10 Tips For Improving Your Love Life

marie claire

1. Connect with a cuddle
Dr Ian Kerner, sex and relationships counsellor and author of She Comes First (Souvenir, $44.95)
"Studies show that a 20-second hug raises the level of the 'cuddle-hormone' oxytocin, which facilitates a sense of love and connection. Most couples don't take the time to hug at all, much less for 20 seconds, but it's a way of bookending the day and entering the new chapter of the evening. Men need to be hugged three times as much as women to reach similar levels, so go for a full minute of hugging."

2. Be who you want to be with
Dr Laura Berman, sex therapist and author of It’s Not Him, It's You! (Dorling Kindersley, $45)

"You want a partner who is sexy, spontaneous, healthy, happy, romantic and motivated, yet are you being that partner in return? Assert the changes you want to see in your relationship – whether that means initiating sex more often, planning inventive dates or living a healthier life. Positive change is contagious, so the more you change your life for the better, the more likely that your partner will do the same."

3. Show him the way
Tracey Cox, sex expert and author of 100 Hot Sex Positions (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95)
"Oral sex is how women have their most frequent and intense orgasms, so if his tongue technique is lacking, you're both in trouble. Solve it with a demo. Lick his hand to show which tongue moves you like; the speed and pressure, whether he should alter it when you're close to orgasm, or during. We tend to make love to people the way we'd like it done to us – which is why men are often too rough and women are sometimes too gentle. He's not a woman. To receive great oral, you have to let him in on the secret."

4. Give it a go
Bettina Arndt, former sex therapist and author of What Men Want In Bed (Melbourne University Press, $34.99)

"Even if you're not in the mood for sex, it's worth starting to see if you could still enjoy it. Research by Professor Rose-mary Basson of the University of British Columbia in Canada shows women in long-term relationships rarely think of sex or experience spontaneous desire. But provided they have a 'willingness to be receptive', many will experience sexual pleasure. Put the canoe in the water and start paddling. If it isn't doing anything for you, you don't have to bonk. You have hands, lips...you can still give pleasure without resorting to intercourse."

5. Forget about climaxing
Dr Vivienne Cass, clinical psychologist, sex therapist and author of The Elusive Orgasm (Rockpool, $29.99)

"If you think sex is just about having orgasms and how well you perform, you're on the wrong track. Pressuring yourself into climaxing only makes it more difficult to get there. You're creating pressure, not pleasure. Instead, make these the goals of your love-making: enjoying yourself, having fun, feeling close, exploring possibilities, and showing true intimacy."

6. Be alone, together
Emily Dubberley, sex writer, author and founder of Cliterati.co.uk

"Masturbate in front of each other, and do it just like you do when you're alone. That way your lover can learn what you really like – and vice versa. If you're feeling shy, try wearing a blindfold, or simply turn the lights down low and use candlelight; it's really flattering to the skin tone. Best of all, get your partner to masturbate at the same time, as that way you can both learn while facing your fears together."

7. Do your homework
Maureen Matthews, sex educator, columnist and founder of wwwbliss4women.com

"Train yourself to get aroused without it necessarily leading to sex. Reading well-written erotic fiction, watching movie scenes you find erotic, playing dress-ups with clothes that make you feel sexy...all these things bring blood to your genitals, trigger lubrication and help train your body to become more easily aroused. I recommend every woman pick up a copy of Best Women's Erotica 2011, published by Cleis Press [www.cleispress.com, $29.95]."

8. Choose a love language
Dr Margaret Redelman, sex therapist and psychotherapist

"In 1992, Dr Gary Chapman wrote The 5 Love Languages, helping couples identify how they best communicate love. My main language of love is 'physical touch', so I guess I value that most. [The other four are: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts and quality time. Find yours at www.5lovelanguages.com.] Touch, hugs and kisses have been shown to lower pain, anxiety and stress. So if we experience these benefits consistently with one person, we’ll value that person more. For women in particular, this often translates to sexual interest."

9. Engage in chore-play
Dr Rosie King, sex therapist and author of Where Did My Libido Go? (Random House, $34.95)

"Men often ask me which power-operated devices they can use to turn on their wives or girlfriends. Tell your partner that his best bets for a better sex life are the washing machine, iron and vacuum cleaner! His regular use of these gadgets will improve your bedroom sessions in a big way!"

10. Never assume exclusivity
Dr Juliet Richters, associate professor in sexual health at the University of New South Wales
Don't expect a man to be monogamous (at first). "Women fall in love faster than men. We're more likely to be wildly keen on relationships early on, more likely to see sex as serious rather than casual, and more likely to assume that once we've had sex, we're in a relationship and that relationship will be sexually exclusive. Don't expect a man to be seeing you exclusively unless he makes that explicit. Try not to pressure him at that point or you may drive him away. (Of course, you may want to ditch him if you can't bear the prolonged ambiguity.) Never make assumptions, protect yourself – condoms are essential – and take stock in that once committed, men are more likely to stay keen in the long term."