It is not easy to maintain a good romantic relationship between two people in this day and age. We have never had more access to distraction, and this impacts on the level of intimacy that two people are able to achieve with each other.
One of the things I see most often in couples that come to my clinic is the age old problem of two people loving each other, but losing that special sexual spark that they once had. However, the good news is that it is possible for most couples to find this again.
If your relationship has fizzled out in the bedroom, these top ten tips and challenges will help you to reconnect with your partner, but this advice is equally applicable to couples who aren't at that stage, but want to protect what they have.
1. Talk More
Many people (stereotypically, but not always men), think of sex as a physical act, but there are few things as cerebral as sex, particularly for a female psyche. If you can't communicate well and clearly then your sex life is the least of your relationship concerns, so make sure you are talking as openly and honestly as possible, with no distractions around you to challenge your meaning.
Challenge: Talk for 20 minutes every day for seven days about your sexual desire and what you find sexy about your partner, and what you enjoy in bed.
2. Make Time
Life is busy for everyone, but the happiest couples are the ones who ensure that this busyness doesn't get in the way of their love making. If you're ever using this as an excuse then stop to think about what actually is the issue, and clear space in your week for some fun one on one time.
Challenge: Book a night away somewhere, close the hotel door, and don't come out till breakfast. Do this at least once a month until the spark is reignited.
3. Share More
Great sex comes from close intimacy, and few things connect people like sharing anything from a problem to a tub of ice cream. Be as open as you can be with your partner to share the big and the little things outside of the bedroom, and you'll see you share even more in bed.
Challenge: Share something every day for one month. It can be anything, from a secret to a mouthful of your steak.
4. Touch More
Tactile couples are constantly reassuring the other through touch, which psychologically re-energises how often they think about each other. This keeps love levels topped up, and means that when you go to bed you'll have started the foreplay process throughout the day without even realising it.
Challenge: For seven days every time you or your partner walks into the room find a reason to touch the other - a loving brush of the hair, playful kiss, whatever feels natural and not forced.
5. Make A Wish List
Sometimes even the most communicative couples find it hard to tell their partner their deepest sexual fantasies, particularly in the UK, where we still have a relatively repressed population. However, couples that write down the things they'd like to try together usually find an increased depth of sexual and intimate relationship, as long as they are always respectful of the other's boundaries.
Challenge: You both have a birthday once a year, but start a WorthDay once a month. First of all each write down a long list of your fantasies you daydream about, being careful to not jot anything down that you feel the other person would find disrespectful. Then hand your Wish List to the other for safe keepings. Finally, pick the day both of your birthdays fall on (e.g. the seventh and fifteenth of the month), and indulge the other on their respective WorthDay, using one of their remaining wishes from their list.
A lot of my clients struggle to describe their desires clearly, because they don't truly understand what they want themselves. If you don't know, then you can't let your partner know, but they will pick up on your signals that you're not completely fulfilled, which often causes problems. Being open to new experiences, at your own pace, allows couples to figure these things out in a supported manner.
Challenge: Whilst pornography can often be damaging to psyches due to providing too quick an unsatisfactory a response to one's own sexual urges, erotic fiction achieves a higher level of true sexual energy, but doesn't possess as many damaging side effects. Read five different erotic fictions in bed with each other, each with a different focus (e.g. S&M, anal play etc), and see how it makes you both feel.
7. Be Healthy
No-one got the most out of sex by being unhealthy, so look after your body. Do plenty of exercise, and eat well, and you'll see the results immediately in terms of how you feel about yourself and your partner.
Challenge: Cut processed foods out of your diet for one month, and see the difference in your sex life improve.
8. Be Spontaneous
Logistics have no place in a healthy bedroom, so let yourself go with the flow. Couples that listen to their own bodies and urges find they have the best sex, so if you're feeling in the mood then go for it, and don't wait another moment.
Challenge: The trick isn't to force spontaneity, but to simply listen to your own body, so for one month if you feel sexually charged act on it with your partner.
9. Laugh More
They say laughter is the best medicine, and this is the case with sexual connection between couples. Research has shown that couples that roar with laughter together, roar inside their bedroom, also, so never forget that sex should be fun and uplifting.
Challenge: For one week make the effort to make your partner laugh at least once per day. It's infectious, and you'll find you carry on doing this throughout your relationship.
10. Create A Sexy Space
Where you usually make love is so important, as it is your sanctuary away from the world. Couples with a safe and nurturing space find their sexual connection is at its strongest, with warm open spaces, plenty of light, and the colour red statistically most likely to connect you best. Don't scrimp on this, and create the love nest of your own fantasy.
Challenge: Reconfigure your bedroom with your partner to be as warm, safe and sexy as possible. If possible, get rid of all screens, including TVs, iPads and phones, and create a mutual space of deep satisfaction.