, to wake your body up a bit. Remember that foreplay in itself is a fabulous experience — you don’t always have to go “all the way”. See sex as something for you, rather than just something you feel you have to give.

It is easy to blame our partner for what we see lacking in our sexual relationship. The most important change is to recognise that you are responsible for your own arousal and sexual self. Our thoughts do impact how involved our body is during sex and knowing your own body and how it likes to be touched is also helpful. We expect our partner to “mind read” our thoughts, which leaves us open to miscommunication and defensiveness.

Build resilience as a couple by talking through how and where you like to be touched and by practicing your listening skills. Beginning with the positive is helpful and try not to fall into the trap of the blame game.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been sexual, begin by taking things slowly. Start with being sensual, enjoying each other’s touch, by stroking, massaging or kissing, maybe take a shower or bath together. Set the boundaries in terms of how far you want to go and increase this with time.

Performance anxiety and lack of confidence can hit both sexes and cause distress. Sometimes sex will be great, other times it will be clumsy and not how we expected. Keep sex real, it’s not a Disney film or porn.

If you are experiencing sexual issues that are difficult to resolve, you are not alone. Contact your GP for a check up to rule out any medical issues and to consider a possible referral for Psycho Sexual Therapy, or contact your local Relate Centre.

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Elizabeth works for Relate Lincolnshire as a Clinical Supervisor, Couple & Family Counsellor, Psychosexual Therapist & Sex Addiction Specialist. She has been trained by the Relate Institute, Institute of Family Therapy and Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction & Compulsivity. She is a member of the professional bodies of COSRT, BACP & ATSAC. She has worked with a wide variety of clients and has a wealth of experience.