By Colleen Oakley
Photography by Mark Andrew
When you first get together, sex is priority number one – who cares about sleep? Or work? Or really, anything that doesn’t involve getting naked? But over time, the urgency to tear off each other’s clothes on sight gives way to more mundane activities, such as eating breakfast and showering. Yawn. Sure, nobody plans for the heat to dissipate. It just does.
The first signs of a sexual slump usually appear around the two-year mark, when you’ve both settled into a comfortable, long-term romance. “As your relationship gets better and becomes more secure, the sexual excitement may fade,” says couples and sex therapist Dr Jane Greer, author of What About Me?. “Since you know he’s not going anywhere, there’s little motivation to pull out all the stops every night in bed to impress him like you did when you first started dating, and vice versa. So sex starts to become routine.”
To make matters worse, the hormones that are responsible for boosting your bedroom bliss pull a disappearing act right when you need them most. “In the beginning of a relationship, the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone, dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter) and oxytocin (the warm and fuzzy bonding hormone) spike,” says sex therapist Dr Barbara Bartlik. “But then they can decline back to base levels at about 24 months.”
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why things fizzle out, but they suspect it might have something to do with evolution. “In the human species, newborns have the best chance of survival when they have two parents during their first couple of years of life,” says biological anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her?. “So whether or not you decide to have kids, you’re hardwired to form a strong two-year sexual bond, which acts as superglue to ensure neither parent leaves for another mate while the child is still developing.”
That’s not to say you can’t tinker with that wiring. In fact, simply switching up the types of sex you have can completely reinvigorate your relationship in ways you’ve never imagined. “Mixing up erotic styles keeps your sex life in shape, just like mixing up your workouts helps keep your body fit and challenged,” says Dr Miro Gudelsky, a sex therapist and counsellor. Not only that, but “continuing to play around with novel types of sex allows you to uncover your sexual preferences – ones you may not have even known you had,” says Dr Greer. “And as a couple evolves, adding different dimensions to their sex life will strengthen the relationship overall.”
We look at the four kinds of sex that experts say you should add to your repertoire.
“Think of this as your meat-and-potatoes sex – it happens at the end of the day, during the week, when a run-of-the-mill romp is all you really have energy for,” says Dr Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, in the US, and author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years.
Having sex while Top Gear blares in the background doesn’t sound particularly erotic (nothing against you, Mr Clarkson), but it’s a necessary part of every couple’s sex life.
“This is the kind of sex that connects you and reaffirms your bond as a couple,” says Dr Gina Ogden, a researcher and sex therapist, and author of The Return of Desire.
On the nights you’re too drained for long, drawn-out foreplay, boil it down to a couple of well-placed caresses that you can count on to expedite arousal. When you’re both riled up enough for intercourse, the goal is to orgasm – fast. To that end, choose O-friendly positions that lend themselves to clitoral contact. Woman on top is your best bet because it lets you control the pace, but don’t count out positions that allow for manual stimulation (side-by-side, from behind).
You probably won’t break the bed or wake the neighbours with this kind of sex, but you’ll fall asleep satisfied, which is all that matters. “You don’t want this to be the only way you have sex, but you should have it a lot,” says Dr Schwartz. “So if you’re having sex four times a week, maintenance sex should account for two or three of those times.”Spontaneous sex
When you’re in a new relationship, every surface becomes a potential place to get horizontal. The result? Primal, breathless, passionate sex. Too bad it’s the first type to go when hormone levels start to dip. To recapture the animal attraction that leads to spontaneous sex, you need to act like you did when you first got together. Keep up the bikini waxes, wear pretty underwear (or no underwear at all – your call), get a spray tan, hit the gym. Basically, do whatever it is that makes you feel confident and sexy. “Feeling attractive and desired by your partner promotes arousal,” says Dr Gardos. Seize opportunities whenever you feel inspired. Join him in the shower before work. Put your hand in his lap while watching TV together. The beauty of sex is that once you put in a little effort, it quickly starts to pay off: an Emory University, US, study found that your body can become aroused physically before you start mentally desiring sex. But, unlike maintenance sex, spontaneous sex doesn’t need to happen all the time. “Your sex life isn’t a movie,” says Dr Schwartz.Rediscovery sex
Having a big argument, hitting a major milestone together or weathering a rocky period in your relationship aren’t events you’d expect to put you in the mood, but they can inspire intense, soulful, tender sex.
“Sex born from an emotional place has an edge over other types of intimacy,” says Dr Gardos.
“Because it involves a degree of looking at your partner in a new light, this sex feels like an expression of renewed love.” But you don’t need to experience a major event to tap into deeper emotions. It just requires a new way of looking at sex – one in which the orgasm isn’t the most important thing. “It’s about rediscovering and pleasing each other. Think sensual, not sexual,” says Dr Greer.
Here, foreplay takes centre stage. So give each other head-to-toe massages; kiss and pleasure each other orally. “The idea is to make your partner feel important, cherished and valued,” Dr Greer says. Choose positions that allow for eye contact and a slow build-up to orgasm, such as sitting and facing each other or missionary.
“Inspire rediscovery sex every few months by making it a point to think about what made you fall in love and being open to learning something new about him,” says Dr Ogden. “Your partner can always surprise you – sometimes you just have to look for it.”Experimental sex
Daring and boundary pushing, it’s the kind of sex that benefits from familiarity and trust. You can break out the toys and indulge fantasies without fear of being judged. “At the core of experimental sex is novelty, and that’s a huge arousal booster,” says Dr Gardos. “The more blood that rushes to your genitals, the better your orgasm.” What’s more, allowing your partner to see a secret side of you that no one else has access to builds intimacy. So how do you start busting out sexual fantasies? First you have to have them. While you’re lying in bed, in the supermarket queue or on the way to work, let your mind wander to whatever turns you on. It doesn’t necessarily have to be stuff you want to act out; studies show that people who simply imagine sexy scenarios are more likely to experiment in bed. When you want to make your fantasy a reality, broach it by saying something like “I had a dream you were doing A, B and C to me” or “I read about this crazy move in a magazine. Want to hear it?” But there’s no better time to introduce something wild than in the heat of the moment; research from by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, US, found that men are more likely to behave boldly when they’re erect. (Shocker!) “This type of sex is best saved for weekends, particularly Saturday night,” says Dr Gardos.“You’ve left the stress of the week behind and have the whole night ahead of you.” Break out a new move about once a month to keep things from getting stale.