De-Stress and Make Love Again

A little creativity can rekindle those passionate feelings that got you together in the first place.

By Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria | Ph.D. from The 7 Stages of Marriage

Enforce healthy bedtimes — for you and the kids. From grown-ups to toddlers, we’re a sleep-deprived nation. Getting the children to bed at a decent hour not only ensures a happier morning routine (and a better school day), it also gives the two of you more quality time together when you’re still awake enough to enjoy it.

Find a new path to lovemaking. Before life got so complicated, you may have spent hours relaxing and talking and playing around before making love. Now you’ve got 45 minutes after the last kid’s fallen asleep and the extra work you brought home from the office is finished. The transitions are faster — sometimes too fast to feel sexy. Ease into sex with a warm invitation to lie down together, or try a shared foot massage. Or get playful. Tickle, laugh, be silly. Rediscover the playmate in your partner.

Do anything — and everything — in a new way. Paint your bedroom a new color; go to an unusual restaurant you’ve never tried before; hit the roller rink instead of following the well-worn route to the local Cineplex on date night; read up on a delicious new sexual technique, then practice on your sweetie. Why? Novelty can trigger a rush of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. That’s the same love chemical that made you feel happy, energetic, and totally obsessed with your partner back in the Passion stage, says Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D.

Add S_X to your day planner. We know. It doesn’t sound erotic. Truth is, if you don’t plan for sex, it won’t happen very often. And it can be just as hot — or hotter — than the spontaneous version. A bonus to mapping out your sexual calendar: You’ll find times other than 10 p.m. for getting together. Look for little pockets of time in the morning, at lunch, in the early afternoon. This can be especially helpful for the 23 percent of American couples who sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms due to snoring, kicking, or other sleep problems.

Make the first move. If you and your partner have reached a sexual stalemate, one of you will have to make a move. Often, one partner needs physical closeness in order to reconnect emotionally, while the other needs more emotional intimacy in order to find the path back to sexual intimacy. One way to close the distance: Combine the two. While sitting or lying with your spouse, gently hold or touch him or her. Talk about your positive feelings. (Save heavy-duty relationship issues for a time when you’re not heading for intimacy.) See what happens.

Touch first. Don’t wait to feel turned on to make love. Thanks to a busy lifestyle (who’s got time for spontaneous sex?) and hormonal changes, Cooperation stage women and men need kissing and caressing to jump-start desire. That’s a huge shift for most of us. One University of Chicago study found that 51 percent of 25- to 29-year-old men were aroused just watching their wives undress. But among men in their mid-40s, the number dropped to the 40 percent range. This change is natural and normal, experts say. Using touch — instead of overwhelming desire — as the prelude to lovemaking guarantees more and better sex. Waiting to feel turned on first, in contrast, guarantees sexual starvation.

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