Q: My husband and I are lucky—like that couple in their 70s you wrote about—to have a satisfying sex life after 23 years together. Still, to be honest, there are times when we’re just going through the motions. I guess it’s natural that it isn’t as exciting as it was that first year or so. Maybe we just have to accept it. Or is there anything we can do? (We do have date nights and try to experiment with new things.)—Ho-Humming Somewhat
A: It’s like buying your dream house—and then living in it for 12 years. You still love it, but you don’t jump up and down and yell “Woo-hoo! We live here!” the 10,044th time you walk through your door. The good news is, there’s a way to perk up the sexual excitement level in a long-term relationship, and it doesn’t involve attending parties where they have a bowl of keys at the door. You just need to get back to really being there while you’re having sex. This means truly feeling—that is, really being present for—the moment-by-moment sensations, like you did the very first time you got together. You know, back before you started (let’s be honest) sexual multitasking—running through your to-do list while getting it on.
Clinical psychologist Lori Brotto, who researches female sexual desire and arousal issues, finds that a practice called “mindfulness”—with Eastern spiritual origins—seems to be “an effective way of re-routing one’s focus . . . on to the sensations that are unfolding in the moment.” Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the immediate moment. This isn’t to say you have to meditate to have better sex. However, one of the mindfulness meditation techniques involves scanning your body with your mind, focusing your attention on individual parts, and observing the sensations in them in that moment. That’s key. So, for example, point your attention at your breathing, at the points of skin-to-skin contact between you and your husband. Notice the temperature of your skin. Hot? Cool? Do you feel tiny beads of sweat?
Brotto writes in Better Sex Through Mindfulness that in her research, “when the women learn to be right where they are with a partner, rather than in the myriad other places that their mind escapes to during sex, they start to experience sexual contact with their partner in a way that perhaps they had not experienced for months, years, or decades.” In other words, yes, there’s still hope to hear animalistic screaming in your bedroom again—and not just when your husband pulls on the oven mitts and holds the cat down so you can clip her toenails without losing an eye.
Q: I’m a 35-year-old guy. My fiancée broke up with me a year ago. I was devastated. We don’t have any contact now, but I still love her. I haven’t been on one date since our breakup, and I reminisce about her constantly. My guy friends are, like, “Move on, dude. Get a life!” But honestly, that’s not that helpful. What is the best way to get over an ex, besides time?—Stuck
A: Your buddies surely mean well in taking the “just say the magic words!” approach—“Get over it! Lotta fish in the sea, man!”—but you’re trying to recover from a breakup, not summon a genie. Lingering feelings of love for your fiancée are the problem.
As for a solution, research by cognitive psychologist Sandra J. E. Langeslag suggests you can decrease those feelings through “negative reappraisal” of your ex-partner—basically looking back and trying to see all the “bad” in her. For example, focus on her annoying habits and rude and stupid things she said and did. When Langeslag’s research participants mentally trashed their ex-partner, it did diminish the love they felt for their ex. Yay! However, there was a side effect: all of this negative thinking—not surprisingly—made participants feel pretty bummed out. But helpfully, Langeslag came around with a second strategy that helped them block out the feel-bad: distraction, like answering questions “about positive things unrelated to the breakup or the partner (e.g., What is your favorite food? Why?).”
Probably an even better source of distraction is turning to what Langeslag calls a “secondary task” (like playing a video game). Keep up the negativity and the distracting secondary tasks, and before long you should find yourself ready for a level-three distraction: losing yourself in a forest of Tinder hussies.
Copyright 2018 Amy Alkon. All rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon at 171 Pier Ave. #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email [email protected] @amyalkon on Twitter. Weekly radio show, blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.