What are some non-sexual sexy things I can do with my boyfriend that will spice up our relationship in a way that will lead to more sex? I’m not looking for suggestions like sexy underwear, but activities outside the bedroom that will make us feel more connected.
— Anonymous, from Tumblr
Sarah: Got-damn, I love this question. Thank you, reader, for finally getting to the heart of what fuels great sex lives. My advice here is simple: just like a good story, you’ve got to just follow the energy. Think back to other times in your relationship when it just felt so “on.” What kind of stuff were you doing? If you’re a cerebral pair, it might be going to a museum with an exhibit you’re both really curious about. If you’re a food person, try making a complicated dish together or dining blindfolded. Maybe you like to laugh and be playful, so a trip to the arcade may in order. If you’re tightly-wound type-A folks, compile an epic Saturday to do list and connect over making the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. It all depends on whatever that thing is that makes you feel like you’re doing something you wouldn’t enjoy nearly as much with anyone else.
Dr. Debby: You hit the nail on the head! Connection is key to better sex and generally to a happier, more satisfying relationship. Only you two can figure out what helps you feel more connected to one another, though. One of my favorite researchers (yes, I’m a science nerd) is named Dr. Art Aron and years ago he proposed a theory of “self-expansion”. He suggested that falling in love is linked with a feeling that our world gets bigger and richer (more “expanded”) because of how we open ourselves to one another and share. You know how when you first are interested in someone they might turn you onto a band, artist, designer, movie genre, hobby, sport, etc? And you might show them new things too? That’s how you expand one another’s worlds and that often feels good, exciting, and connecting to people. If you’re into cooking, why not include your boyfriend the next time you cook? If he’s into hiking or a certain band, why not go with him and try to find out what he likes about hiking or that band? And experience it for yourself? You can also try something brand new together - in one study, Dr. Aron and his colleagues assigned long-term couples to either a typical date night (think: dinner/movie kind of thing) or to spend the same amount of time doing something brand new to both of them (think: sailing or Spanish lessons). Couples doing the newer thing, which “expanded” them both, were more satisfied with their relationships. In another study, which was not about love but connection, they had strangers ask one another 36 questions of increasing levels of intimacy. A less intimate question was “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” and a more intimate item was “Complete this sentence: I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”. Other researchers have found that it’s not just the questions that matter, but having a responsive partner. If you open up to your partner and make yourself vulnerable to him, but he acts disinterested or focused on television or his phone, then you’re not going to feel connected. Similarly, if he tries to connect with you by showing you a funny YouTube video or asking you to make dinner with him and you shut down or turn away, he might eventually stop asking and, in the moment, feel disconnected. TL; dr? Open yourselves up to each other. Try lots of things that seem fun to you both. And look for moments of intimacy.