At Self Space, we’ve seen many couples struggle with intimacy and desire over the years. One of the most common challenges that we see is the lack of sex within the relationship.
Some couples have simply stopped having sex altogether, while others engage in it infrequently or only out of a sense of duty.
Sex is a critical component of any romantic relationship. It’s one of the primary ways that we connect with our partners and build intimacy. It’s a physical expression of our love and desire for one another, and it can be incredibly powerful when both partners are fully engaged and present in the moment. But sex is more than just a physical act, it is expression without words.
The importance of sex in a relationship is also supported by research. Studies have shown that couples who have a healthy sex life are generally happier and more satisfied with their relationships than those who don’t.
This being said, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to sex. We get busy, tired and overly rigid with routines that see us doom-scrolling before bed.
Sometimes when we try to instigate something with our partner, something can go a bit wrong or needs might be misaligned. This can raise tensions and increase the pressure around sex — making it awkward or uncomfortable.
Not wanting to make it ‘a thing’, or hesitant because of failed attempts, we become avoidant. The more time goes by, the harder it is to cultivate intimacy.
But one sex therapy exercise can help us improve this: the sensate focus method.
The method was developed by Masters and Johnson, two sex therapists who were pioneers in the field of human sexuality.
Stop trying to have sex, aim to give or to have an organism. Take the pressure off and remove any expectations of sex.
After hot showers. Begin by taking turns touching each other’s body, starting with non-sexual areas such as the arms, face, and legs. You should not try to arouse each other or have sex during this time. The goal is simply to explore and appreciate your partner’s body.
On another night, you can start to kiss. You can move on to touching genitals and more sexual areas of the body, but again, the focus should be on sensation and pleasure, not performance or orgasm.
The phase after this involves oral or penetrative sex. Initially try this with little or no thrusting, just enjoying the sensation. Later you can incorporate more thrusting, with the person being penetrated in control.
At the slightest hint of difficulties, just take it back a stage. Getting comfortable with this approach may take some practice, but it can be a valuable tool for improving your sexual intimacy and relationship.
We struggle with sex because ultimately, we care so deeply about each other. We want it to go right. Despite not talking about these matters often enough, this is completely human.